Why We Must First Confront Our Own Sins


blind guides

Jesus has a question for you,

“Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit? (Luke 6:39 HCSB)

When today’s verse is viewed in context, we learn that Jesus is instructing His disciples to first examine themselves before they lead others. Because, if they are “blind” to their own sins, then how can they help others deal with their sins? Some spiritual leaders are spiritually ignorant themselves. Just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, they are self-deceived and hypocritical “blind guides,” unwilling to tackle their own sins, while happily pointing out other people’s spiritual deficiencies. Any person who assumes such a position of leadership: whether in a congregation; or in the home; or among a group of friends must first confront their own sins before they can successfully help others. Oh Lord, open our eyes to our sinfulness and our constant need for Your grace; that we might guide others to You and not into the pit. Amen.

For more on facing our own sinfulness read: Luke 6:37-42

This week’s theme: Jesus Has A Question For You:

Love Your Enemies Like God Loves You

Get The Log Out Of Your Eye First

Spiritual Financial Advise From Jesus

3 Reason It’s Pointless To Worry

A Comparison of the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Ten Minas


willem_de_poorter_parable_talents_minasAs a teacher, Jesus was not afraid to repeat Himself. One such example is the parables the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27). While the two share several parallels, they also have several major differences. It is these differences that lend to slightly different applications. In preparing to write on the parable of the Ten Minas, I thought it was helpful to see the similarities and differences side-by-side. It’s my hope that you will benefit as well from this short comparison.

The Parable of the Talents

(Matthew 25:14-30)

The Parable of the Ten Minas

(Luke 19:11-27)

Location: Told in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives (ref. 24:3). Told in Jericho (ref. 19:1).
Audience: Spoken to the disciples. Spoken to the crowd following Jesus.
Occasion: Part of Jesus’ answer to the disciples questions regarding when Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed (ref. 24:1-3). Told because Jesus “was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (19:11).
Main Character: “A man going on a long journey” (v. 14) “A nobleman” was going “into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return” (v. 12).
The Servants: Three servants were called, “to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability” (v. 15). “Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas” each (v. 13).
Instructions: No specific instructions are mentioned. And He said to them, “Engage in business until I come” (v. 13b)
The Citizens: No citizens mentioned. Citizens under the nobleman’s rule hated him and did not want him to be their king. Their hatred led them to send a delegation to attempt to keep him from be crowned king (v. 14).
The Interlude: During their master’s absence the first two servants at once “traded with” their talents, each doubling their money. While the third “dug in the ground and hid his master’s money” (vv. 16-18). No details are mentioned of the servant’s actions during the nobleman’s absence.
The Main Character Returns: “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them” (v. 19). “When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business” (v. 15).
Accounts Settled With Faithful Servants: The first two servants reported they had doubled their master’s money (vv. 20, 22). While ten servants were originally called only three interviews are recorded. The first two servants reported they has turned a profit. One 10x, the other 5x the original amount entrusted to them (vv. 16, 18).
The Faithful Rewarded: Both faithful servants, though they had been entrusted with varying responsibilities, were rewarded equally, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (vv. 21, 23). Each servant was rewarded according to their accomplishments. To the servant who produced 10 more minas the king said, “‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities’” (v. 17). The second servant, who produced 5 more minas, simply received “authority over five cities” (v. 19).
Account Settled With An Unfaithful Servant: The third servant “came forward saying, ‘Master I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours’” (vv. 24-25). Note: excuse came first, then the money was returned. Burying money in the ground was a common way of keeping money safe. Another servant came and said “Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow” (vv. 20-21). Note: money was returned, then the excuse was given. Keeping money in a handkerchief was an unsafe and therefore an uncommon way of holding money.
Main Character’s Response To The Servant’s Excuse: The master responded, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest” (vv. 26-27). The king responded, “I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?” (vv. 22-23).
Wicked Servant’s First Punishment: The wicked and slothful servant’s talent was taken and given to the servant who had ten talents (v. 28). The reasoning, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (v. 29). The wicked servant’s mina was taken away and given to the servant who had produced ten minas (v. 24). Someone protested this action (perhaps the other servants) because he already had ten minas (v. 25). However the king explains, “To everyone who had, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (v. 26).
Wicked Servant’s Second Punishment: “Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 30). No specific punishment is mentioned but it could be inferred he suffered the same fate as the king’s enemies.
Citizens: No citizens mentioned. Now “as for those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (v. 27).
The Application: Jesus would soon be leaving but He would return. In the interim, His servants should faithful steward their God-entrusted resources. Because they will have to give an account for their actions. The faithful will be rewarded, the unfaithful punished. Jesus would soon be leaving to receive His kingdom from the Father. In the interim, His servants should, even in the face of oppositions, faithful steward their God-given resources. Upon the Lord’s return His servants will first be called to give an account of their actions. The faithful will be rewarded, the unfaithful will be destroyed with the Lord’s enemies.

