The Book of Luke, Justifying Yourself Before Men - Lesson 185
The passage that we will be discussing today follows the parable of the unjust steward which was told by Jesus Christ to impress upon his disciples to prepare for their future in Heaven.
In other words do not neglect the fact that treasures can be laid up in heaven by the judicious use of your God given money here on the earth.
This passage then concerns the reaction of the Pharisees to this parable.
Luke 16:14-18, And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. 15And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. 16The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. 18Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
The Pharisees had heard what Jesus Christ had told his disciples about the actions of the unjust steward with regard to insuring his future.
They had heard the admonition of Christ to his disciples to take the lesson of this parable and apply to their use of money.
They were to use the money that God had given them in such a way that its use would affect their reception into heaven.
For He had said Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
In other words how you use your God given money does have an affect on your reception into heaven.
For it concerns the possibility of the laying up of treasures in heaven while on earth.
It is a preparatory act on your part and it is directly proportional to your faith.
It is arriving in heaven with previously deposited treasures awaiting your arrival or otherwise arriving there with an empty vault.
This concerns what balance your heavenly treasure account will have at the time of your arrival in heaven.
Jesus wants you to arrive with as big a treasure as your faith will allow for he has clearly told us to not lay up treasures on earth but lay them up in heaven along with laying up your heart in heaven for where your treasure is there will your heart be also.
Now in this passage that we have just read we are told that this lesson was not welcome by the Pharisees for they were covetous and they derided him which means they laughed at him as if his preaching were nonsense.
People who are covetous are not depositors.
People who are covetous are withdrawers for covetous means an excessive desire to obtain and possess.
Sounds like most Americans doesn’t it?
The Pharisees ignored the advice of Solomon in Eccl. 11:1 to cast their bread upon the waters, not believing the part in which they are told that their bread would return after many days.
To believe that takes faith but they were covetous not wishing to lose any bread at all.
So the Pharisees saw obtaining and possessing as the godly way not the giving away that Jesus encouraged.
But you see the obtaining and possessing supported their way of life for their way of life was built upon outward appearances and obtaining and possessing was needed to project the approved outward appearance.
It takes lots of money for appearance building!
This preaching which concerned the giving away of money for the advancement of God’s kingdom, was opposed to the enhancement of the outward upon which the Pharisees had built their lives.
But Jesus Christ knew their hearts.
Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
Here is the heart of covetousness, the love of money.
For justifying oneself before sinful men requires obtaining and possessing.
In verse 15 Jesus exposes the root problem which is that the Pharisees sought approval from the wrong person, on the wrong basis.
The underlying problem of the Pharisees was that they were seeking their approval from the wrong source, and they were seeking to be judged according to the wrong standard.
They were striving to be justified by men, and their standard had to be that which men could see and evaluate — outward appearances.
They were in the business of comparing themselves among themselves and for that you need money.
They were the Smiths looking over the fence to see how the Jones lived.
Now there are two sources from whom you can be justified.
You can seek to be justified by men or you can seek to be justified by God.
If you seek to be justified by men you can only do that by outward appearance for man is unable to look on the heart.
To be justified in the eyes of men requires action to show men that you are just, that you conform to law and right and that you are free from guilt.
Since a man is only able to look on the outward appearance this is what you, of course, emphasize.
But if you seek to be justified by God, God will tell you that you are not just, you can never be just in yourself, you can never be right and free from guilt in yourself.
Man will tell you that you are OK but God will tell you that you are not OK but in fact you are a sinner, unjust, and never able on your own part to be made just.
That is what God will tell you, and He will tell you this every time!
Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts:
God sets the rules here!
And He tells us the need for justification is because of the condition of your heart and has nothing to do with how well you project yourself to others.
But the Pharisees were not interested in being justified before God for were interested in the approval of men.
Because of this they acted in a way that would attract attention to themselves, in a way that would make them look righteous, as men might judge it.
The Pharisees were into long prayers, they made sure that their fasting was noticed, they made public contributions, and they took the places of prominence at banquets and the like.
Their clothing, too, was showy and was meant to convey a religious image.
They enhanced their phylacteries to project their piety.
The Pharisees were repulsed by the fact that Jesus associated with sinners, and even ate with them.
They were proud of the fact that they kept their distance from sinners for this contributed to their outward appearance of holiness.
They meticulously washed themselves ceremonially, and they observed Sabbath regulations to the tee.
In all of this, Jesus said, they were hypocrites, because their hearts were wicked, because they were not really righteous at all.
It is God, however who justifies, and not men.
God does not judge on the basis of outward appearance, but He knows and bases His judgment on what is in man’s heart.
This was clearly shown to Samuel the Prophet in 1 Samuel 16:7,
But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
Samuel examined all of Jesse’s sons on the basis of the outward as the people had done in choosing King Saul who was the tallest among them.
But God choose David for God looked on the heart.
God’s standards are worlds apart from man’s standards, in fact they are the exact opposite.
