Read: Luke 18:1-43
I noticed a theme in these passages: those who make the right decision are those who are willing to give up everything to follow Jesus, and those who make the wrong decision are those who are still hanging on to something that is preventing them from following Jesus. Verse eight implies that, although God answered the widow’s prayer, it was not because of her faith.
In the Pharisee vs. tax collector story, the Pharisee had faith in himself, not. The only prayer he thought to pray was a prayer of thanksgiving his own wonderfulness. The tax collector had no pride left; he was aware of his sin and offered a prayer of repentance. He showed fear of God by avoiding looking towards heaven. God will exalt him, lift him up, call him to a higher place at the table, while the Pharisee will be called to a lower place at the table.
Children who came to Jesus had nothing to offer, were asking for nothing but to be touched by Jesus. The disciples stopped them, assuming that they would just be a reward-less burden for Jesus, but Jesus tells us that we need to be like the little children. We may not have anything left to offer, but that is the way God wants it. He wants us to have already given up everything for him, and therefore, become like children again.
The rich young ruler had many possessions that he had not given up yet, and Jesus wanted him to do so. In the same way he wants us to give up our ambitions, our physical possessions, our relationships, everything, in order to follow Him. More than money makes us rich. He tells the disciples that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. What if Jesus was talking about more than just heaven? Jesus prays for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. It is difficult for the rich to enter heaven, yes, but it is also at least equally difficult for the rich to follow Jesus on earth and be a part of the kingdom that exists in part on earth. When you are hanging onto something and afraid to talk about it to God in prayer. If you are confident that you would hesitate if God asked you to leave that thing or step into something you fear, then that is an example of your richness that you need to give to God.
But it is possible to overcome and give things to God. When Jesus says that all things are possible with God, He goes on to talk about the rewards that are in heaven. God provides motivation for us to give up what we have and follow Him; the motivation is rewards in heaven. By giving up our will and following God’s will we store up for ourselves treasures in heaven that we look forward to getting one day.
Jesus then goes on to give an example, His death and resurrection. This is the most perfect example of a person giving up everything to follow God.
Right after he explains this, a blind man leaves his pride behind and persistently shouts, asking to be healed. He asks for mercy, he does not feel entitled to healing. Jesus heals him because of his faith. You must leave your pride behind in order to follow Jesus.