What About Pride?

Explore the Bible Series

January 9, 2005



Background Passage: Luke 18:1-43

Lesson Passage: Luke 18:9-14 and 18-23


Introduction: This marvelous chapter reminds us of the importance of humility and the dangers of pride.  The previous passage (Luke 17:20-37) gives us valuable insight into the coming of the Kingdom of God, but what qualities should characterize the Lord’s people while they patiently await Christ’s return?  Chapter 18 provides helpful counsel to the Lord’s people concerning the most rare and fragile of all Christian graces: lowliness of mind.


I.                   The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8)

A.     (v.1) The purpose of the parable: At the very threshold of this parable, Jesus told his disciples what this story meant, “…that men ought always to pray and not lose heart.”  Nothing humbles the heart like prayer.  The lowly supplicant, recognizing his utter insufficiency for the issues of life, must come to the Heavenly Father for daily supplies of mercy and strength.  Furthermore, the believer must persist in this self-effacing exercise.  Yesterday’s graces spoil like manna in the wilderness, and the humble Christian must come again to the Lord for daily needs. 

B.     (vv. 2-3) The woman in this story found herself in a helpless situation.  Women enjoyed little social standing in the ancient Middle East, and this poor woman, victimized by some unidentified adversary, could find help only in the aid of someone stronger than her.  Sadly, the man to whom she turned was an ungodly and arrogant judge, and she found little sympathy in the eyes of this haughty government official.

C.     (vv. 3-5) The woman’s persistence: Though her pleas went, for a time, unheeded, the woman persisted in her entreaties to the unjust judge.  In time, he heard her cry for justice, and he settled her suit against her adversary.  Of course, this parable does not depict God as an unjust judge; rather, it contrasts the wickedness and coldness of the judge with the warmth and grace of our benevolent Heavenly Father.  If a cruel government official will hear the petitions of a humble, helpless woman, will not a gracious Heavenly Father hear and heed the supplications of his humble and persistent children.

D.     (vv. 6-8) The eschatological nature of this parable: These verses tie this text to the previous section on the coming of the Kingdom (17:20-37).  God’s elect cry out to him day and night.  The interim period between Christ’s earthly ministry and Second Coming will test and try the elect, and they must look steadfastly to One greater than they to sustain and vindicate them.


II.                The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-17)

This parable begins with an explanation of its intent.  Note that Luke observed that prideful self-righteousness is always attended by low and unworthy views of others. 

A.     The Pharisee’s Pride (vv. 10-12)

1.      The vanity of his prayer (v. 11): “…he prayed thus with himself.”  His prayers centered on his own wicked designs and sought nothing from the Lord.  His despicable self-sufficiency expressed itself in his prayer.

2.      His acute awareness of the sins of others (v. 11):  He readily recounted the notorious sins of others (aiming his words deliberately at the nearby publican) and rejoiced that he was not like other men.  His arrogance blinded him to his own sinfulness and need of mercy.

3.      His exalted view of himself (v. 12): The Pharisee gave a representative list of achievements from his spiritual resume. He recounted two of his best qualities: fasting and tithing.  His fastidious concern about these worthy practices was notable; however, he missed the central and essential ingredient of godliness: to practice his obedience in lowliness of mind and love to God.  Instead, his religious practices betrayed an arrogant heart that focused on self-righteousness and self-advancement.

B.     The publican’s humility (v. 13): Everything about the actions and words of the publican stood in stark contrast to the arrogant Pharisee.

1.      He stood afar off:  He did not seek a position of prominence, and he concerned himself with the eyes of God rather than the approval of men. 

2.      He bowed his head in humble repentance before a holy God.

3.      He beat upon his breast:  Perhaps this action denoted agonized contrition, brokenness of spirit.  He could not find the words to express the depth of his need, and struck his chest in heart-felt remorse for his sin and inadequacy.  He prays, as it were, with his whole being, and he cared little for the probing eyes of the arrogant who, no doubt, distained his unrestrained manner.  His prayer had one petition, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” What holy, profound eloquence!

C.     The Savior’s assessment (v. 14): The Lord affirmed the spirit and the prayer of the humble and penitent publican.  He went away from the temple with the assurance of justification before the Lord.


III.             Jesus Received the Little Children (Luke 18:15-17)

Luke did not include this story as a sentimental interlude in this chapter; no, he inserted this passage here to re-enforce the need for humility.  This text, also, should not be construed as an attack on the biblical doctrine of original sin.  Jesus used the approach of the infants, I believe, as an object lesson in the tender, unpretentious humility.

