It’s easy to look at someone and write them off as bad or wrong simply because they are different. But when we do this, we actually put something on ourselves that doesn’t look good on anybody.
- What are some of the valuable things you have at home? How do you and the people around you know they are valuable to you?
- Which way do you typically lean: self-righteous or unrighteous?
- Why do you think we are so quick to size people up and write them off?
- Has anyone ever shown you compassion after you made a mistake? Describe that experience.
- Who in your life will it be most difficult to “rebrand” from “bad” to “lost”? What do you think would change if you did?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
Okay, so here’s something that does not look good on anyone, this is basically a wardrobe option that everyone should avoid. Self-righteous, self-righteous, doesn’t look good on anyone. If you know somebody who wears this, you just kind of feel it as they walk in the room, it’s like, “That just doesn’t look good on you, this doesn’t look good on anyone,” and because I have too much experience with this as I’ll share in just a minute, I understand, unfortunately, that as it turns out, the people who are self-righteous are rarely self-aware, they don’t know that when they walk in the room, when they start talking, everybody kind of feels pushed back and a little bit condemned, they don’t know that they’re wearing it. They’re wearing it, and everybody knows they’re wearing it, but they don’t know they’re wearing it.
Now, when you hear the phrase self-righteous, we immediately think in religious terms, but being self- righteous can have something, can interface with being self-righteous religiously, but self-righteous incorporates a whole lot of things. So here’s what happens when a person is self-righteous, it happens when our rightness about something in particular, a view or the way we see the world, when our attitude, our perspective, when our rightness is so internalized that it becomes part of our identity, and when any view you hold, you hold so close that it becomes part of your identity, you immediately without meaning to, you immediately when you meet people who don’t see the world the way that you do or don’t view that, whatever it is, the way that you do or don’t hold your view, you immediately internalize it on them as well.
So you’re not just right, we’re not just right about the view, we are actually righteous, there’s something righter about me, not righter about my view, there’s something righter about me than there is right about you. And when that happens, we automatically… We don’t make a decision, it just happens, we automatically begin to dismiss, look down on and disdain the un-right, the people that we associate with the other view, and again, it’s not out here in a world where we can talk about it, that they are wrong because we are right. We don’t just hold the right view, we are right, we are righteous, and therefore they are… And we don’t use this term, but it comes across. They are unrighteous.
Now, here’s the lesson for the day. When a view, when a view about anything becomes an excuse to be disrespectful or dismissive toward another person, the person across from you, you may be right, but you are not righteous according to Jesus. Anyway, more on that in just a bit. Today, we are in Part Five of our series Investigating Jesus, how we know and why we follow. How we know there’s anything even to the story of Jesus? And then even if there is, why in the world would people in the 21st century follow a first century rabbi, day laborer from Galilee that was crucified by Rome and rejected by his own people? Why in the world would we do anything this guy says? And why in the world would we wrap our lives around and incorporate his value system into our lives? And why in the world would we worship him?
So these are really, really big issues, there are important issues because the credibility, and we’ve said this every week in this series, the credibility of Christianity, the veracity of Christianity rises and falls on a single individual, this individual we’re talking about, Jesus of Nazareth. Which means that if you are considering faith for the first time, the Christian faith, or if you are reconsidering faith because you walked away and now you’re re-interested, or if you’re considering leaving faith, you’re un-considering the Christian faith, the question that you should wrestle with, is this question, “Is Matthew, Mark, Luke or John a reliable account of actual events?”
These are the four accounts of the life of Jesus written in the first century that were eventually bundled together by the end of the first, at the beginning of the second century, and then eventually bundled together with the writing letters of Paul and the Hebrew scripture, and in the fourth century became the Bible. But long before there was the Bible in terms of the assemblage of all those ancient documents, there was the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. And if even one of these accounts is a reliable account of an actual event, then what they say about Jesus is true, and if what they say about Jesus is true, we all need to sit up straight and pay attention.
