Posts Tagged ‘Self-righteousness’

Luke 15:25-32 The Parable of the Prodigal: The Father and the Older Son

September 9, 2009
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Pompeo Batoni

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

  • Sometimes we can miss the beauty in life because we are so focused on the ugly.  That was the problem with the older son.
  • The story of the older son was Jesus’ response to his critics.  They were so focused on the wickedness of the tax collectors and sinners and the fact that Jesus would eat and associate with them, that they could not see the light of God’s love shining through all of it.
  • The older son fails to refer to the younger son as his brother.  When talking to his father, he refers to the younger son as “this son of yours.”  But the father reminds him that the younger son is indeed his brother by replying, “this brother of yours.”
  • The older brother complains, “I’ve been slaving for you.”  When in fact, him and his father were working partners since the father had already divided up the inheritance.  The older son was really being greedy and selfish because he knew that since the younger brother’s share of the inheritance was already wasted, anything that was spent on his brother now would have to come out of his inheritance.
  • Next the older son boasts, “I’ve never disobeyed a single command of yours.”  “This was the Pharisees boast (compare Philippians 3:6); but the moral superiority which it appears to give melts like snow before the sunshine of God’s love.  Where resurrection is occurring – where new life is bursting out all around – it is only appropriate, it is necessary to celebrate (verse 32).  Not to do so, is to fail to meet generosity with gratitude.  It is to pretend that God has not after all been at work.  It is to look only at the garbage and refuse to smell the flowers.” N.T. Wright
  • The older son was selfish.  He was only focused on himself.  He shows no respect for his father when he lectures him in front of his guests.   And then he refuses his father’s plea to join the party.  Again, as with the younger son, the father is generous and gracious with his older son.  The point is that Jesus was trying to reason with the Pharisees and scribes telling them that yes God’s generosity was reaching the tax collectors and sinners but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any left for them.
  • “If they insist on staying out of the party because it isn’t the sort of thing they like, thats up to them; but it won’t be because God doesn’t love them as well.” N.T. Wright
  • This passage points forward to the eventual challenge that the early church would face when trying to integrate both Jewish and Gentile Christians.
  • How does this story end?  Does the older son join the party and reconcile with his younger brother?  Does the younger son remain faithful to his father?  Jesus doesn’t answer these questions.  He leaves it to us to think it through and see where we fit in the story.  Am I the younger son?  Am I the older son?  Am I the father?  I used to be the younger son, that is for sure.  However, have I slowly become the older son over time?  Am I celebrating with the father?  It is time to celebrate and welcome all into the kingdom of God.  There is no room for greed, selfishness, self-righteousness, or prejudice in this party.  Leave those things at the door and come on in.
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Luke 14:1-11 Jesus and the Pharisee

July 6, 2009
The Wedding Feast by Tintoretto

The Wedding Feast by Tintoretto

Healing of a Man on the Sabbath

14:1 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son [1] or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

  • Luke has more meal-time scenes than any of the other gospels.
  • Luke 14 has two parables about feasting.  The one in verses 7-11 is the first.  This parable seems to be just a simple piece of social advice to avoid embarrassment but verse 7 declares that it is a parable and thus it must have a deeper meaning.
  • Jesus is talking about the way in which religious leaders of his day were concerned with their position in the eyes of God.  They wanted to be first.  They wanted to push themselves forward to gain a higher standing.  These were the sort of people we find Jesus with in verse 1-6.
  • Jesus was warning against self-righteousness, considering oneself better than others in the sight of God.  The pharisees and lawyers thought they were superior to the poor and untrained person.  They were the ones trained in the law while the common person was not.
  • There was also a wider meaning in this parable.  God was opening up his Kingdom to the gentile population.  Many non-Jewish people would become Christians later in the story (read Acts) and would take their seats at the wedding feast.  The Jewish Christians would have a hard time accepting this.  They were too worried about maintaining their own places at the top of the table.  “Pride, notoriously, is the great cloud which blots out the sun of God’s generosity: if I reckon that I deserve to be favored by God, not only do I declare that I don’t need grace, mercy, and love but I imply that those who don’t deserve it shouldn’t have it.” N.T. Wright
  • Jesus was proclaiming God’s love and generosity.  Am I small-minded?  Have I become self-righteous?  Do I withhold God’s love from others?  Am I to worried about my place at the table?  These are good questions to ask.  I need God’s love and mercy and I need to share that same love and mercy freely to all people.