Read Exodus 37, Song of Songs 1, and Luke 15 today. This devotional is about Luke 15.
Luke 15 contains three parables of God’s love. They were motivated by the complaint of the Pharisees, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (v. 2). Christ explained to the Pharisees that God sees sinners like a shepherd who loses a sheep or a woman who loses a valuable coin. Rather than shunning the lost sheep or the lost coin, criticizing it for getting lost, God actively searches for sinners the way that a shepherd actively searches for his lost sheep and the way that a woman actively searches for her lost coin. Then, when a lost sinner is found, God cheers more exuberantly than the shepherd who finds his lost sheep and the woman who finds her lost coin. What an incredible affirmation of God’s love for sinners! I can never read this chapter without feeling very grateful and humbled by God’s saving love.
But, in verses 11-32, Jesus turned his thoughts back to the Pharisees. In the parable of the lost son (aka “the prodigal son”), Jesus compared God to a father who had two sons. One son rejected his father and squandered his father’s wealth with sinful living; the other son dutifully fulfilled his obligation as a son. When the prodigal son found himself in desperate need, he returned in humility to his father, hoping to be accepted as a slave. Instead, however, his father welcomed him back and threw a party in his honor because of his joy in recovering his lost son.
The other brother, on the other hand, was jealous and angry. He self-righteously condemned his father for celebrating the return of such a sinful, selfish son. In this way Christ revealed the heart of the Pharisee and the temptation of every self-righteous person who has ever lived. Instead of understanding the worth of a soul that has been saved, the self-righteous are angry at the Father’s grace to such sinners.
The other brother, in this passage, represented the self-righteous Pharisees, yet even genuine Christians sometimes struggle with the same self-righteous attitude.
One way might be our attitude toward world missions. If we believe that funding our own lives and even our own churches is wiser than giving to people who are going to other parts of the world to reach people for Jesus, then maybe we have a self-righteous attitude. Or if we pray little for the missionaries we know or just other countries that are closed to the gospel, perhaps its because we believe the people who live there are greater sinners than lost people in America.
As encouraging as this passage is when it describes God’s love, it should also make us pause and think: Do I get excited about the salvation of God’s lost sheep? Can I celebrate the salvation of others in other parts of the world or do I think they deserve judgment more than I do or the people around me?