IV.              Jesus’ Encounter with the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18-34)

A.     The appealing character of the young man

1.      He was a ruler: Luke probably described a religious official (perhaps a ruler of the local synagogue); though it is possible he held some governmental position.  Whatever the case, he was a man of social standing and considerable influence.  No doubt, the people saw him as a “good catch” for Jesus’ band of followers.

2.      He was very rich (See v. 23): Again, this quality would make him invaluable to the fledgling Jesus movement.

3.      Matthew tells us that he was young (See Matthew 19:22): This man must have possessed remarkable qualities because it was rare for first-century Jews to look to young men as leaders.

4.      He was earnest about his soul: Mark recalled that the young man ran to Jesus and fell to his knees before the Master. 

5.      He was spiritually informed and came to the right person to answer his important question. We may quibble a bit about the wording of his question (“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”), but, at least, he possessed enough insight to ask about the central issues of life.

6.      He possessed a kind of cultural, outward goodness, and he approached the Lord with courtesy and reverence.

B.     The Lord’s response to young man’s inquiry: Jesus challenged the man’s inadequate views in these areas.

1.      The man had inadequate views of the person of Christ. Yes, he called Jesus “Good Teacher”; yet, the Lord needed to impress upon him the magnitude of his remark.  Jesus’ response, I believe, was a clear assertion of his own divinity. It appears the young man came to Jesus for spiritual advice, not to find eternal salvation in the Savior.

2.      The man cherished inadequate views of his own righteousness before the holy law of God.  He believed that the law actually affirmed his righteousness.  Pride surfaced at this point.  Jesus rehearsed several of the commandments with the young inquirer, and the ruler’s poor assessment of his spiritual condition prodded him to affirm his own blamelessness before the Son of God. Of course, Jesus challenged this man’s pride by probing a notable area of weakness, the wealth of the ruler. “Go your way, and sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…”  This man lived in violation of the Tenth Commandment.

3.      The young man demonstrated a considerable ignorance of the staggering cost of discipleship.  “…and come, take up you cross, and follow me.”  The ruler came to ask Jesus how to find eternal life, but Jesus answered by telling him that he must take up the cross and follow Christ.

4.      The ruler failed to continue in his spiritual concern.  When he did not receive the anticipated response from the Lord, he went away sorrowfully.  Jesus did not urgently rearrange his gospel demands in order to make a second appeal to his reluctant hearer.  No “seeker friendly” trend can be found in this story. This young man’s inflated view of himself and his boundless affection for riches robbed him of a saving encounter with Christ.

5.      The Savior’s teaching to the disciples (vv.24-30): Jesus observed the “impossibility” of rich men to find eternal life.  I suspect that Jesus had more than material wealth in mind.  Men who fail to apprehend their spiritual poverty have little perceived need for salvation.  Thankfully, the work of God in the hearts of men can relieve spiritual blindness and convince even the most arrogant soul of its need of the riches of God through faith in Christ.  As usual, impetuous Peter made a hasty and unguarded remark (See v. 28).  Jesus gently reminded him of the immeasurable riches bestowed upon those who trust in Christ.

C.     Jesus’ teachings concerning his impending Passion (vv. 31-34): Jesus, too, would take up a cross and die at the hands of the Gentiles.  He would do so according to the promises of the prophets, and would rise from the dead on the third day.


V.                 The Healing of the Blind Man Near Jericho (Luke 18:35-43)

A.     This chapter began with Jesus’ parable of a humble, persistent widow’s petition to an unjust judge; now, the chapter ends with the importunate entreaty of a blind man to the Lord. Like the publican in the Temple, the blind man, named Bartimaeus in the Gospel of Mark, simply asked that Christ would have mercy on him.

B.     The crowds scolded Bartimaeus for his bold petition, but he persisted to ask for the Lord’s grace (see v. 39).

C.     Jesus healed the poor, suffering man and affirmed the importunate, humble pleading of a man who understood his desperate need of mercy.





Personal Note: Please forgive the lateness of the Sunday School lesson this week.  Sadly, my dear mother died, and my responsibilities to my family took priority over my other duties.  Mother was a vibrant Christian, and our family has found sweet consolation in the presence and promises of God during these difficult days.