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Generous Grace

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Notes & Transcripts
The scene is set, or probably more aptly, the trap was set. Jesus, the upstart rabbi from the backwater of Galilee had set Jerusalem on fire. Now the Pharisees, having decided to take him down, are trying to catch him breaking the Sabbath by inviting him to a dinner party and put before him a man with edema, a painful condition whereby the suffering collects excess fluid in the stomach and extremities. Jesus heals the man on the Sabbath, and then catches them in their attempt, asking them questions they had no answer for.
Now, Jesus turns the tables on them. Jesus had watched the elite dinner guests make their moves for the honored seats. Jesus saw some deft moves as certain guests, all elbows, slipped into the honored places on the surrounding couches. Earlier in his ministry Jesus had ridiculed the Pharisees for their love of place: “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces” (11:43), but this group was unaware of what he thought, or they simply did not care.
The Pharisees and scribes, despite all their god-talk and religious posturing, were a selfish, self-seeking, ambitious lot. Selfishness always reduces the importance of others and enlarges the importance of one’s own life. “I’m the greatest, so where is my seat?” “I’m superior, and this place reflects my worth!” They assumed that if they did not get the chief seats, the meal, regardless of how good the fare or the fellowship was, would be a bummer. It was important that they be seen in a worthy place.
R. Kent Hughes, Luke: That You May Know the Truth, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 110–111.
It was into this attitude, this me first thought process that Jesus wanted to speak, and it’s the next place our series on Generosity takes us. You see, these Pharisees were models of a generousless heart. They did not reflect God’s love for people, and instead reflected a love for self and position. In our first week, we talked about how our hearts must be generous, how Generosity begins with hearts that value puts more value in the giver than in the gift, how it values God’s Kingdom over our own kingdoms. And last week we talked about how Generosity is a sacrificial giving to God’s Kingdom work over our own wealth.
Today, we are going to look how Generosity values giving grace over seeking gain, and how this teaching can revolutionize our way of looking at being generous.

Generous Grace Seeks the Good of Others

There is a startling contrast in this story. On one hand you have these Pharisees; bumping, pushing, and scheming their way to the place of honor. On the other, you have Jesus. When the Pharisees entered the room, they were keenly aware of where the host was seated, where the place of honor was set. Their eyes were focused on their position. Their desire was to be honored.
Judaism, like much of the first century world was set in an honor an shame culture. The Jewish culture was permeated by the idea of honor. Dr. Mark Powell notes that “According to many cultural anthropologists, the pivotal social value of the biblical world was honor, i.e., the status that one has in the eyes of those whose opinions one considers to be significant. To some extent, honor was ascribed through factors beyond an individual’s control: age, gender, nationality, race, height, physical health, economic class, and the like all defined the limits of how much honor one could hope to attain. Within those parameters, however, there were many things that might increase one’s honor (religious piety, courage, virtuous behavior, a congenial or charitable disposition, etc.), and there were many things that might precipitate a loss of honor or even bring its opposite, shame.” (1)
The Jewish culture was permeated by the idea of honor. According to many cultural anthropologists, the pivotal social value of the biblical world was honor, i.e., the status that one has in the eyes of those whose opinions one considers to be significant. To some extent, honor was ascribed through factors beyond an individual’s control: age, gender, nationality, race, height, physical health, economic class, and the like all defined the limits of how much honor one could hope to attain. Within those parameters, however, there were many things that might increase one’s honor (religious piety, courage, virtuous behavior, a congenial or charitable disposition, etc.), and there were many things that might precipitate a loss of honor or even bring its opposite, shame.
The language of honor and shame is noticeably prominent throughout the nt. Some voices in the nt seize upon the language to present Christianity as a path to achieving honor and avoiding shame (; ). Other voices seek to overturn the conventional wisdom regarding how those values are applied, claiming that it is more honorable to behave like a slave than to lord over others as a person of power and privilege (; cf. ). And some nt documents repudiate the fixation with honor altogether, calling on readers to develop a new value system defined by Christ, who did not seek honor or fame or glory but bore the shame of the cross ().
Mark Allan Powell, “Honor and Shame,” ed. Mark Allan Powell, The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 388–389.
This idea of honor and shame was palpable. And it separated the community. So, when Jesus entered the room it was only natural for the Jews to seek the places of honor, because to not be there would lessen their social status among those in attendance.
But on the other hand is Jesus. He didn’t seek honor. In fact, he often accepted dishonor. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus is at another dinner party and is annointed by a woman who kisses his feet, and dries his feet with her tears. Jesus comments that he didn’t receive the customary niceties from his host of a kiss of greeting, oil for his head and water for his dirty feet.
No, Jesus wasn’t focused on honor, instead he was focused on the one who was sick. He was focused on others. And so he heals the man of his edema despite the fact it was the Sabbath. Why? Because Generous Grace seeks the Good of others, not the position of self.
This is Jesus to a “T”.
Hebrews 12:2 ESV
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
The language of honor and shame is noticeably prominent throughout the nt. Some voices in the nt seize upon the language to present Christianity as a path to achieving honor and avoiding shame (; ). Other voices seek to overturn the conventional wisdom regarding how those values are applied, claiming that it is more honorable to behave like a slave than to lord over others as a person of power and privilege (; cf. ). And some nt documents repudiate the fixation with honor altogether, calling on readers to develop a new value system defined by Christ, who did not seek honor or fame or glory but bore the shame of the cross ().
Philippians 2:5–8 ESV
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
This is Jesus. To heal the man would mean a loss of position in the eyes of the guests in attendance. To see the man and heal him would be to condescend himself. This man was obviously a sinner for God to have cursed him like this, and here is Jesus on the Sabbath healing him!?! But Jesus didn’t care. He loved him and he healed him
You see, Christian Generosity means that we do not seek our own honor, but instead we seek the good of others. This is Kingdom work. It’s selfless, not selfish. It’s focused not on our little k kingdoms, but on God’s big K Kingdom and those who live in it.
Christian generosity is gracious regardless of what that graciousness means to our position. It’s willing to sacrifice position for the good of someone else.