Those things which men highly esteem, Jesus said, are an abomination to God.
The rich men were esteemed in Jesus day but Jesus said blessed are the poor as he pronounced woe to the rich.
Being well fed was thought of as an endorsement from God but Jesus said blessed are the hungry but woe to those that are full.
Men aspired to be well thought of but Jesus said blessed are ye when men shall hate you and separate you from their company.
Men seek honor and prestige but Jesus says to humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.
The world system operates on the outward and this is an abomination to God and He will have none of it in his kingdom.
Abomination is an object of God’s extreme hatred and detestation.
God hates your efforts to justify yourself before men based upon appearance.
God detests when you try to appear before men as that which is not verified by your heart.
God detests hypocrisy for hypocrisy is the greatest extent that lying can reach for hypocrisy is that which is accepted as truth even from the one who is the hypocrite.
Hypocrisy is lying’s greatest accomplishment for it has convinced the liar that what he speaks is truth.
God’s values are not man’s values, just as His ways are not man’s ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8).
The Pharisees valued money so highly because money to the Pharisee, was one of the external proofs of piety.
God had promised to prosper His people Israel if they kept His laws and to bring them great poverty and adversity if they disobeyed.
Money was the proof of piety that would motivate the Pharisee to love money and to seek it.
God had promised prosperity based upon obedience but the Pharisees gained prosperity on their own by their own shrewd and deceitful ways and then ascribed it to God as God’s blessings on their lives.
There indeed is nothing new under the sun for God is given credit for every advancement that men get, even if those advancements were from ill gotten gain.
The Pharisees’ love of money showed their attachment to external standards and appearances, so that they could receive the praise of men and think in their hearts that they also were under God’s blessings.
But in the process of seeking men’s praise, they obtained God’s condemnation instead of God’s blessing.
In verse 15, Jesus accused the Pharisees as courting the favor of men according to their own standards whereas God had already set down the rules as to whom they were accountable.
In verses 16‑18, Jesus faces the Pharisees with the whole law, and not only the law, but the prophets which in their economy were ignored.
16The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. 18Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
The expression, “the Law and the Prophets” was one that summed up the entire Old Testament revelation, and not just the Law given through Moses on Mt. Sinai.
The Law and the Prophets was that revelation which provided men with a divine standard of righteousness, a standard to which no man could attain, and therefore all men are condemned as sinners.
But the Pharisees insisted that they were the ones to keep the law and did not see themselves as unable to keep the law.
In this they failed to see the purpose of the law, that of revealing to them that they were indeed sinners, in need of a Savior.
The Pharisees were unbending about their loyalty to the “law,” but this loyalty was weighted in the direction of the Law of Moses, as they chose to ignore the message of the Prophets.
But Jesus spoke continually of the “Law and the Prophets,” for this was the sum total of the Old Testament scriptures, not just a portion of it.
While the Pharisees focused on the outward aspects of religion, the Old Testament prophets continually called Israel’s to focus on the “heart issues” of the Law.
And because of this the prophets were all persecuted and put to death.
The words of Isaiah the Prophet are most relevant to the Pharisees’ self justification.
From the Amplified Bible Isaiah 58:1-11, CRY ALOUD, spare not. Lift up your voice like a trumpet and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins!
Yet they seek, inquire for, and require Me daily and delight [externally] to know My ways, as [if they were in reality] a nation that did righteousness and forsook not the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God [in visible ways].
Why have we fasted, they say, and You do not see it? Why have we afflicted ourselves, and You take no knowledge [of it]? Behold [O Israel], on the day of your fast [when you should be grieving for your sins], you find profit in your business, and [instead of stopping all work, as the law implies you and your workmen should do] you extort from your hired servants a full amount of labor.
[The facts are that] you fast only for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Fasting as you do today will not cause your voice to be heard on high.
Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul? [Is true fasting merely mechanical?] Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord?
[Rather] is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house--when you see the naked, that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood?
Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness (your rightness, your justice, and your right relationship with God) shall go before you [conducting you to peace and prosperity], and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.(C)
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, Here I am. If you take away from your midst yokes of oppression [wherever you find them], the finger pointed in scorn [toward the oppressed or the godly], and every form of false, harsh, unjust, and wicked speaking,(D)
And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday.
And the Lord shall guide you continually and satisfy you in drought and in dry places and make strong your bones. And you shall be like a watered garden and like a spring of water whose waters fail not.
The Old Testament prophets had much to say about the “heart issues” of life.
God’s revelation in the Old Testament was not seeking mere outward conformity, but inward conformity to the will of God.
The final verse of this section, verse 18, is a biblical (Old Testament) condemnation of the Pharisees’ disregard for the Law and the Prophets.
While they claimed to obey and to seek to promote and preserve the Law, the Pharisees actually set it aside.
A case in point was the matter of divorce.
Jesus therefore lays down the Old Testament standard concerning divorce, which opposed the compromising stand taken by the Pharisees with regard to divorce:
18Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.