Notes on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus


I recently presented a lesson summarizing the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-30). Here is my outline from that lesson:

For a more through discussion of this parable click here.

The Setting: Conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees Luke 15, 16:

• Jesus received “sinners” (Luke 15:1)
• The Pharisees were “grumbling” (Luke 15:2)
• Jesus told the Lost Parables (Luke 15:3-32)
• Continuing, Jesus told the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-9)
• Jesus then taught on the use of riches (Luke 16:10-13)
• The Pharisees “ridiculed Him” (Luke 16:14)
• Jesus taught on appearances (Luke 16:15-18)
• To illustrate His points Jesus told the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)

The Teaching (16:14-18):

• The Pharisees Loved Money (v. 14; Matthew 15:1-9; Luke 20:46-47; 1 Timothy 6:10)
• The Pharisees focused on appearances, but God saw their hearts (v. 15; Matthew 6:1-21).
• The Law still stood, even though the Pharisees had perverted it (vv. 16-17). Case in point, marriage and divorce (v. 18; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:1-12) Jesus illustrated this truth by telling the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

The Points of the Parable:

• Appearances are no guarantee of one’s standing with God.
• The only thing that matters is a right response to God’s word.

Structure of the Parable:

• 2 Sets of Contrast between Rich Man and Lazarus
• 3 conversations between Rich Man and Abraham

The Contrast of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Life:

The Rich Man

Poor Lazarus

Rich and Healthy

Poor and Sick

Clothed in Purple and Fine Linen

Covered with Sores

Feasted Every Day

Always Hungry

Large Estate

Homeless

On the Inside

On the Outside

Comforted by the Tongues of Dogs

Because of His Riches, He Appeared to be a Godly Man (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Mark 10:23-31)

Because of his sickness, he appeared to be cursed by God for sin (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15-68; John 9:2). Additionally, it seem God had abandoned the one whose name meant helped by God. The naming of a character and its meaning, in this case Lazarus, is an important component of the story line.

The Contrast of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Death:

The Rich Man

Poor Lazarus

Died and Buried

Carried by the Angels

Outside

Inside, Feasting with Abraham (Matthew 8:11-12). To be in one’s “bossom” is feasting terminology (cf. John 13:25; 21:20)

Tormented, In Anguish

Comforted

Desired to be Comforted Through His Tongue

Did Not Use His Wealth to Make Friends in Heaven (Luke 16:9). Nor did he keep the Law which clearly stated he was to help the poor.

Trusted in God as his helper.

.Three Conversations Between the Rich Man and Abraham:

• Note, His Physical Relationship To Abraham Didn’t Save Him (John 8:31-47)

Conversation #1:

• Rich Man: Send Lazarus to help me (v. 24)
• Abraham: Even if he wanted to he can’t eternal life fixed. (v. 25-26)

Conversation #2:

• Rich Man: Send Lazarus to warn my brothers (v. 27-28)
• Abraham: They have Moses and Prophets let them hear them (v. 29)

Conversation #3:

• Rich Man: Only a resurrected man will convince them (v. 30)
• Abraham: If they won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, they won’t listen to a resurrected man either (v. 31)

Two Take Away’s:

• Use your wealth to make friends in heaven, so that when this life is over they will receive you into eternal glory.
• What is highly valued among men is an abomination before the Lord. The world values wealth lavishly spent on self, but God abhors it.

