Extremes in the Bible–why are they there? Let’s look…
7 One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
We have all heard proverbs 22:6 used a hundred times concerning parenting,
6 Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The proverb has an equestrian background in that horses were trained to walk in the middle of a path. We often think of the Appian Way of Roman roads that connect the Roman Empire during Paul’s day, but Solomon wrote his proverbs a thousand years before those roads were built. The roads were merely trails that people used to get from one place to another. They were winding, narrow and treacherous. To get off the trail could spell disaster for a man on a horse or donkey, and especially on a cart.
If we think of the righteousness of God as the center of the trail, the admonishment that Jesus gave to people had to do with which side of the trail they were bent toward veering. Here are two examples from Luke 18,
9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
This parable was not about the tax collector, although he and other undesirables like himself could take comfort in it. The parable was about the religious leaders, who looked down their noses at “those other people.” The scenario could have happened, but not likely; it was extreme in order to make a point. Jesus closed with a clue to true righteousness: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The Pharisee had a bent toward the self-righteous side of the trail, therefore, Jesus told the story to highlight the fallacy of the Pharisee’s way of thinking.
The second example will have to wait until tomorrow. The take-away from this lesson is to not take extreme stories literally; they were told to make a point. Make sure you get the CIT (Central Idea of the Text).
Abba, when I read Your parables, I want You to explain them to me like You did to the disciples. Make Your message clear and plain. I want to be just like You in holiness and righteousness. Amen.