So in this series, we’re simply looking at one of the accounts of the life of Jesus, the account entitled Luke named for its author and right upfront, and I’ve said this every week, and I’ll say it again next week, right upfront, Luke lets us know he is not writing religious material he is simply documenting someone’s life, and he wasn’t alone, he wasn’t the only one.
In fact, as we saw, here’s how he begins his gospel, he says, “Many, not just me, this isn’t just God’s doing something special through me and I’m gonna be a unique voice.” he goes, “Oh no, no, no. That’s not what’s happening here. Many people have undertaken to draw up an account that is a chronological account of the things, the events that have been fulfilled that happened among us, not 50 years ago, not a 100 years ago, not in some other place, that have happened right here among us. Just as they, those events were handed down to us by those who from the first… ” That is the very beginning of Jesus ministry. “Were eye witnesses and servants of the word.”
So what Luke is saying is this, “Look, something happened and we realize a whole bunch of us, not just me, a lot of us realize that what has just happened in our generation, right here in front of us, is not just for us and not just for our generation. God has done something, not simply said something, not inspired something, not simply spoken something, not simply move somebody to write something. Uh-uh, that’s not what’s going on here. God has done something in the world, and what he has done needs to be recorded for all time because it’s for all people of every single generation. So I am throwing my hat in the ring and I’m gonna be one of the many that tries to get this right, because this is for everybody.”
So case in point, Luke, Chapter 15, jumping ahead, another parable that became iconic, but the context of this very, very familiar set of parables, the context is the point that the parable…
And without understanding the context, we don’t get the point of the parable, and Luke would tell us, if he could stop and just speak to us, he’d say, “Hey, the point of these three parables is the point that Jesus was trying to make with his entire life and his death and his entire ministry. This is why Jesus branded his message good news.” And then Luke tells us what unfolds. One day, Jesus is teaching… And here’s what happens. Luke, Chapter 15, “One day. Now, tax collectors and sinners… ” We have to hit pause here. We’ve said this before, but it’s important to know. The tax collectors were so bad. They weren’t even considered in the class of sinners, so you would say to your parents, “Well, at least I’m not a tax collector.” “I can’t believe you did that.” “Oh, I know that was horrible, mom, but at least I’m not a tax collector.” It was like the lowest of the low.
But the tax collectors and the sinners, these are the unclean, these are people who are not worthy to enter the temple, these are people who are distanced from God, and many thought this group of people was hopelessly separated from God. But here is the amazing part at the beginning of this little narrative, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.” And Luke’s right. And he would just say this, “Isn’t that amazing?” And for us, modern day church people, we would say, “No, it’s not amazing, it’s embarrassing, it’s embarrassing because people who are far from God don’t gather around to listen to us, they think we’re crazy, and they think we’re judgmental. And they think a whole lot of things, but nobody’s gathering around to listen to us.”
Apparently the church didn’t always get this right, which is one of the reasons that you’re having to reconsider faith because you met too many Christians. Bad Christians happen to good people all the time. [laughter] And Luke understands this, he’s like, “I get it, I’m about to introduce you to the the other crowd. But don’t miss the point that people who are nothing like Jesus liked Jesus.” he was righteous, he was not self-righteous in the sense that he carried his righteousness in such a way that it made the unrighteous feel pushed away. On the contrary, it made the unrighteous feel drawn in. Isn’t that amazing? Imagine if the church had been that way for 2000 years. Once upon a time, it was. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be here today. He continues, “But there’s another group, but the Pharisees and the teachers of the law… ” And I love this word, we should bring it back. “The Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered.” They muttered.
Here’s what they muttered, “If this teacher really was from God, these people would avoid him like they avoid us, but since they’re not avoiding him like they avoid us, obviously, this teacher is watering down the Torah, because if he was teaching it straight, they would wanna have nothing to do with him. They would feel condemned by him, just like they feel condemned by us.” Here’s what Luke said, “They said to one another, this man… ” Talking about Jesus, “This man… ” They had no idea, did they? “This man, it’s just not the man. This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. If he was from God, he would avoid them and eat with us. So Jesus is guilty by association.”
