- How do you define the term self-righteousness?
- Why is self-righteousness a challenge? How can we repent and grow in Christ?
- Which son is really lost in this parable? Why is the faithful, dependable son the angry and resentful one?
- Who is Jesus addressing with these parables?
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Quotes from Dan B. Allender The Healing Path: How the Hurts in Your Past Can Lead You to a More Abundant Life. If you find the quotes helpful, please consider purchasing this excellent book and working through it yourself!
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Thoughts Concerning this passage (Luke 15)
Excellent commentary on this passage for personal reading:
When reading scripture and seeking to find and apply God’s message we need to consider the following areas. First, who is Jesus addressing? He is addressing a crowd and the Pharisees and scribes. Then we need to consider the setting and what Jesus is saying to the original audience. Please consider that Jesus is addressing first century Jewish religious leaders and the crowd. They live within a specific culture and historical era with different cultural norms and expectations than our modern society. The following site has a quick overview of the culture, groups, and concept of messiah.
Third, we need to understand the scope of the entire chapter. Jesus presents two other parables (the lost sheep, the lost coin) with basic elements. The basic elements are (1). a sheep, coin, and later a younger son are lost. (2). The shepherd and woman diligently seek out what is lost. The Father eagerly awaits the return of the lost, foolish son. (3) There is great rejoicing within the community when the lost sheep, coin, and son are restored. Notice that Jesus uses the “joy” and “celebrate.” Various other translations use the words “great rejoicing.”
Quotes from Berean Standard Bible
7In the same way, I tell you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who do not need to repent.
10In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”
22But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let us feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.
Can be a person be righteous and not need to repent? Why is the older brother angry at his father celebration–refusing to come? Notice that father reaches out to the older brother and invites him! God sees our hearts and motives, faithful service (duty and obedience) isn’t enough! God demands and desires a changed, renewed heart!
What is the main point of all this?
God seeks the lost! He rejoices when sinners repent! Early Jewish culture understood God as rejoicing over the destruction of the wicked. Barclay explains this thought as “There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who is obliterated before God.” Full commentary below:
The tragedy of the Prodigal Son is that the mature, faithful, hard-working son is the one who is lost and bitter! This detail would have shocked and scandalized the original audience. Jesus is clearly referencing the religious leaders who seem to be faithful to God by obedience yet are far away in their hearts. Obedience to rules doesn’t transform hearts, it just modifies behavior(s) but not interior motives. The entire purpose of God’s Law is to make His people aware of their desperate need for His grace and transformation. See Isaiah 29:13, Jeremiah 31:33-34, and Ezekiel 36:26. The Book of Hebrews explains how Jesus fulfills the role of High Priest and saves us through His perfect sacrifice. For more, consider the following article:
God’s Marvelous Grace Vrs Self-Righteousness
What is self-righteous and where does it come from? It comes from our broken hearts (past experiences and trying to protect ourselves) and the evil one. Daniel Allender comments:
“Self-righteousness is not the bastion only of the religious; it is the fortress of all who don’t want to involve themselves in the roller-coaster ride of ambivalence that comes when they care for people who will fail them.”pg 107 “Ambivalence and the Loss of Love”
People will fail us especially those who seek to minister, serve, and care for others. When we need help ourselves it will often be denied. Have you experienced this? You invest time and energy investing in others; yet when you need a kind word or encouragement yourself you find yourself alone. We learn to protect ourselves and remain uninvolved after experiencing this treatment. We guard our hearts to the effect of keeping people distant wherein they can’t easily or quickly hurt us.
After experiences of being ignored, neglected, and cast aside after being used, even the noblest and deeply caring people will become bitter and critically suspicious of anyone who tries to draw near. I understand this feeling and process from my personal experiences in ministry, teaching, and serving in churches. I mention this not to criticize others, but to honestly identify this as a personal struggle.
How can we avoid this? We seek Christ’s healing and grace. Daily, we seek to be more like our Savior than the fallen world and evil that surrounds us. We then labor to encourage and restore others.
The Trap of Self-Sufficiency
Daniel identifies our thoughts during this experience:
“I am all I need; I am enough,” is the presumption of self-righteousness. If I need someone or something, it is only temporary and need not obligate me to anyone. It is acceptable to be involved with others as long as no one wants much or is dependent on the other. Reciprocal. Equal. Safe.”pg. 107 “Ambivalence and the Loss of Love”
This thinking separates us and leaves us in shame which then leads to feeling contempt for others. We think of ourselves as better than and separate from others. This is the path of the self-righteous pharisee: one who knows God’s ways and expectations, but chooses to obey the “law” instead of inviting Christ to transform and renew.
The Path of Healing
God offers healing and grace through His Redemption!
“Faith and hope are the foundation of love.”pg 108 “Ambivalence and the Loss of Love”
When we seek and long for God’s redemption and grace, God moves! Just like the younger foolish son realizes his situation and comes home to his father, so we repent and seek Christ daily. We ask God to increase and strengthen our faith and hope!
“It is grace, the inexplicable tenderness of God to receive us and gift us with his presence, that redeems our hearts. Oddly, God uses the damage provoked by evil to win us to himself and to this purposes.”pg 108 “Ambivalence and the Loss of Love”
We can chose to seek God or remain stuck in our despair, bitterness, and separation. It’s God’s mercy that reaches out to restore us. After we experience this restoration, we are objects of God’s grace, mercy, and compassion. Our lives become a testimony of His Goodness and Grace!
This post wasn’t an easy writing process, nor can I give you simple, easy answers for the past hurts, disappointments, and tragedies of your life. I write as a fellow pilgrim who is battered by the storms of life: uncertainty, failure, and disappointment. Yet, I promise you that Christ is Our Solid Rock and Perfect Place of Refuge. As ugly and cruel as life and people can be, God is Wonderfully God, Kind, and Compassionate!
May we turn our eyes upward to the One who Graciously Loves and Restores those who seek Him trusting in a better place and existence with Him in eternity!