Sunday, November 28, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus"

“The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
November 28, 2010
Luke 18:9-17

One of the things that I love about this week’s passage is the same thing I loved about last week’s passage:

Luke begins the story by telling us the point.

Luke begins his story about Jesus by telling us the point that Jesus is going to make.

At least, in this passage, Luke tell us whom Jesus was addressing.

Whom Jesus was hoping to hit with this teaching.  Look at verse 9.

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable...”

Luke tells us right up front that this one is aimed at the proud.

This parable is aimed at the proud.  Those who are “confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else...”

That’s whom Jesus is talking to.

And His goal is to make them humble.

One way or another.  To make them humble.

So, let’s make this the title of our message for today:

“The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus”

Don’t you just love how Jesus teaches?

Even though He puts His finger right where it hurts the most, you have to love how He teaches.

He tells stories, stories with a sharp, scalpel edge to them.  A sharp, scalpel edge that cuts us right where the festering cancer lies.  He cut us to heal us with His stories.

In verses 9 through 14, He tells a great story about two men who are “praying.”

So, in some ways, this is like last week’s story which was also about prayer, persistent consistent prayer.

But the focus here is different.  It’s not so much about prayer as it is about the hearts of the men who are praying.

One is proud and the other is humble. And, as we said, Jesus was aiming this parable at proud people.  V.9

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:”

Now, there are two mistakes that we can easily make when we read this story.

Two mistakes that I’ve made many times.

One is to forget how Jesus’ original readers would understand the characters in it and their actions.  To get the hats mixed up.

This story is a lot like the story of the prodigal son.
It’s told, especially, to those who are considered “white hats,” but the good guy doesn’t do what they expect him to do.

And the black hat guy, the bad guy, really does what is UN-expected in this story.

We can’t miss that, or we’ll miss the true impact of the parable.

The second mistake we can easily make is to apply this story to someone else.

To apply this story to someone else.

It’s easy to put someone else’s face on the guys in this story and to really enjoy it.

“Yeah, go get ‘em, Jesus!  That’s a great story for so-and-so!”

But miss that He’s talking to us.

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable...”

We each have to ask ourselves if He’s talking to me.

Now, let’s get into this parable.  How many characters are there?

There is just two.  V.10

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”

Now, let’s get this straight from the start.

Which of these two would almost everyone who heard this story immediately think was the good guy with the white hat?

The Pharisee, of course.

This was the elder in the local church. This was the pastor of the flock.

This was the guy who was on the straight and narrow.
This was the guy you would trust with a business deal.

You’d trust his wife to watch your kids.

You knew that he was moral and upstanding.

You’d vote for this guy.  You’d trust him.

Because he was a Pharisee, after all!

Okay?  That’s how nearly everyone would have felt when this character was introduced.

Now, how about the other guy?  Would you trust him?

You’d trust him to cheat you.  You’d trust him to steal from you.

You’d trust him to sell you out to the Romans and get rich off your own people.

A tax collector wasn’t just a guy doing his job.  He was part of the legalized mob.  It was legal for him to extort large sums of money for his own pockets as long as Rome got their fair share.

Black hat.  Bad guy.

And that’s why Jesus’ story is so shockingly powerful when you hear the rest of it!

V.11.  The first character begins to pray.

“The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’”

All of a sudden, it becomes obvious that the Pharisee is not going to come out good in this story.

He’s proud, and it shows.

It says that he prays.  And, formally, it’s a prayer to God, “God, I thank you...”

But God has very little to do with this prayer, does He?
What is this prayer about?  V.11 He stood up and prayed “about himself.”

If you have the King James Version it says he “prayed thus with himself.”

The NASB says “to himself.”  He prayed to himself.

I think that’s true. This guy was his own god.

Notice how in two sentences of prayer, he gets his name in like five times.  “I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and (I) give a tenth of all I get.”

He is proud.

He’s probably one of those guys who is “humble and proud of it!”

He is very religious, and he wants others to know it.

He fasts twice a week.  There was only 1 fast per year that was required.  This guy fasts twice every seven days.  And he gives a tenth of all he gets.  He doesn’t just tithe his money, but probably tithes his spice rack.  

One tenth of everything!  Beyond the call of duty!

And he stands up in the temple, probably up front, and speaks about himself very loudly.  Not very impressive, except to him.

In fact, it’s sadly comical. 

And the worst thing about his pride?  It’s comparison. Comparison with “sinners.”  V.11

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.”

I’m better.  I am righteous.  I am good. And I can and should look down on everybody below me.


Before we go on, let’s not make the second mistake.

The first mistake would be to miss the fact that everybody’s jaw has dropped right now because the supposed good guy has just been shown to be not so good after all.

The white hat guy is the proud one?

It’s bad to be proud of being good?

The second mistake (again) is to apply this story to someone else.

Someone you can think of that appears to be good, but when you scratch them, they bleed with pride.

Don’t think about them right now.

Think about yourself.  Pastor Matt, think about yourself.

Can we be like this proud Pharisee?

Let’s ask the question this way.

Are we proud of being good?

Am I proud that I’m not a robber?
Am I proud that I’m not an evildoer?
Am I proud that I’m not an adulterer?
Am I proud that I’m not a slimy tax collector?

One commentary that I read this week said that the equivalent today in social standing of a tax collector is a drug dealer on the street corner of some inner city.

Am I proud that I am not a drug dealer or a pimp?

I might not get up in front of everybody and spout off a prayer like this!

“O God, I thank you that I am pastor in a good church full of good people in a good country.”