Now, let me just tell you one thing about Jesus and guilt by association. This is so important. If Jesus were concerned about guilt by association, he would have stayed in heaven. [laughter] Okay? So now everybody’s there, everybody’s there, you got the Pharisees, teachers of the law, you got the tax gatherers, you got the sinners, everybody’s there, and Jesus sees his opportunity,
And Jesus, because he’s the master story teller, he begins with a question that’ll put everybody on the same page, and a question that everybody in his audience will answer the same way.
Here’s how he starts it off ’cause he’s so brilliant. He says this, “Suppose one of you has a 100 sheep and loses one of them.” Well, this is easy, this is 101, because everybody there say what they would do. They’re like, “Well, you go looking for it. If you lose one sheep, you go look. You leave the 99 and you go look for the one. That’s just what you do.” Now, most of us as Americans, we think, “What would I do with 100 sheep anyway? And if I lost one, I wouldn’t even know I lost it, I got 99.” So we cannot identify with this at all. So I want you to think in terms of credit cards and children for just a minute. [laughter] When you lose something of value, here’s what you don’t do. When you lose something of value, you don’t console yourself with what’s unlost.
You don’t say, “But I still have my Master Card and my five-year-old. I don’t know where my American Express is or my eight-year-old, but I still have my MasterCard and my five-year-old,” said nobody. No, when you lose something of value, you are laser-focused not on what’s found, but on what is lost. So they all get this first one. And then Jesus interprets it, he pulls out of the parable and he says, “In the same way,” this is so powerful… He says, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who do not need to repent.” And when they heard the word repent, they understood this meant re-connect, re- connect back in the family, back in sync. Jesus is, “I’m telling you, there is more rejoicing in heaven over that one sinner.”
Oh, you mean the sheep was a sinner, and the 99 right? Which means they’re thinking, “Wait, wait, wait. Hey, don’t go too fast. So are you telling us that God views unrighteous people as something valuable that got separated from its owner?” Jesus is like, “Exactly.” “Well, that’s not really how we view unrighteous people.” Jesus is like, “And that’s why I came.” This is what he would say to me, he would say, “Hey, before we move on, is that how you view people not as right as you? As something valuable that maybe got disconnected from the owner? Is that how you view people not as right as you, or maybe not as left as you?”
Jesus goes to the second parable and it begins like this. Or suppose a woman… Now we hear there we go, yeah, “Oh, you gotta have men and women that’s what we do.” That’s not what they did. I’m telling you, when Jesus said, Or suppose a woman, the women in the audience sat up straight like, “he’s talking about us.” [laughter] Women had virtually no value, they’re traded as little girls, virtually no value, even within that community, just… We can’t even imagine, we can’t imagine there are places in the world where what’s self-evident to us about the equality is not self- evident, right. We’ve talked about that before, but more amazing, the people who were following Jesus, his disciples, who understood what is how his parables work, they understood that in every single parable, there’s a God figure.
In this little short parable, Jesus does the unthinkable, he associates the hero of the parable, a woman with God.
He says suppose a woman loses a coin, right? And the women are like we know what we would do, but they can’t answer because of just the cultural context, but Jesus had addressed them, had elevated them, right then Jesus gets to his most famous of the three… It’s one of the most famous things he’s ever taught, it’s iconic people all over the world, know bits and pieces of the story, even if they don’t know who originally said it, this is the power of the teaching of Jesus. A wealthy man has two sons, two sons, and the younger was waiting on dad to die, and his dad just wouldn’t die, he just kept getting older, and he’s like, I wish my dad would die so I could get my half of the inheritance, and he finally loses his patience and he says, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” Now, when Jesus says this, he’s sharing this parable, both groups, the sinners and the tax gatherers, and the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, both groups and everybody in the middle they gasp, “Oh, this boy wishes his father was dead, that’s tantamount to murder. This boy should be stoned.”
