Luke 15

Today’s reading is Luke 15.

The other day I was standing in line at a coffee shop while the couple in front of me placed their orders, paid, and received change. As the cashier was handing the man his change, he dropped one of the coins. I watched it fall to the ground where it leaned on its edge against the man’s shoe.

My first instinct was to reach down, pick up the coin, and hand it back to the man. But then I hesitated for two reasons. First, the coin was touching him, so reaching down to pick it up would put me uncomfortably into his personal space. Second, the coin was a penny, so was it really worth it for one measly cent?

Before I made a decision, he reached down and picked it up himself so my problem was solved. But the fact that it was a mere penny got me thinking about things that are lost. If you lost a penny, you might look around for it for a few seconds, but probably would not waste too much time searching because the value is so low. If you lost a ten thousand dollar check or an extremely rare coin– one that was of great value to collectors and of personal value to you because it was given to you by a favorite grandpa or aunt or someone else you loved–you would tear the place apart looking for it, right? You’d do that because of the immense value it has in terms of cash and personally to you.

Here in Luke 15 Jesus overheard the muttering of the religious (v. 2) about Jesus’ tendency to spend time with the outcasts of society (v. 1, 2b). “Those people” were not worth anything to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They were worth less than a penny because they were “sinners.” If they were coins, not only would the religious people refuse to stoop down to pick them up, these religious leaders would grind them into the dust with their sandaled feet.

Jesus told three stories here in Luke 15 to illustrate why he spent time with sinners. All of them have to do with the worth of the sinners involved. To Jesus, saving sinners was like a shepherd finding a lost sheep (vv. 3-7), a woman finding a lost coin (vv. 8-10), and a man reconciling with his lost (that is, rebellious) son (vv. 11-24). The point of these stories was to invite the religious leaders to reconsider their hatred of sinners (vv. 25-32). But another key point of these stories is to illustrate how much lost humanity means to God.

I have many things in my past that I am ashamed to have said or done. In my present life, there are areas where I wish I was more like Christ and had a greater desire to improve. While I don’t think of myself as worthless, I have to admit that my sinfulness makes me far from desirable to a holy God. Jesus taught, however, that God loves to find his lost sons. This chapter calls us, then, to look at sinners differently. We should see ourselves and others not as worthless pennies but as precious in God’s sight, so precious that he came to find us. Let’s give thanks for God’s love and remember to love other sinners, no matter how reprehensible we think they are. To do anything else puts us in the place of the judgmental older brother who missed out on the party because of his unloving attitude.

Exodus 37, Song of Songs 1, Luke 15

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?

Luke 15

Today’s reading is Luke 15.

The other day I was standing in line at a coffee shop while the couple in front of me placed their orders, paid, and received change. As the cashier was handing the man his change, he dropped one of the coins. I watched it fall to the ground where it leaned on its edge against the man’s shoe.

My first instinct was to reach down, pick up the coin, and hand it back to the man. But then I hesitated for two reasons. First, the coin was touching him, so reaching down to pick it up would put me uncomfortably into his personal space. Second, the coin was a penny, so was it really worth it for one measly cent?

Before I made a decision, he reached down and picked it up himself so my problem was solved. But the fact that it was a mere penny got me thinking about things that are lost. If you lost a penny, you might look around for it for a few seconds, but probably would not waste too much time searching because the value is so low. If you lost a ten thousand dollar check or an extremely rare coin– one that was of great value to collectors and of personal value to you because it was given to you by a favorite grandpa or aunt or someone else you loved–you would tear the place apart looking for it, right? You’d do that because of the immense value it has in terms of cash and personally to you.

Here in Luke 15 Jesus overheard the muttering of the religious (v. 2) about Jesus’ tendency to spend time with the outcasts of society (v. 1, 2b). “Those people” were not worth anything to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They were worth less than a penny because they were “sinners.” If they were coins, not only would the religious people refuse to stoop down to pick them up, these religious leaders would grind them into the dust with their sandaled feet.

Jesus told three stories here in Luke 15 to illustrate why he spent time with sinners. All of them have to do with the worth of the sinners involved. To Jesus, saving sinners was like a shepherd finding a lost sheep (vv. 3-7), a woman finding a lost coin (vv. 8-10), and a man reconciling with his lost (that is, rebellious) son (vv. 11-24). The point of these stories was to invite the religious leaders to reconsider their hatred of sinners (vv. 25-32). But another key point of these stories is to illustrate how much lost humanity means to God.

I have many things in my past that I am ashamed to have said or done. In my present life, there are areas where I wish I was more like Christ and had a greater desire to improve. While I don’t think of myself as worthless, I have to admit that my sinfulness makes me far from desirable to a holy God. Jesus taught, however, that God loves to find his lost sons. This chapter calls us, then, to look at sinners differently. We should see ourselves and others not as worthless pennies but as precious in God’s sight, so precious that he came to find us. Let’s give thanks for God’s love and remember to love other sinners, no matter how reprehensible we think they are. To do anything else puts us in the place of the judgmental older brother who missed out on the party because of his unloving attitude.