Those Rotten Pharisees! (Luke 16:14-15)

I have never met a Christian who likes the Pharisees.  In fact, I would be shocked if someone came up to me and said, “I think the Pharisees were actually the good guys and Jesus was too harsh with them.”  Christians recognize that the Pharisees, as a group, were religious hypocrites.  They said one thing and did another.  They professed to love God, but actually used God for selfish means.  This morning we will discuss how the Pharisees reacted to Jesus’ teaching on money and possessions and seek to learn from their folly.

But first let us review.  During the month of March we have been discussing the issue of money and possessions.  A few weeks ago we discussed “You and Your Money”. Using the parable of the dishonest manager from Luke 16:1-8, we were reminded of three principles concerning money and possessions: 1) it is not your money, 2) you are a manager of God’s money, and 3) you are accountable for how you manage God’s money.  Two weeks ago we discussed “True Riches” based on Jesus’ teaching from Luke 16:9-13. It was in these verses that Jesus taught His followers to use the money and possessions they have in this world to make an eternal impact in the lives of others.  Specifically, Jesus wants His followers to prioritize our spending, money, and possessions in order to: 1) make friends, 2) demonstrate faith, and 3) display love.  For our sermon this morning we will examine verse 14 and 15 to see the ridicule, justification, and abomination of the Pharisees.

The Pharisees’ Ridicule (v. 14)

Look at how the Pharisees responded.  Luke tells us “the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.”  Literally, they “turned up their noses at” Him.  The word is closely related to the word “snout” and, one commentator wrote:  “it came to be used of the facial expression of people sneering, and holding others in contempt.  It signifies preeminent disdain”[1].  What elicited this type of response from the Pharisees?  They so despised His teaching on money and possessions that they could not and would not restrain their contempt.  Luke tells us why they ridiculed Him: they were lovers of money.  They valued and treasured their money and resources more than anything else.  They loved money because money was a great means to acquire prestige.  Money, to them, was so great because it brought power and respect.  So when Jesus tells His disciples that “you cannot serve God and money” (13) they ridiculed/derided Him because they were exposed as hypocrites.

The Pharisees’ Justification (v. 15a)

The Pharisees not only scoffed at Jesus they attempted to justify themselves as good in spite of their failure to adhere to Christ’s teaching.  Jesus calls them out on this when He says: “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.”  The Pharisees problem was that they wanted to appear righteous in the sight of other men, without regard for being righteous before God.  They were hypocrites and hypocrites care more about how they look than what they are.

Jesus cuts through the external deception and says that God knows your heart.  God is not impressed by outward religious observance that lacks true devotion.  In fact, Jesus likens it to “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt 23:27).  The person who seeks to justify himself before men, is the person who has forgotten that God judges your heart.  The person who knows God judges the heart, does not seek to justify himself before men, but seeks to be justified by God.  If God sees the heart, then we must seek to be cleansed in our heart.

The Pharisees’ Abomination (v. 15b)

Jesus continues by saying, “For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  This does not mean that everything good in this world (family, friends, money, possessions) is an abomination in the sight of God.  It does, however, say that everything exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.  One commentator put it this way: “this is a proverb that warns us not to conform to the way this world thinks”.  It is similar to Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world” and John’s warning in 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

This is why Christians must never be a group who has (as one pastor said) “drunk too much from the spirit of the age.” It is tempting, in the spirit of love, to not take a stand on issues (abortion, gay marriage) that go against society’s popular opinion.  Christians live in fear of God, not of man; therefore we “make it our aim to please God” (2 Cor 5:9).  We seek God’s standard and submit ourselves to it, rather than seeking the acceptance of the world around us.  The Pharisees sought the approval of men and desired to be exalted before them.

Conclusion

We can learn much from the Pharisees because we can often see ourselves in them.  We scoff and sneer at what convicts us.  When convicted, we seek to justify ourselves so that we do not look bad before others.  We find ourselves seeking after what God considers abominable.  But, praise be to God, Jesus frees us from this vicious cycle and instead of scoffing, we praise; instead of justifying ourselves, we are justified by God; and instead of chasing what God finds repulsive, we are exalted by God.  Let us reject the hypocrisy that clings so closely and submit ourselves and our money to our loving and gracious heavenly Father.

 

[1] G. Campbell Morgan – “The God Who Cares”