Summary: God helps those who are helpless.
A Prayer God Will Answer
Rev. Brian Bill
This has been quite a week in our world. It started with the uneasy situation in Iran to the news about “Jon minus Kate,” and then on to the deaths of Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Commentators and pundits are weighing in with words of tribute and much of what is being said about these stars does not exactly line up with Scripture. Michael Jackson’s music is being played nonstop as a way to relive the memories and many are suggesting that these superstars are now performing, acting and singing up in heaven. Just because they were famous, does that somehow mean that they deserve to be there?
Over the years I’ve collected common cultural sayings that people believe have their basis in the Bible. I’ve mentioned some of these before but I’ve also added a few new ones.
* “He (or she) is now in a much better place.” To which I ask, “How do you know that?” I know that to be true for Larry Johnson who went to be with the Lord early Saturday morning. I know because he was born again, converted in his late 30’s.
* “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Sorry, moms, but this verse is not in the Bible.
* “God wants you to be healthy and wealthy.” This certainly sounds good to us Americans and is propagated from many pulpits and popularized by TV preachers but it is not found in the Bible.
* “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I hear this saying a lot but I can’t find chapter and verse for this one either. God does promise that He will provide a way out when we’re tempted in 1 Corinthians 10:13, but He never says that He’ll shield us from struggles. In fact, sometimes we can’t bear things on our own, precisely because God wants us to run to Him. Our family has been experiencing this as my mom just finished her last chemo on Thursday and our young niece is going through an awful time with cancer. The Apostle Paul often was overwhelmed according to 2 Corinthians 1:8-9: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
* “Money is the root of all evil.” Actually, the Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:10 that the “…Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…”
* “God wants you to be happy.” I hear this one all the time. It’s often used for justification to get out of something that is right or to start doing something that is wrong. God never says he wants us to be “happy.” His heart is for us to be “holy” as stated in 1 Peter 1:15: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” Recently someone correctly pointed out that “happy” and “blessed” can mean the same thing. In that sense, God does want us to be happy, though happiness really comes out of holiness.
* “God helps those who help themselves.” This one is commonly quoted but it’s not only extra-biblical, it’s also unbiblical. In fact, Jeremiah 17:5 says, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD” and Proverbs 28:26 states: “He who trusts in himself is a fool…”
Actually, God helps those who are helpless. That leads right into our passage for today as we continue in our summer series called, “Practical Parables.” Please turn to Luke 18:9-14 where we’ll discover this parable’s purpose, we’ll look at two different people, study their prayers, contemplate a paradox and conclude with some principles that we can apply today.
The Purpose of the Parable
We’re left with no doubt as to the purpose of this parable. Look at Luke 18:9: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable.” The phrase “to some” is a broad term that literally means, “whoever the ones” who trust in themselves. Jesus is directing this story to those who think their sins smell better than other people’s and who look down on those who sin differently than they do.
When we write out our sin list, we usually include the sins of others and omit our own. Yesterday when I was reading the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:4 jumped out at me again: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” The phrase, “look down” means “to despise with contempt” and “to treat as nothing.” They were obnoxiously self-righteous and looked at everyone else as nobodies.