The Parable of the Two Builders


The Parable of the Two Builders Children's drawingOf all Jesus’ parables, the Parable of the Two Builders has perhaps more than any other has been reduced to a simple children’s song. Often times, when something is relegated to Children’s Bible class song, we adults tend to not pay it much attention. However, dynamite comes in small packages, and in context this parable creates a powerful meaning and application to all who would come after Christ.

It’s no accident that this parable comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24-27) and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:47-49). In both cases, Jesus is calling for the people to move beyond being active listeners (Matthew 7:28-29) and paying Him lip-service (Luke 6:46), to being doers of what He has taught them, namely what He has taught them in the preceding sermon (Matthew 5:1-7:23; Luke 6:20-45). To drive home His message, our Lord tells the people a parable contrasting the actions of two men who build two houses. This comparison will highlight the sensibleness of doing what Jesus says and the craziness of not doing what he commands us to do.

In our passage two men set out to build a house for themselves. Jesus labels the first man “wise” (Matthew 7:24), while He labels the second man “foolish” (Matthew 7:26). The descriptions “wise” and “foolish” are not indications of their mental capacity. Rather, the true character of each man is revealed through how each man builds his house, which causes each to be declared “wise” or “foolish” (cf. James 3:13-18). Paul expounds on this notion in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; where he says the wise are those who are faithfully obedient to Christ, though the world may view them as foolish.

These two builders set out to build two houses. It is during the dry season of summer that these two men build their homes. Preparations must be made to complete a sound structure before the late winter rains come. The image of “building” is often used by our Lord as a metaphor for the life choices that men make such as in the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) or in the Cost of Discipleship Passage (Luke 14:28-30). On the outside these two men’s houses, or lives, look exactly alike. However, there is one striking difference, their foundations.

Our first man “dug deep and laid a foundation” (Luke 6:48) on the “rock” (Matthew 7:24). A “wise man” builds his house, or life, to withstand the elements. He instinctively knows that the dry, favorable weather of summer will not last forever. He understands that sooner, rather than later, the rainy season will come with its torrential downpours and gale force winds and so he prepares. Therefore, the one “who hears [the] words of [Jesus] and does them” (Matthew 7:24; cf. Luke 6:47; James 1:19-27) is like this wise, sensible man, who prepares for trial and judgment. Just as his house will stand test and trial, so will his life because it is built on the foundation of Jesus and His words (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11). Conversely, the second man, builds his house directly on the “sand” (Matthew 7:26) “without a foundation” (Luke 6:49). The “foolish man” erects his house as if the blue skies of summer will never depart. He gives no thought to the fact that one day sooner, rather than later, the skies will darken, the rain will fall, and catastrophe will be upon him. In fact, this man is so reckless; it’s as if he built his house on a sand bar in the middle of a dry creek bed. Therefore, the one “who hears [the] words of [Jesus] and does not do them” (Matthew 7:26; cf. Luke 6:49) is as foolish as a man who builds a house in such a ruinous way. Peter spoke of such people and thinking in 2 Peter 3:1-13. First (vv. 1-7), foolish men live their lives doubting the coming storm of judgment declaring, “all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (v. 3). Second (vv. 5-10), Peter refutes the error of their thinking through the example of the creation (Genesis 1-2) and the flood (Genesis 6:1-9:17). Finally (vv. 11-13), Peter calls for believers to prepare themselves for the coming judgment by living lives of “holiness and godliness” (v. 11). The “wise” builds with a faith that understands judgment, though delayed, is coming. Therefore, he builds his spiritual house on the foundation of hearing and doing what Jesus says (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11). However, the “foolish” man makes no preparations, going about as if the Lord does not keep His promises. Consequently, this man will surely come to ruin (cf. Proverbs 10:8).

