Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 16:14-18 – What Do We See When We Look Into The Mirror Of God’s Word?

Grace For The Journey

We are in Luke 16 today.  There are two parables in Luke 16.  We looked at the first one last time and we will look at the second one next time.  Both of them mention a rich man who has a dishonest manager (verses 1 to13) and a rich man and Lazarus (verses 19 to 31).  Sandwiched between these two parables are five verses that at first may seem disconnected from the two parables (these are verses 14-18), our text for this morning.

Before we look at these verses, we need to remember that Jesus has just told the parable of the unjust and dishonest steward.  Jesus said in verse 13, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon – or God and possessions; God and money.”  Then we read how the Pharisees respond.  The Pharisees are the ruling religious leaders in Jesus’ day.  How do they respond to what Jesus has been teaching?

In telling these parables, it is like Jesus takes a mirror and holds it up before the Pharisees and says, “Do you guys see yourselves here in the story?”  It is easy to listen to preaching so long as the application of the message seems to be directed at someone else, at other people, at Pharisees and the like.  But the Word of God becomes especially meaningful to us when we see ourselves in it.

The Bible says in James 1:22-25, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”  When we read and study God’s Word it is always helpful to pray, “Lord, help us to look into the mirror of Your Word, help us see ourselves, help us to see our sin and to be startled by what we see and then help us see Christ and go to Him for correction.”  That is my prayer as we go through these verses.  I trust it is your prayer as well.

Verse 14 says, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.“  Make no mistake: the Pharisees – for the most part – were hypocrites.  Jesus had called them out before on their hypocrisy; back in Luke 11:39, the Bible tells us, “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.’” They may look okay on the outside, but on the inside they are full of greed and wickedness.

Luke tells us the same thing about the Pharisees here in verse 14, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things (all the teachings of Jesus about the need to prepare for eternity, to not use money for earthly things, but for heavenly things) and they derided Him.”  Outwardly, they acted like they were really spiritual, and were concerned for spiritual things, but inwardly they cared more for earthly things – things such as money.

Luke actually identifies the Pharisees in verse 14 as, “lovers of money.”  It is a remarkable thing to be so religious, but to be known as a “lover of money” rather than a “lover of God.”  It would be rather hypocritical to act as though we trusted God for everything, but inwardly hold onto our money because we really trust in it.  The Pharisees did not like what they were hearing from Jesus.  They did not like this parable of the dishonest manager in the preceding verses and Jesus’ point about our living with an eye to eternity, preparing for the judgment to come.  No, they loved the things of earth more than the things of heaven. 

Verse 15 tells us, “And He said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  Again, note the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  Jesus says in verse 15, “You are those who justify yourselves before men – You like to appear all righteous in public; got your head in the air, eyes closed, hands folded in front of yourselves – BUT GOD KNOWS YOUR HEARTS.”  What does God know?  God knows our hearts.  You can fool others, but you can’t fool God.

A self-righteous, pompous sort of deacon was trying to impress his class of young boys.  He stood before them with an air of superiority and asked, “Why do people call me a Christian?”  One of the boys said, “Maybe because they don’t know you.”

God knows us.  He knows our hearts.  It really does not matter what the world thinks if God is not pleased.  God’s value system is different from the world’s value system.  In the last part verse 15, Jesus says, “For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Remember the greater context here is a recurring exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees.  We go back to Chapter 15 and you will remember in verse 1 that “all the tax collectors and the sinners (all the outcasts) drew near to Jesus to hear Him,” and verse 2 says, “And the Pharisees complained, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”  They complained about Jesus’ hanging out with these sinners.  They believed Jesus was belittling the Law, ignoring the Old Testament laws which called for separation from the ways of unbelievers.  But God never intended the exclusion of lost people from the Kingdom. 

Separation had to do

With a call for holy living,

Not a call to exclude some people

From the blessings of God.

God’s plan to save people from their sin encompasses all of the lost, including so-called “tax collectors and sinners,” – outcasts, the spiritually poor, blind, and crippled.  The Pharisees had added interpretations to the law God never intended, using the Law as something that benefited themselves and excluded everyone else. 

Jesus sets forth to straighten their understand of the Law.  In verse 16 He says, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.”  The Law and the prophets – the moral, ethical, social, and spiritual commands of the Old Testament – were proclaimed up to the time of John the Baptist.  The Old Testament Law was given to prepare people for Christ’s coming.  The Old Testament Law was given to prepare people for arrival of the Kingdom.

Since that time – the time of John the Baptist – the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is being called into it.  Before the coming of John the Baptist, the Old Testament Law was preached.  The Law is like a mirror.  You stare into it and you see yourself, your sin, and your need for a Savior.  The Old Testament Law was proclaimed until John the Baptist.  And John prepared people for the arrival of the Kingdom.  John the Baptist’s message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”   The Kingdom has come as God has broken into this fallen world, coming to us in the Person of a Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The second part of verse 16 says, “Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.”  The Gospel is here, the Good News, God’s salvation, the Kingdom has come.

People are pressing into the kingdom.  The Pharisees!  While they sneer at Christ’s teachings, people are pressing into the kingdom – all kinds of people, spiritually poor, blind, crippled; the Gentiles! People are pressing into the kingdom while they just stand there with a scowl on your faces.

The Law served as a pointer, pointing out our sin, pointing out our need for salvation, and pointing us to Jesus Christ.  That is what John did.  He was just a finger pointing to Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).” 

While the Old Testament Law served primarily

As that which pointed out our need for a Savior,

This does not mean that the Law is now to be cast aside.