“I am thankful (Thanksgiving thankful!) that I am not some Muslim or some illegal immigrant or greedy corporate president or two faced politician or some trashy pornographer or abortion doctor.”

“I am thankful that I am good.”

Fill in the blank for you.

“I am proud that I am good.  I’m not like them...”    ...

But here is the real kicker of this story.  It’s when the black hatted tax collector says his prayer.  V.13

“But the tax collector stood at a distance [not up front like the Pharisee]. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'”

This man speaks up, too, and about himself, but it’s much harder to talk about your sins in public than your goodness.

“He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'”

This man was truly humble.  And he knew what he was at the core.  A sinner.

And he knew what he needed at the core.  He needed mercy.

He needed forgiveness.  He needed propitiation.  God’s wrath averted from his sin.

He needed mercy and knew that He did not deserve it at all.

He needed grace.  V.14

“I tell you that this man [the tax collector], rather than the other [the Pharisee], went home justified before God [right with God]. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Three points this morning.

They are drawn right out of what Jesus says here.  They are not fancy.

But they are good for us to hear.


That’s what Jesus says in verse 14.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

That’s one of Jesus’ favorite things to say.  He said it already in chapter 14, verse 11.

It’s an irrefutable law of the universe:

“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee’s problem wasn’t so much that he was good.

Is being good bad?  Is it bad to be good?

Of course not.  Of course, it does matter why you are good.

And it does matters whether or not your goodness truly comes from God.

This guy was full of himself.

That’s what Jesus says.  He exalted himself.

And everyone who does that will be humbled. ... Sooner or later.

We need to repent of our pride.

It’s good to be good, but it’s nothing to be proud of.

And it’s nothing to put our trust in.

Remember verse 9.

“To some who were confident (trusting) of their own righteousness...”

This Pharisee knew that he had done good things (and they were good things), but it was a HUGE mistake to put his trust in them!

How good is good enough?

Was this Pharisee, at heart, a good person whosae righteousness was enough to impress God and meet His standards?

No way!  No way!

Jesus says elsewhere that unless our righteousness surpasses the Pharisees, we won’t enter in to the Kingdom of Heaven!

He wasn’t good enough.

And He didn’t go home justified.  He didn’t go home being declared righteous enough and right with God.

That should give every religious person a reason to stop and analyze their heart.

What are you trusting in for your justification?

Is it your righteous deeds?  Your own goodness?  Even goodness that you thank God for?  But you are looking at your goodness and saying, “Yes, that’s enough.  I’m confident in my own righteousness.”


The Proud Will Be Humbled. And it won’t be pretty.


“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Humility is incredibly attractive to God.

It doesn’t make us worthy to God.

We are not worthy!

We should stand at a distance.  We should not look up to heaven. 

We should beat our breasts and cry, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

But that’s the just the kind of heart that God loves.

He loves a humble heart.

He loves it when we call it like it is and cry out to Him for help.

It was that second man who went home JUSTIFIED before God.

And we know how that is possible.

It’s because of Jesus.

This man’s righteousness wasn’t enough either, but He cried out in humble faith to the One who could give him mercy and grace and found it at the mercy seat.

In the terms of the rest of the New Testament, He was justified by grace alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to thy Cross I cling!

He who humbles Himself will be exalted.

And...will enter the kingdom of God.


In verses 15-17, Luke includes another story to bring home this point about humility.

Jesus uses children as an example of humility.  V.15

“People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.”

Whoa.  Those disciples!

Can you imagine?  They just didn’t get it.

They are trying to protect the Master.

“Sorry.  Sorry, back up please.  The Master’s time is very important.  He can’t be touching children all day!  Back up.  Back up. Stay behind the line please.”

V.16 “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. [There’s that Kingdom of God again!  Who gets the kingdom?]  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’”

Put positively, only those who receive the kingdom of God like a little child will ever enter it.

Children are small, often neglected, marginalized, necessarily humble.

And, therefore, they are trusting.  With humble trust.

They have to be.  They cannot survive on their own.

They know that they are needy, and they look to big people to help them.

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

If you aren’t like that, then you aren’t going to see the kingdom of God.

It’s not good people who enter the Kingdom.

It’s not people with conservative, family values.

It’s not good people who enter the Kingdom of God.

It’s the humble who trust in Jesus.

What’s the application of this passage?

It’s very simple.

Humble Yourself.

And that’s for those who are already in the kingdom and those who have not yet entered in.

Humble Yourself.

If you have not yet entered into the kingdom, the call on your life today is to humble yourself and become like a little child and trust in Jesus.

Jesus came to save sinners.  Those who will admit that they are sinners and need mercy, will find it in Jesus.

Beat your breast and pray, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Humble yourself.

Don’t count in your own goodness.

Don’t be confident in your own righteousness.

I don’t care if you’ve been going to church all of your life and you’re like Billy Graham or something in your reputation for godliness.

If you are trusting in that, you are doomed. You will be humbled forever.

Humble yourself and trust in Jesus and enter the kingdom.

And you will be exalted.

We all need to hear this.

Humble yourself is not just stooping at the entrance to the kingdom to fit in the door and then proudly going about your business inside the kingdom like a pharisaical peacock!

Humility is the continuing posture of the kingdom.

Humble yourself.

Don’t forget your sinfulness.

Don’t get to bragging.

Don’t get to boasting.

Don’t get to looking down on everybody else–especially those who are worse sinners than you.

Humble yourself.

And He will lift you up.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus
Jesus and the Great Chasm
Jesus Said to His Disciples...
Thanking Jesus
Jesus and the Coming Kingdom
Jesus Says, "Keep Praying"