Luke 18

Luke 18

The major theme of this chapter is humility. That theme comes out more clearly in some of the paragraphs of this chapter than in others. But consider this:

  • In verses 9-14 the tax collector was justified instead of the Pharisee because “those who humble themselves will be exalted” (v. 14c).
  • In verses 15-17 you have to become helpless like a child in order to enter the kingdom. Verse 17: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
  • In verses 18-30 the rich man refused the kingdom of heaven because Jesus told him to sell everything. Selling everything would have humbled him, making him dependent on God.
  • Verses 31-34 doesn’t seem to fit the theme of humility except that Jesus’ death required him to humble himself, so maybe that’s why Luke recorded this passage in this spot.
  • In verses 35-43 the beggar was not too proud to stop calling out to Jesus asking for his sight. His personal dignity and reputation among others were less important to him than receiving this healing from Jesus.

So how does the first story in verses 1-8 fit with this theme of humility? Well, maybe it doesn’t. These chapter divisions are not inspired and were added to the Bible much later than the passages were written.

But, although being in this chapter doesn’t necessarily make verses 1-8 about humility and even though humility is not expressly mentioned in this story, I still think the concept is there. The point of this story according to Luke was, “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” The woman in this story badgered the unjust judge and eventually won her case because of her badgering (vv. 4-5). Then Jesus said that God will listen to those who “cry out to him day and night” (v. 7). What the story does not address is why we won’t “cry out to him day and night.” Why don’t we persist in prayer?

One answer is weak faith or a lack of faith. Another answer is just that we’re human and humans struggle with various kinds of weaknesses. But I think pride is a reason why we don’t pray persistently. Prayer is an acknowledgment that we cannot control something. It is a response to the knowledge among the faithful that we cannot make something happen on our own so, if it is to happen, God will have to do it. That takes humility! Our default assumption is that we can handle things. We can put up with stuff we don’t like, we can persuade someone to do what we want, we can reason with someone who we have a dispute with, we can change ourselves if we try hard enough for long enough. But prayer causes us to admit that these things may not be true and that only God might be able to make something happen. We might pray once or twice asking God for something but after that, we give up to look for “more productive” ways to attack the problem we’re praying about. And, of course, God is sovereign and will do his will, so he may refuse to answer our prayers with yes because they are outside of his will. All of these are blows to our pride.

So, what do you wish God would do for you? If it is within his moral will, will cause him to be glorified, and is truly righteous and just, don’t let your pride keep you from asking God–continually–for it.