Generous Grace means I’m willing to sacrifice my position for the the good of someone else.

Generous Grace Seek the Approval of God

The problem with these men doesn’t end in their attempts to be elevated among their peers, it goes deeper. You see, these men were more concerned with what the others thought of them than what God thought of them. These were “godly”. They were “religious”. As it stands, most of them would have been seen as upstanding and important and moral people. They kept the Sabbath, and kept Kosher food rules. They Followed all of the rules, but it wasn’t because they loved God. They did it because of how people saw them, not how God saw them. They were prideful, not humble and that pride was dangerous.
How dangerous. Well, listen to Jesus’ words to the Pharisees later in his ministry in
Matthew 23:12–13 ESV
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
,
You see, pride in self, and self-centeredness is deadly, but it is also damnable. Damnation is not a word that we use today very often, except in a swear. But here, Jesus is saying this, “Pride damns people. It condemns the prideful to hell by its pride, and it condemns those around them to hell by leading them away from the kingdom.” When we seek to honor others and to get their approval, this is not gracious.
And I think this is a sin of American Christianity that we have to understand clearly. Pride is not only deadly for our souls because it keeps us from seeing our sin and our faults and our failures and properly deal with them at the cross. Pride damns others to hell because it makes them think that they are ok. That’s why in verse 15 he says this:
Matthew 23:15 ESV
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Luke
But Jesus wasn’t prideful, he was humble and he called them to seek God’s honoring them over man’s. Look at the text.
Luke 14:10–11 ESV
But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 14:
Notice this, because this is key. Christianity doesn’t seek to be honored by men, but rather seeks to be honored by and to bring honor to God and his Kingdom. The Pharisees problem wasn’t giving, they gave alms and tithes. Their problem that was for to them giving was a means to an end. But for Jesus, Generosity is about being exalted by God, seeking his approval and to be glorified by him.

Generous Grace Seeks to Love the Unloved

But this is not all we see, for Jesus does not stop there. He moves on to a second parable. Notice what he speaks about, who they invite to a wedding feast. Notice what he says, “Don’t invite people who can repay you, invite those who can’t.” You see, the invitation to a party in Jewish culture was always a political affair. Often the host would invite those of a higher social status with the hopes that the invitation would be reciprocated. They were carful to make sure that their honored guests were given honor, and put at the head of the table near the host.
But Jesus notes, that when we do things to receive honor, when we seek out those who can do for us, then we aren’t being Christlike.
Let me ask you this? Who do you invite to Church? Do you invite only those who are like you and in your social status? Do you get excited when someone with wealth moves into the area, quickly seeking to invite them? Do we only invite those we “want”, those who have good kids, or come from a good family?
You see, grace means that we seek the good of others, but not just those others who can do for us. How about kids in our church? Do we love them all equally, or do we think that those who come from a bad background or whose parent aren’t attending are a drain on our church?
You see, this was the sin of the Pharisees. Everything was a calculation, everything an attempt to make themselves better, more honorable. No one invited the poor to a dinner party! The can’t afford to invite you back and if they could that wouldn’t help you grow in status.
But Christ calls us to love the unlovable. To seek out the unwanted, the uncared for, the undesirables. In fact the church was filled with these.
1 Corinthians 1:26–27 ESV
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
1 Corinthians 1:28–29 ESV
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
1 Corinthians 1:26–31 ESV
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:30–31 ESV
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
I Corinthians 1:26-31
1 Corinthians 1:6–31 ESV
even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
You see, this
You see, this is Generous Grace. Generosity is not self-seeking, or vain, or proud. Generosity seeks others, and seeks the weak and broken for God’s glory and his Kingdom. Grace seeks to make much of others and less of us.
Jesus ends with one final note, ending this dinner party with a bang.
Luke 14:15–24 ESV
When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ”
Luke 14:15-
Now, let me show you something about this verse that is extraordinary. You see, because Jesus makes a shift here, and it’s important. Up to this point, he’s talking about how we live out Generous Grace in the kingdom, but now he changes the conversation. You see, because in this parable, it is not we who are inviting, but rather, it’s the King. You see, Jesus wanted them and us to know that there is an invitation that goes out to all men, and it’s this. The King is preparing a wedding feast and you’re invited. But unfortunately, many of us will miss this call. For some the cares of life will pull them away, for others, the desire for riches, for still others, the demands of family, or the pleasures of sin.
But today, God calls each of us to come and sit at his table. That includes you. It doesn’t matter what your past, God calls the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame to come and see. In fact, it’s only when we humble ourselves and realize that we are truly poor, crippled, blind and lame that we can truly accept his invitation to begin with.
Are you ready to accept his invitation today?
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