In the course of time the blue skies of summer give way to the darkened skies of the rainy season. In vivid detail, our Lord describes the storm that batters these two houses. “The rain fell, and the floods came” (Matthew 7:25a, 27a). A nearby stream overflowed its banks and “broke against” (Luke 6:48b, 49b) the two houses. While gale force “winds blew and beat on” (Matthew 7:25b; 27b) the homes that symbolize these men’s lives.  It is a common interpretation to view this storm as symbolizing the various storms of life that all men will endure. Certainly storms, especially floods, are used in scripture as metaphor for the trials of life (i.e. Psalm 18:4, 16-19; 32:6-7; 69:1-3, 14-15) and this would undoubtedly make a good point. However, I believe it would be best to view this storm as representing judgment such as the Noahic flood (cf. Genesis 6:1-9:17) which was used by our Lord and Peter to foreshadow the judgment that will come again on the world while reinforcing God’s promise of salvation for those who put their trust in Him (cf. Matthew 24:37-42, 44; 1 Peter 3:18-22; 2 Peter 2:4-10).

In the final analysis, the “wise man’s” house, “did not fall” during the flood “because it has been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:25c; cf. Luke 6:48c). However, the “foolish man” was not as fortunate, for his house “immediately fell, and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:49c; cf. Matthew 7:27c). As in Noah’s day, so in Jesus’ and ours: the disastrous consequences of only hearing and not doing what the Lord commands can utterly destroy, but by God’s saving power the hearer and doer of the Lord’s word will be able to stand and not fall in judgment (cf. Romans 14:4). The Parable of the Two Builders is a forceful reminder that a spiritual house cannot stand unless it is built on hearing and doing what Jesus says to do.

Questions:

  1. Read Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 6:47-49. Write down any observations, key words and/or questions you have from the reading.
  2. In your own words, restate the main point(s) of this parable.
  3. Look back over Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:1-7:29 and/or Luke 6:17-49. How does this parable summarize the Lord’s teachings?
  4. Read James 1:19-27. What additional insights or lessons does this provide you regarding hearing and doing what Jesus says?
  5. From 2 Peter 3:1-13, briefly explain Peter’s teaching on the coming storm of judgment. How does this passage enhance the imagery of  the Parable of the Two Builders?
  6. How has Jesus challenged your thinking about what it truly means to be His disciple call Him “Lord, Lord” through this parable?

Other lessons in this series:

The Persistent Widow

The Lost Sheep, Coin, Sons

The Rich Fool

Modern Retellings Of The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


One of Jesus’ most famous parables is The Pharisee and the Tax Collector from Luke 18:9-14. In this parable, Jesus addressed those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous” (v. 9). To illustrate the folly of trusting in one’s self, Jesus contrasted two men who went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee (the religious elites of the day) and the other a tax collector (the supposed great sinners of the day).
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The Pharisee trusted in himself, thinking that he was righteous because of what he did for God, all the while looking down on the tax collector (vv. 11-12). On the other hand, the tax collector was justified before God because he relied, not on himself, but on the merciful, righteousness of God (v. 13). Jesus concluded by stating that the tax collector “went to his house justified, rather than the other” (v. 14a) The reason for this is because, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 14b).
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To help us see how we can so easily express the same attitude as the Pharisee, I have written several retellings of the The Pharisee and the Tax Collector set in modern terms and situations. It is my hope, that these will challenge you to examine your heart as they have mine.
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The Fit, Athletic Woman and the Slightly, Overweight Woman

Two women go the grocery store to do their weekly shopping, one the fit, athletic type with a normal BMI and the other who was slightly overweight.

As the two women waited in line to check-out, the fit, athletic woman prayed, “God, I thank you that I’m not like other women, lazy, unhealthy, poor homemakers, or even like this fat woman in front of me. I work out three times a week; I take care of Your temple by carefully watching what I eat; and I only feed my family good healthy foods.”

But the woman who was slightly overweight, humbly prayed, “God, thank You for all that You provide for me and my family. We don’t deserve it.”

I tell you this woman went to her house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts herself will be humbled, but the one who humbles herself will be exalted.

The Man with the Older Truck and the Man with the Newer Truck

Two men stop at a red-light, one in an older model, high-mileage Chevrolet truck, the other in a brand-new, Ford F-250 Super Duty, Crew Cab truck.

As the two men waited for the light to turn green, the man in the older model, high-mileage truck prayed to himself, “God, I thank you that I’m not like other men, materialistic, covetous showoffs, or even like this man in the lane beside me. I’ve worked hard to earn what I’ve got; I’ve never wanted to be rich; and I don’t act like I’m better than anybody else.”