Verse 17 tells us, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.”  The word “tittle” there is a reference to the smallest stroke of Hebrew lettering.  It is like the small mark that distinguishes an E from an F or like the dot of an I.  It is a really small stroke of the pen.  Jesus is saying the Old Testament Law – such as the 10 Commandments – is still binding today.  While the ceremonial law no longer applies, the moral law remains binding today.

Let me just add as a helpful reminder – When we ask what parts of the Old Testament Law are still binding today? – We simply turn to the New Testament and ask whether we read anywhere that the Old Testament laws have been set aside – there are a few, such as forbidding the eating of certain foods, previously considered unclean according to the Old Testament are now regarded clean according to the New Testament.

But in this exchange with the Pharisees, Jesus is addressing their failure to obey the moral law of the Old Testament.  It is like He is saying to them, “Look, you guys think I’m the one belittling the law!  YOU are the ones playing fast and loose with Scripture.  I have already addressed your failure to “love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”  You love money more than you love God.  You break the Old Testament Law.” 

Then Jesus gives us another example.  He moves from “money” to “marriage.”  Verse 18 says, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  Now remember that this verse is directed primarily at the Pharisees of Jesus’ day so that they can be confronted with their hypocrisy.  The Bible is clear that marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life.  God’s ideal is expressed in Genesis 2 where we read of two becoming one so that Jesus will say, “What God has joined together let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).  This is God’s ideal for marriage.

We need to feel the weight of this truth today.  The same goes for today.  God’s ideal for marriage is that the two who have become one REMAIN one.  It is not my purpose today to provide a full-blown doctrinal treatment of divorce and remarriage.  There are a couple of other passages we would turn to that would provide more information on divorce and remarriage, namely Matthew 19:1-10, and 1 Corinthians 7:10-15.  If we study these passages carefully, we will see that there are two possible qualifiers.  Jesus is stressing that God’s ideal is for the two who became one to REMAIN one.

But the Pharisees had added to the Old Testament Law their own ideas about divorce and remarriage.  If you look at these Jewish writings that were added to the Law, you will find Jewish rabbis approved divorce for all matter of things – including a woman’s burning her husband’s dinner or if a man found another woman more attractive than his wife; one rabbi permitted divorce so that the man could marry the other woman.  You see the hypocrisy here.  These Pharisees were making a big deal about their loving the Law when, in point of fact, they had added to the Law things that justified their sinful behavior.

So Jesus is saying, “You Pharisees act like you are so reverent and holy.  You sneer at Me, accusing me of playing fast and loose with the Law, while you yourselves are the kings of breaking the Old Testament Law and re-writing it to suit your sinful desires.”  It’ is generally always easier to enjoy the finer points of sermon application when we believe those points are sticking the guy next to us.  Here’s a question for you: “Are you a Pharisee?”  When you look into the mirror of God’s Word, what do you see?  Here are three questions to ask.

Number one . . .

1) Am I More “Here-Focused” Than “Hereafter-Focused?”

Jesus says in verse 15, “What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  One theologian (Robert Stein) offered this insight, “This is a proverb that warns us not to conform to the way this world thinks (cf. Romans 12:2).  Jesus was not saying that values of the world are not exactly the same as God’s or that at times they are different or that frequently they are different.  Rather the value system of this world is “detestable,” i.e., an abomination to God (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:19).”  J. C. Ryle says, “These verses teach … how widely different is the estimate set on the things by man from that which is set on things by God” … “We have only to look around the world and mark the things on which most men set their affections in order to see it proved in a hundred ways.  Riches, and honors, and rank, and pleasure, are the chief objects for which the greater part of mankind are living.  Yet these are the very things which God declares to be ‘vanity,’ and of the love of which he warns us to beware!  Praying, and Bible-reading, and holy living, and repentance, and faith, and grace, and communion with God, are things for which few care at all.”

When you look in the mirror what do you see?  Are you more here-focused than here-after focused? 

Number two . . .

2) Do I Really Love Jesus More Than Anyone Or Anything?

Were the Pharisees lovers of God or lovers of money?  In verse 14, Luke identifies them as “Lovers of Money.”  How about you?  Few things seem to agitate the contemporary church in America more than talking about money.  Someone says, “I haven’t been to church in 6 months, I decide to come and what does the preacher talk about?  Money, money, money!”  The answer is, of course, this person should have been attending his local congregation’s services the previous 6 months and he would have seen that the preacher reason was talking about money that today is because it just happened to be the next paragraph in the Bible.  If it is in the Bible, the preacher ought to preach it!

This leads us quite naturally to the third question . . .

3) What Is My Honest Attitude To The Teachings Of Scripture?

The Bible says in verse 14 that the Pharisees “derided” Jesus, or “sneered” at Him.  That was their attitude.  The Bible teaches that the Pharisees looked for loopholes in the teachings of Scripture.  They were really good about getting around the moral commands of Scripture.  Jesus gave an example of their playing fast and loose with Scripture, adding to the Scriptures permission to divorce their wives for nearly any and every reason.

What about you?  What is your attitude to the teachings of the Bible?  What is your attitude toward money, marriage, surrender to God, obedience, evangelism, missions, or tithing.  Do you immediately look for loopholes or exceptions?

What do you see when you look into the mirror of God’s Word?  Do you feel like a Pharisee?  You know, you are who you are when no one is looking.  Mark Twain said, “We’re all like the moon, we have a dark side we don’t want anyone to see.”  But God knows our hearts.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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