Today’s passage is Luke 18:9-16, but we’ll add verse 17 in there too, since it fits the context. Let’s go!
Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody 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 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.
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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
On verses 9-14: Through this parable Jesus shows us the difference between those who justify themselves before God and those who look to God for justification. On one hand, those who try to justify themselves, like the Pharisee, take a position of pride and boasting before God. They list their resume of good deeds to show God how good they think they are and why they deserve God’s approval. On the other hand those who look to God to justify them, like the tax collector, know that they have nothing to boast of before a perfect and holy God. All they can do is look to God for mercy.
Most people in the world – religious or not – believe they will go to heaven because they consider themselves to be “good people”. In effect they are trying to justify and exalt themselves before God. Their situation is just like that of the Pharisee: by exalting themselves, they will only be humbled in the end (v14).
Meanwhile, those who humble themselves and who recognize their need for a Saviour are those whom God justifies and exalts. May we always approach God from the perspective that we can never justify ourselves and are totally dependent on God to justify us.
Luke 18:15-16 (NIV)
15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.
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.
On verses 15-16: Whereas the disciples were trying to keep children away from Jesus, Jesus welcomed them and taught that children have just as much of a place in the kingdom of God as adults.
Luke 18:17 (NIV)
17 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of Godlike a little child will never enter it.”
On verse 17: What exactly does Jesus mean by this verse? Since one child can be quite different from the next, what traits are common in all children that Jesus wants to see in us? Put another way, how does one receive the kingdom of God like a child? I believe it’s that like a child, we are to come to God without pretense, without trying to be bigger than we are, just coming to God as we are and with an attitude of trusting and depending on our Heavenly Father.
Heavenly Father, instead of pridefully trying to justify myself, I pray that I would always approach You realizing that only You can justify me and that by the gift of Your Son Jesus Christ, You do justify me. Please help me to come to You and receive from You like a child – with an attitude of humility, dependence, without pretense, just as I am. Thank You that children are just as important to You and Your kingdom as any adult. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!