But the man in the new truck, humbly prayed, “God, thank You for all that You have richly blessed me with. I don’t deserve it.”

I tell you, this man went to work justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

The Home-School Mom and the Public-School Mom

Two moms take their children to the park to play, one a home-schooling mom, the other, a public-school mom.

As the two women watched their children play together, the home-schooling mom prayed, “God, I thank you that I’m not like other women, selfish, unfit mothers, poor homemakers or even like this woman who ships her kids off to public school. I raise my own kids; I protect them from worldly influences; and I ensure that my kids have a godly, Bible-based education.”

But the public-school mom, humbly prayed, “God thank you for my children. Please help me be a godly mother.”

I tell you, this mom went home justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts herself will be humbled, but the one who humbles herself will be exalted.

The Professed Christian and the Effeminate Looking Man

Two men go to a fast-food restaurant for lunch, one a professed Christian, the other an effeminate looking man.

As the two men ate their lunch, the Christian prayed, “God I thank you that I’m not like other men, irreligious, sexually immoral, or even like that gay-looking guy over there. I’m a born-again Christian; I go to church 3 times a week; and I publicly uphold marriage to be between one man and one woman.”

But the effeminate looking man quietly prayed to himself, “God, have mercy on me a sinner. Please lead me in Your ways.”

I tell you, this man left the church service justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

The Dressed-Down Christian and the Dressed-Up Christian

Two Christian men go to church and sat on same pew, one a younger, dressed-downed Christian, the other an older, dressed-up Christian.

As the two men sat on the same pew, the younger, dressed-down Christian prayed, “God I thank you that I’m not like other Christ followers, ritualistic, traditionalist, or even like this guy sitting on the other end. I’m authentic; I’m sold out for You; and I don’t put on a facade by dressing-up to worship You.”

But the older, dressed-up Christian quietly prayed to himself, “God, I’m not perfect. I have failed Thee often. In Your steadfast love, have mercy on me a sinner.”

I tell you, this man left the church service justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

 

The Parable of the Rich Fool


When you read the Parable of the Rich Fool, how do you picture the rich fool? Do you see him as an Ebenezer Scrooge figure or a heartless industrial tycoon? The danger of thinking of the rich fool in terms of a miserly old rich man implies that this parable is exclusively for the rich. While we may be tempted to approach this parable with a sense of smug security, Jesus is in fact speaking directly to everyone, both rich and poor, because the temptation to covet and not be rich toward God affects every person.

The setting for the Parable of the Rich Fool begins in Luke 12:1, where Luke describes an unruly crowd of “many thousands” who were “trampling one another” as the came together around Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus began teaching His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees (vv. 1-3), having no fear of men (vv. 4-7) and the need to acknowledge Christ before men (vv. 8-12). There is no doubt, that throughout His teaching there were many cries and shouts coming from the crowd (cf. Luke 11:27). However, Jesus only responds to one shout from the crowd on this occasion, the request of a brother, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (12:13). Our Lord, as if provoked by this man, forcibly, roughly responds with, “man, who made me judge of you?” (v. 14). This man regarded Jesus as a mere rabbi or judge, not as the Messiah. While Jesus ignores his request for mediation, He does give him exactly what he, and his brother, need: a lesson on the perils of covetousness.

The primary reason Jesus refuses to grant this man’s demand is that to do so would not have addressed the root cause of the issue, covetousness. Therefore, Jesus says, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (v. 15). Jesus’ words spell out the evil motive that undergirded this man’s petition, and presumably his brother’s unwillingness to properly disperse the inheritance, “greed” (v. 15 NASB). A lack of contentment, the love of money, and the desire to be rich are “a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 1:6-10) and serve as the foundation of covetousness. Our beloved brother Paul even goes so far as to equate covetousness with idolatry (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5). The Lord addresses His words, not only the brothers, but also the crowd and the disciples. Thus, with a broad-brush, Jesus warns all, the rich and the poor, to continually be on guard against succumbing to the temptations of covetousness.

