Daily Devotions

Humility vs. Moral Judgment

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"I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

 

Be prepared to be shocked. God might just appreciate humility more than proper moral action. There, I said it. You walk into most churches and you can almost taste the subtle tone of judgments. "I heard she just went through treatment." "Can you believe they had to go through bankruptcy?" "Did you know he's been divorced three times?" The great and little judgments feel never ending. Yet, here is Jesus' parable "exulting" the sinner and condemning the holier-than-thou.

 

In the first century CE, wealthy Jews would pay Rome for the opportunity to be "publicans" or tax collectors. Then, these same tax collectors would gouge other Jews in their community with high taxes that would cover Rome's tax requirements, but make huge sums of money for themselves. The Jews hated them for both religious and social reasons. They were considered unclean for working in coordination with the heathen Romans. The tax collectors were also hated for lining their pockets on the backs of their own people.

 

Yet, as sinful and corrupt as the tax collector was, he knew his sin and was humble enough to repent and admit his need for God's grace and mercy. Meanwhile, the holy man, the respected Pharisee, is relying on his own moral upright actions. The Pharisee was certainly more moral and upright, but he is still left wanting, because he acts as if God is somehow unnecessary.

 

Today, spend a few moments contemplating your own shortcomings. It should not be a pity party, or a reason to fall into a guilty depression. While God desires us to be good, moral people, God is even more concerned with the recognition that we are not our own god. It is a central expectation that we never forget that our lives are eternally in the hands of the Triune God. Moral perfection can never replace our humble need for God. Spend your prayer today, thanking God for God's divine care and forgiving love given you. Invite God into your heart each new day, and trust that God will not cast you out. God loves you that much.

 

A Pain-in-the-Neck for Christ

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He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’" (Luke 18:2 & 3)

 

At first glance, God often seems uncaring, not unlike this unjust judge. So, like the widow pestering the judge for justice, we must be called to pester God in order to get some level of justice in this world.

 

I really don't like the view just described, because God is infinitely more powerful and compassionate than this cold-hearted, unjust judge. I believe what this parable is trying to express is that we are not to simply to sit on our hands and wait for a miracle. God's Spirit is still active in bringing justice and wholeness, but God's work is done through our actions. We need to be as persistent and pushy at caring for the marginalized, as the widow was in sticking up for herself.

 

A local organization, Joppa, is working to develop "tiny houses" for the homeless. The one they displayed on our church grounds was beautiful and could meet the needs of a single occupant. As a Joppa representative explained to me, the city has a rule that any neighborhood has the right to vote on the inclusion of these tiny homes. Seventy-one percent of neighborhood business owners have to vote in favor of the tiny homes for them to become a reality. Thus far no neighborhood has said, "Yes." There are fears of lower property values, increased illegal activity etc., with the homeless living in the tiny homes, in their neighborhood. While statistically inaccurate, these fears remain.

 

Change can only occur when, like the widow, we do not give up. We, too, need to be persistent, presenting truthful information and praying for the Holy Spirit to transform hearts and minds. There are a lot more homeless in our neighborhoods than we would like to admit. Right now there are tents all along the Des Moines River, running through many of our neighborhoods. People are living in their cars, throughout the greater metro. A tiny house would be a great alternative. Please be prayerful and persistent in your care for the less fortunate. Everyone deserves a roof over their heads!

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