LIVING LIKE JESUS: The Gospel of Luke—Week 1
We are beginning a new series walking in the footsteps of Jesus as outlined in the Gospel of Luke. However, the goal of this series is not to merely look at the stories and teachings of Jesus as recounted by Luke. We want to go deeper than that. Over the coming weeks we want to examine both Jesus’ teachings and his pattern of living to really understand what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. As we move through this gospel, we’ll look at three particular areas Jesus emphasized with his disciples: simplicity (living life with an eternal, rather than temporal, focus), humility (putting God and others above self), and prayer.
Luke wrote his gospel account at a time and in a culture much different from our own. Luke’s audience was gentile believers who were heavily influenced by the Greek philosophers of their day. In that culture, biographies weren’t written to simply convey information about the subject. Their primary purpose was to impact the life and behavior of the reader. Philosophers weren’t merely expected to instruct through their words—their lifestyle was to be the primary means of teaching their disciples. Additionally, these gentile believers would have grown up in a culture that taught them to look for a coming philosopher-king, who didn’t just legislate good moral character through his authority but rather inspired his people to live righteous lives through his own righteous character. I think as we move through Luke’s gospel, you’ll be able to see how Luke’s account points to Jesus as just such a philosopher-king.
In the culture in which Jesus lived and Luke wrote there were certain cultural norms for living a righteous life. Interestingly, it didn’t matter whether someone was Greek or Jew—the expectation was that those with means would provide for the needs of those considered less fortunate. However, it was also completely acceptable for such benefaction to be done with the expectation of some sort of reciprocity. It was understood that if you did give to the poor, you could at a minimum expect the undying loyalty of the recipient if not repayment in full. Jesus, however, called us to a much higher standard of generosity: the gospel standard. Paul outlined this standard in Rom. 5:1-11 when he wrote that even while we were God’s enemies with no means for restoration or reconciliation, Jesus generously laid down his life to bring us that peace and reconciliation. God wasn’t generous with us because he needed something from us or because he was trying to buy our loyalty. God was generous with us for no other reason than he loved us. He was generous with us because that is just who he is, not just something he does.
Thus, the motivation for our standard of generosity is found in verse 36 of this week’s passage. We are to be generous, not because of some expectation on our part or some inherent worthiness of the recipient, but rather because God has been unconditionally generous with us. We serve a God who is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. We serve a God who, though we are faithless, remains ever faithful. Think of the amazing impact we could have on our community if we were a people who truly embraced a generosity that reflected the gospel.
- Review the cultural norms for generosity in Jesus’ day. Would you say those norms were different or similar to today? How are they different or similar?
- How about in your own life? Would you say your giving more closely resembles benefaction (expecting something in return or judging the worthiness of the recipient) or gospel generosity? Why?
- What are some ways you can show gospel generosity in your life? (Don’t just stop with money. Consider how you can show gospel generosity in your relationships or with your time and talents.)
- How did Jesus embody the philosopher-king his generation was seeking? How does his manner of living inspire us to live better lives today?