To illustrate His admonition against covetousness, Jesus tells a parable of a certain “rich man” whose land “was very productive” (v. 16 NASB); however, he has a problem. Year after year he has reaped a bumper crop and now has “nowhere to store” his most recent harvest (v. 17). So as he reasons with himself saying, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat; drink, be merry’” (vv. 18-19). In effect this man was hoarding up his own possessions for his own ease and enjoyment. This is a very sad scene for two reasons. First, his riches have so isolated him to the point he has no one with which to discuss his plans, so he reasons with himself (cf. Isaiah 5:8; Proverbs 15:22). Second, the personal pronouns, “I” and “my,” give away his true inner character. He cared about no one except himself. He is covetous, prideful and selfish. From all outward appearances, he is especially blessed by God (cf. Luke 18:24-26). However, our Lord revels that the “rich man’s” heart is corrupted by a belief that one’s life does consist of and is safe in the abundance of possessions.

It is now that the second character, God Himself (this is the lone example in the parables that the authority figure is God and not a representation) steps into the story declaring, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (v. 20). Ironically, the man who took great pains to care for his material needs turns out to be a spiritual fool. God’s words expose the shallow thinking of this man, revealing his sin and his destiny, which is vastly different than he supposed. The possessions the rich fool had accumulated did not in the end give him life. As Jesus brings the parable to an end, He makes application to anyone “who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (v. 21), your fate, He says, will be the same. Rather than setting one’s hearts on riches (cf. Psalm 62:10) a person should be “rich toward God” by doing good with what He has blessed him with (cf. Proverbs 3:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Once Jesus completes His parable, He turns to His disciples and addresses them in verses 22-34. Note that in verse 22 Jesus’ words begin with, “Therefore,” indicating that what He is saying is based upon what He has already been said. The disciples, especially the twelve, were poor people (cf. Luke 18:28; 1 Corinthians 1:25-29), yet, because there are “all forms of greed” (12:15 NASB) they too need to be warned about coveting material possessions of the world, even the most basic, such as food and clothing (vv. 22-30). Rather than being anxious about storing up or acquiring temporal possessions, Jesus repeats a common refrain, store up “treasure in the heavens that does not fail,” as opposed to treasure on earth that does fail to give life. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (ref. Luke 12:33-34; Matthew 6:19-20).

Questions:

  1. Read Luke 12:13-34. Write down any observations, key words and/or questions you have from the reading.
  2. In your own words, describe what we know and/or can infer about the man and his brother who interrupts Jesus.
  3. Do you think Jesus’ warning to “be on guard for all covetousness” suggests that greed has a variety of forms? Explain.
  4. How would you evaluate the actions and attitude of the rich man?
  5. During times of prosperity why is it easy to feel secure and at ease?
  6. How do God’s words and actions expose the man’s faulty sense of security?
  7. How does this parable illustrate that a person’s “life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions”?
  8. What does the message of this parable offer a man who has been cheated out of an inheritance and a brother who has an abundance of goods?
  9. After telling this parable, Jesus turns to the disciples, who were poor, and addressed being anxious about having even the most basic possessions. How is anxiety related to covetousness?
  10. What lesson(s) does Jesus want us to learn by reflecting on birds, lilies and grass?
  11.  The solution to covetousness and anxiety is to be “rich toward God” and to store up “treasure in heaven.” What do those two things mean? How are they accomplished?
  12. How has Jesus challenged your thinking about possessions, true life, and God’s rule through this parable?

Other lessons in this series: The Persistent Widow, The “Lost” Parables

The Parable of the Persistent Widow


Have you ever felt discouraged or anxious that God was not listening to your prayers because you did not see the relief or the answer you desired? We’ve all been there at one time or another. However, in the parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus tells us why we should continue to persist in prayer and not lose heart, even when it does not seem God is responding to us.

