This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 18:9-14. In these verses Jesus warns us to not base our relationship with him on living a good life and tithing.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
When you ‘read the red,’ words in the Bible, the red ink in some Bible versions, highlighted are the words Jesus spoke. Readers chewing on these words, will have all kinds of emotional responses. You may feel the love of the father caring for you so much, that he is giving you words of wisdom and coaching you to a better way of living. You may feel encouragement to follow the advice, because you know it is of caring and concern of a father, brother or friend. If you already are living the words, you may sense him telling you that you are doing a good job with what is being spoken, and it feels encouraging. You may sense that you are touching heavenly wisdom, and feel called to follow it. Some people will feel discipline, or a rebuke, because they sense the correction is necessary, and is a wake-up call.
Jesus often spoke in parables, like he is in these verses, in part because stories communicate concepts better- they help the reader feel and understand on a much deeper level. I think there are additional benefits of story telling. One reason is that parables teach us hard things without ‘in-your-face’ confrontation. In a way, it is a very nice gentlemanly like way to communicate with people, and let them see the truth, as they mull it around in their minds, as opposed to being told what to do. Jesus is a master story-teller, communicator, and a gentleman; he tells parables to teach us, and lets the Holy Spirit breathe the words into our hearts, souls and minds that are applicable to us.
So back to the parable: “…Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ ” Luke 18:11 -12. I believe Jesus is speaking to anyone, but especially believers who are like the Pharisee here, that judge their relationship with God, on their good behavior like tithing money. They are probably doing okay financially too, and perhaps they see their success in life and religion as a blessing for good behavior and hard work. In this example, the Pharisee is looking down on someone not living up to their narrow standards. In Jesus we know our approval or salvation is not earned, but a gift, just like many of the blessings in life we may be fortunate enough to have.
So what is Jesus saying to you and me right now as we read this. Do we think that “Wow I am a good tither, I have a good job and income,” and look down on and judge others not doing as well? A judgmental attitude is a sign that our hearts are not where they should be. In other words, what is your lens on your spirituality, or your relationship with Jesus? Is it the tithing record, bank account, income, or material things? This is a call-out to greater devotion, surrender and relationship with Jesus, for some of us; a tender rebuke and wisdom from Jesus. I see parables as love letters too, from Jesus to us.
Summary: If our hearts are alight with Jesus, and we are walking in the Holy Spirit, then our relationship with him and others people is not one based on performance or judgement, but of love for God and mankind.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fifty-third post in this series.