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Luke 16:15 – By Pastor/Elder Matt Leko

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“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.” 

Luke 16:15

When Jesus said these words, He was directing them to the most (publicly) blameless and “esteemed” men in His current culture.  They publicly dotted their I’s and crossed their T’s. They scrupulously observed the Law of God even to the point of tithing from the herbs of their garden. (Matthew 23:23)

But to what end? What drove them to act as they did?  In other words what was the pharisees motive in doing so?  Well, Jesus tells us what their motive was “you are those who justify yourselves before men”.

That word “justify” means to be vindicated or found innocent, and in this case in the court of men.  Then Jesus goes on to declare “but God knows your hearts”.  Jesus is saying you may be acquitted by your peers, you may fool them into thinking that you are pure in motive and deed, but God doesn’t see as man see’s, God see’s your heart and you are not justified in His sight, but rather stand guilty.  This outward façade of righteousness may fool your fellow man and you may be even held up as a virtuous or esteemed. But Jesus goes on to say, “For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” The things that are esteemed, exalted, high, lofty, or prized by men are abominable, detestable, accursed, the equivalent of idolatry before God.  Jesus is cutting a straight course with the religious leaders.  Just previous to this verse Jesus said that you can’t serve both God and money, and the Pharisees who loved money mocked him greatly.  Because Jesus had just exposed their sin, and they didn’t like it. There was no way that they would be humbled publicly, there is no self-justification or exaltation in that. They would rather condemn God in the flesh (Jesus), mocking Him, rather than be humbled before man and God.

 One of the application questions that we have to ask ourselves is, how do we ourselves respond when sin is pointed out in our lives by God’s word?  Do you and I humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God or try to justify ourselves before men.  Are we willing to have our “righteous” reputation diminished before our peers by confessing and forsaking our faults? Or do we stand with the multitudes of the religious from now and ages past that seek to justify themselves before men but now stand condemned before God? Many times, doing so by attempting to redefine what righteousness looks like. That’s what the Pharisees had done, they had taught that personal wealth was a sign of God’s favor upon their life and therefore (as their faulty logic goes) the rotten fruit of their covetousness and therefor wealth, was sold to the populace as a sign that they were in right standing before God and therefore blessed monetarily.  Jesus cuts to the quick and says to everyone, if you are serving money then you are an idolater and therefore repulsive before God. Not blessed, not in right standing, not even in any place of neutrality, but accursed, in the same standing as those things devoted for destruction when Israel was inheriting the promise land.

There are three points of application I’d like to ask from the words that Jesus spoke.

1.       Are you esteeming what God esteems or are you following the world and its value system? In other words, who is dictating your values? God by His revealed Word or man?

2.       Do you fear God or man?  Who’s praise you seek, and to whom you yield answers this question. Is it affirmation from man and fear from the same, or an unflinching faithfulness to Christ regardless of the temporal consequences knowing that His strength both to save and to judge are not bound in any sense of space, time or power but are eternally boundless.

3.       What’s your response?  When you hear the words of our Lord and they find you guilty, do you try to rationalize or justify your faults? Possibly twisting and redefining scripture to sooth your pricked conscience? Or do you in true humility (not trying to be seen by men) turn from the error of your ways and turn to the Lord who bought you, once again to have your path illuminated by His truth and your feet firmly planted on His immovable word. Knowing that your sins have been forgiven, not by your own effort but by His grace through His once for all sacrifice and resurrection from the dead.

Our default position is to adopt the worlds values and to want praise from the same, but God is a Jealous God and has, and is effectually calling His people to forsake the praise and wisdom of man.  Instead, we are called to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

Your brother in Christ, Matt Leko


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