This parable has its roots in the context of Luke 17:20-37. In this passage, Jesus discusses the coming of the kingdom (vv. 20-21) and the coming judgment against the adversaries who oppose Him and His kingdom, namely the Jews (vv. 22-37).  In view of these coming events, Jesus instructs His disciples to “always pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1) Our Lord is not saying that it would be good to pray under such circumstances. Rather, He is saying, in order to not “lose heart” (or “faint” KJV, or “give up” NIV) during such trying times, one must “always pray.” Of course, our Lord’s message provides instructions to the elect in many circumstances through all time and generations. Paul echoed this same command when he, on various occasions encouraged Christians to “be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12), to “continue steadfastly” in it (Colossians 4:2), praying “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). For this says, “is the will of God for you” (v. 18). Why continue in persistent prayer? Because, as we will see, prayer is the expression of our faith in the Lord’s promise that He will give justice against our adversaries.

Now, that we have established the central lesson to be learned from the parable, let’s turn our attention to the story itself (Luke 18:2-5). The first character Jesus introduces us to is a judge, “who neither feared God nor respected man” (v. 2). Within this wicked man’s jurisdiction were two people: an unnamed, malicious adversary who oppressed an unnamed helpless widow (v. 3). The Lord says that this widow “kept coming to the judge” seeking justice against her adversary. The persistence of her appeals then becomes central to the parable and its meaning.

Although the judge knew the widow’s case was just, he delayed in giving her relief from her adversary (v. 4a). Finally, after some unnamed period, the judge decides to provide this woman with the justice she deserves. His motives are shallow and impure, baseless and selfish. He does not aid the widow based on the merits of her case. Rather, this irreligious, uncompassionate judge answers the widow’s pleas because she was “bothering” him and he did not want her to “beat [him] down by her continual coming” (vv. 4-5). In short, he wanted to rid himself of the widow because she was a nuisance to him.

Next, the Lord says something quite remarkable, “hear what the unrighteous judge says” (v. 6). We might expect Him to call attention to the words and works of the widow, whose example disciples are to follow. However, it is the unrighteous judge and his character, which our Lord makes the central focal point of the parable. The purpose of this is to contrast the judge’s character against the character of God. The judge was unrighteous; God is the “righteous judge” (2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:6). The judge did not care for any man; God cares for His “elect” (v. 7; 1 Peter 5:6-7). The judge deferred in bringing about justice because he was uncompassionate; God compassionately delays final judgment to give men time to repent (2 Peter 3:3-9). The judge only acted to reduce his pain; God sent Jesus to suffer agonizing pain of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8). The judge delayed in delivering the widow and restraining the adversary; God “speedily” delivers His people and restrains our adversaries (v. 8a; Psalm 118:5-6). Thus, Jesus teaches that while it was the wickedness of the judge that required the perseverance of the widow, it is the righteousness of God that motivates the saints to “always pray and not [to] lose heart.” Even when our adversary presses us hard, even when we do not immediately see our prayers answered, it is God’s love, it is His faithfulness that causes us to not lose heart but to persistent in prayers to Him.

In closing, our Lord rhetorically asks, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (v. 8b). I believe what Jesus is saying is, “I’m going to return and deliver you from your adversaries. The issue to concern yourself with isn’t whether or not I’ll fulfill my promise, but whether you will show your faith in Me by persistently praying and not giving up.” Persistent prayer, even when the prayer is constantly the same (ref. vv. 3, 7a) is a sign of faith, not a lack of it. Therefore, our responsibility is to be dedicated people, constantly and faithfully praying to our compassionate and loving Father in Heaven, the judge of all humanity.

Digging Deeper Questions:

  1. Read Luke 18:1-8. Write down any observations, key words and/or questions you have from the reading.
  2. In this parable we are introduced to three characters: a judge, a widow and an adversary. What images come to mind when you picture these three people?
  3. Why do you think the widow is so persistent in request that the judge gives her justice?
  4. How does the picture of the unjust judge help us understand the true nature of God?
  5. What is it about God’s righteous character that motivates you to persistently pray and not lose heart?
  6. Who or what are some adversaries that you face today as you follow Christ?
  7. Are your prayers for relief as desperate as those of the widow’s or the elect’s? Why or Why not?
  8. In your own words, explain how persistent prayer: 1) protects you from losing heart, and 2) expresses your faith in God’s promises to deliver you from your adversaries?
  9. No doubt there are times when we all are tempted to give up praying about someone or for something. How is Jesus encouraging you through this parable to keep on praying and not give up?

Other lessons in this series: The Lost Parables, The Rich Fool