And the master storyteller continues, so instead of stoning him, he divided his property between them. And the crowd is like, “Oh, why? Why? Why? No one would do this. You’re losing us, Jesus. Why would anyone do this?” But anyone who understood the first two parables and anybody who understood what Jesus… The point Jesus was making in the first two parables would understand immediately, why a father would divide everything he’d spent his life accumulating between his two sons, because his son was lost to him, and he wanted him back because his son was lost to him, and he wanted him back, and he was willing to do almost anything to get him back, he wanted him back because… So he let him go. His son was lost, and not spatially. He’s right there, he was lost to him relationally, and he wanted him back and the son takes the money and runs, and then eventually he’s broke. And some of you, this is your story, you know, you hit a bump, You know, first it was just sprinkling and then it was raining and you’re like, “Oh, I can get through the rain and then the whole bottom falls out… ” Right, it’s just one thing after another after another. So he’s broke. And then he has to get a… A job, he’s never had a job. He’s gotta get a job, and the only job he could get is feeding… Jesus, I’m telling you, Jesus is the master storyteller. It, he just goes lower and lower and lower, and he gets a job as a pig farmer and his audience is like, moans…
Oh no. A pig farmer, and now he’s starving. And Jesus says that, nobody will help him. And the audience, Jesus audience, all of them together, he’s got them right where he wants them. The whole audience is going, “Yes, he’s reaping what he sowed. Let him sow, let him sow, let him sow. First time this group has agreed on anything, and then as you know, if you know the story, I love this phrase, one day he comes to his senses, he wakes up, it’s like, What in the world? He comes to his senses and he thinks to himself, What am I doing?
And then he comes up with a plan. I know what I’ll do, I will go back, I will set out. And I will go back to my father and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. So he’s broken, I mean he’s at the bottom, I am no longer worthy, I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Just make me like one of your hired servants. I’m willing to work and have a job, and so he got up from where he was, quit what he was doing, and he went to his father and he’s rehearsing his speech all along the way, and Jesus audience, they’re like, “This is gonna be good. We know what’s gonna happen,” because they knew what they would do. They did not know what the father would do. Because they did not know what God the Father is like. And this Luke would tell us, is why Jesus came. It’s what he came to explain. He would say these crazy things like, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father,” show us the father. Okay, Jesus would say, Look, everything before me. This is so important for somebody today.
Jesus would say, “Everything that came before me was a shadow. Everything that came before me was foreshadowing, everything that came before me was a hint,” it was just a kind of just to get people’s interest and to keep the thing… Keep the story moving. John said it this way, for the word became flesh before we were just guessing, trying to piece things together, trying to figure out cause and effect. But the word became flesh, and he became one of us and dwelt among us. So we could know what God is like. Jesus message through the Gospel of Luke, is Jesus came to take away as much mystery as he could possibly take away, not so we would have answers to questions about God, so that we would have a relationship with the living God, because we knew his living son who became one of us, if you wanna know… This is so important.
If you wanna know what God is like. You begin with Jesus. If you wanna know what God would say, you begin with Jesus, if you know what God would do. You follow Jesus through the gospels, because he’s God in a body. Who came to reveal the Father. I glory… He said at one point, I glorified You on the Earth, talking to his father, I glorified You on Earth, having accomplished the work that You’ve given me to do. I’ve explained You on Earth, that was the work You gave me to do. How do we miss this? But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and he was filled with. If the father was like you, what would… What would go in that blank? If you were the son, what do you hope? Goes into that blank.
According to Jesus, we’ve all been the son, because at some season of our lives, we’ve all been lost to God, the Father saw the son in the parable and he filled with compassion for him and the crowd just moans [chuckle], and then Jesus… ‘Cause he’s so good, he just pushes them to the edge of their capacity to follow him in this parable, and he ran, Jesus says, “And he ran to his son and he threw his arms around him who has been feeding pigs and he kissed him.” Oh the crowd’s like tearing their garments and throwing dust up in the air, like, “Are you kidding? He touched his son, after he’s been feeding pigs, and he put his mouth on his cheek, this is so disgusting,” [chuckle] and the son immediately goes into the speech, he’s been rehearsing it all the way home, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you, I’m no longer to be called your son just make me… ” And dads like, “Shh quick, bring the best robe and put it on him because I’m restoring him to sonship.”
