You Want to Be Exalted in Whose Eyes?
Upon the closing of this last parable about the Christian’s attitude towards money (that it cannot be our master and should serve Kingdom purposes), Luke mentions that the Pharisees ridiculed Jesus’ teaching because they were lovers of money. Jesus turns on them and says, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted before men is an abomination in the sight of God.” I think Jesus is saying that the Pharisees were the kind of people who wanted to look good before the world, which riches will do for you. This is always a temptation for us. We want people to think highly of us; we want to be known as respectable citizens. There is nothing wrong with that as long as we are respected for the right reasons, which for Jesus meant godliness, not having fine clothes and driving nice cars. This is how we “justify” ourselves before others. But Jesus says that such thinking is an abomination before God. Yes, it is exalted among men, but we can be sure that whatever men (or the world) think highly of, God thinks the opposite.
Jesus’ next words concern the changing of the times with his ministry. The Law and the Prophets, or the age of the old covenant, extended all the way to John the Baptist, who was just before Jesus. But now everything was changing on account of Jesus. In his person and ministry, the Kingdom of God is being preached. Jesus says that “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.” It seems that Jesus is saying that people strive to enter the Kingdom of God by means other than the Scriptures. The Pharisees thought they could enter by their respectable behavior, by being justified (looking good) before men. But that is not what the Law bases righteousness upon. Even the old covenant exalted love, compassion, and mercy which were all being expressed in Jesus ministry. One cannot force his way into the Kingdom by his own means; the Lord sets the rules, and the rule is Christ. We must enter by the door (John 10:7).
Jesus then adds the Kingdom rule about marriage. Again, many Pharisees had gone lax on this; we have gone lax on this. God has ordained marriage for Christians to be one of His primary means of sanctifying us by modeling the relationship between Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Too many Christians have failed at this, just as we have failed at so many other things. But with the Lord, there is grace. May we seek to justify ourselves only through him, by living through him, regardless what the world thinks.