The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. (Luke 16:14-18 ESV)
It almost sounds like the opening of a joke, “So, the Pharisees were money-lovers…” and in some ways it is. But the punchline is sort of hidden and jumps out at us, revealing that the joke was actually on us not just them. The reason is that “money-lovers” gets us thinking financially, and for our Master, money in general is an idolatry issue. And of course those sorts of issues in others are fine, but in ourselves are very uncomfortable.
Right away, Jesus goes for the heart. The heart (not emotions, but intent and focus) was His point all along, even though He was talking about money. It seems peculiar, but pragmatism when it comes to finances can actually be a poor choice for disciples of Jesus. Think it through, was Peter, John, and James’ choice to follow Jesus financially pragmatic? Yet we espouse pragmatism as a financial approach most of the time. Then we wonder why Jesus seems to be willing to do so little in our lives. I believe we’ve actually become content for the little we have of Jesus unwilling to give of ourselves more to receive more of Him.
There are some motives that Jesus unveils here. He points out that the Pharisees were more interested in what people thought than what God thought. We do that a lot. After all, people abound all around us, and God is invisible (out of sight-out of mind). And yet Jesus also points out than an opportunity is available, and the Pharisees are missing it (because of their focus on money). I think because of our focus and approach to money, so are we (and I include myself here intentionally).
Jesus makes the really confusing statement that until John, there was only the Law and Prophets (i.e. Scripture), but since John the Kingdom of God has been preached. We can see that in each of the Gospels. But next He says that everyone forces their way into it (it=the Kingdom I’m assuming). The Kingdom is being preached, and the Pharisees, and those looking for it expressly, are missing it. Others force their way in and they pass on by because of their money-focus.
The reason I include myself in this current application of this problem is because I do struggle with the use and focus on money. My wife and I make decisions about vocation based on money. I consider my job as “financing” my ministries (like this blog). But on the other hand, I look at the things my Master has provided as belonging to His Kingdom more than to me; at least most of the time. At other times I’m distracted by what we have, and to my shame, what we don’t.
Then Jesus states that the very laws these Pharisees pride themselves on, even though the Kingdom of God is passing them by, will never pass away. To me that means that the Scripture isn’t being replaced, only the covenant they contained. Yet Scripture proclaimed another covenant to come, and it was this covenant the Pharisees were missing. Even so, the Pharisees had to wonder at Jesus’ statement about the Law not passing away, so He makes another, seemingly random statement.
Divorce. We hate this term because it belies a problem we’d rather not face in our nation and especially in our churches. Like so much of our lives, marriage has become disposable. In the Pharisees day no one considered marriage disposable except for kings, and even then it wasn’t always politically wise to “dispose” of a wife. The issue then was that they used the rules of divorce to disenfranchise women. It was a tool of oppression. Many times it is today as well, but it is also far more common today.
The point Jesus makes with His random statement on divorce is that these who love money and think they know the law so well break that law in respect to their marriages. They love themselves far more than they love God, and Jesus dragged their hidden view of themselves into the sunlight. And so it is for us. We are shown that we are in the same school of thought, where we love ourselves far more than God. Think of our choices, our use of our time, what we purchase. The proof is right there staring back at us from Amazon shopping carts and our favorite TV shows. What’s most important to us?
What’s most important to you? What do you see in these statements of Jesus?