“And put a ring on his finger because he is my son, and put sandals on his feet because he’s not a servant or a slave. He is a member of my household.” Don’t you understand that For this son of mine, he’s been my son was dead and he’s alive.
He was lost to me, and now he’s found. And I think Luke would be like, “Do you understand the implications of this story, that God, your Father, does not see good and bad people, he sees lost to God people and found by God, people?” What if we saw people in terms of lost and found not good and bad. What if the church people that pushed you away had thought in those terms, now there’s another character in the story, unfortunately, it’s my character, I hate to admit that the other character in the story is the well-behaved firstborn, get it right, live within the guardrails. Make dad proud. Do it by the book. Older brother. Right?
Who made this all about behavior, so he’s working in the fields ’cause he’s doing what he’s supposed to do, making up for his younger brother being gone, comes back, here’s this party calls the servant, says “What in the world’s going on?” And the servant’s like, “Hey, I got some good news and some bad news, and they’re the same news,” [laughter] the good news and the bad news, which is the same news is younger brother is back, and I realize that’s good news and that’s bad news,” and the older brother is furious, he gets cleaned up, but he is not going to the party, the dad comes out, he says “Son come in, your younger brother’s back.” And the older brother’s like, “I know he’s back, Dad, come on seriously. All these years, all this time, all these years, I have been slaving for you, I have been living a right kind of life,and I never disobeyed your orders, but when this son of yours,”
Not this brother of mine, uh-huh. “When this son of yours who has squandered… Do you know what he’s been doing? Because I know what he’s been up to, who squandered your property that you spent your entire life kind of accumulating… Squandered your property with prostitutes. Okay, I hope mom doesn’t find out about this comes home. You kill the fattened calf. For him, I don’t get it. He doesn’t deserve this.” To which if Jesus was adding this part of the story, he would say “Who said anything about deserve, I’m not celebrating, I’m not celebrating… This has nothing to do with deserve or behavior, we’re celebrating a restored relationship,” and I love this, Jesus puts these words in the Father’s mouth, I had to celebrate, you wanna know what’s most valuable to you? Look at what you celebrate. I had to celebrate, I had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead. He’s alive. Not he was bad, and he’s good again. He was dead and he’s alive. He was lost to me, and now he’s found. Self-righteous.
It didn’t look good on anybody, it especially didn’t doesn’t look good on Christians, whether it’s about our faith our politics or anything else, and you know what? We should know better. We should know better because we are not any better, we’re just a little bit better off because we were lost to God and we’ve been by his grace found. We were dead, and now we’re alive. So what if just for a week… Well, let’s not make this too overwhelming, what if just for a week, we viewed people like that, just what if we viewed everybody like that,
Not good and bad. Lost and found, when we do. When we do, know what happens? We will no longer size people up and write them off, and if your version of the Christian faith empowers you to size people up and write them off. You have the wrong version. You do not have the Jesus version. And perhaps you’re not as right or as righteous as you thought you were, and I’m not being overly critical, because unfortunately, that’s my story, because when our rightness, as I said earlier, becomes an excuse to dismiss those we consider less right, we’re not as right as we think we are. And we are certainly not. Righteous. Let me ask you one more question and we’re done. Do you get disgusted with lost things? Do you get angry at lost things. No, you go looking for and reconnecting with lost things, and according to Jesus, your Heavenly Father isn’t disgusted by lost things either. The father in the parable.
Think about it, the father in the parable that Jesus manufacturers so we could get the point, the father in the parable, sacrificed half of his possessions in order to entice his son back, and later in the Luke story, Jesus will sacrifice his entire life in order to entice you back and the You across from you. Self-righteous, it doesn’t look good on anybody, especially Christians, and we will pick the story up, story line up right there next time as we conclude the seriesinvestigating Jesus, how we know and why we follow.