The only justification that counts for eternity is the justification that occurs in the heart of God toward those who find favor with Him. We can justify ourselves, we can justify the deeds of others, and we can even seek to be justified in the eyes of other men, but all that counts for absolutely NOTHING in the courts where souls are weighed in the Divine balances. Today's message will deal with a passage which reveals something of the hearts and minds of a portion on the people with whom Jesus dealt during His earthly ministry.
In Luke 15, Jesus told three parables which directly confronted the outward and egregious sins of the Pharisees. These three parables are known as The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Boy. Directly following this trilogy, Jesus told another parable that cut even deeper into hardened hearts of some of His hearers. This parable, the story of The Unjust Steward, drove straight to the sin of covetousness that had infected so many of the religious leaders of that day. Note the reaction of the Pharisees and the response of Jesus. “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him [Jesus]. 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.'” (Luke 16.14-15).
First, they were lovers of money. The 1611King James version says they were covetous. Both are right; those who love money are covetous and vise versa. The word here translated as covetous is used but one other time in the New Testament and there it is in the midst of a long list of sins that were to be expected in the last days (see 2 Timothy 3.1-9). In this list of infamy, those who are lovers of money reside right along side blasphemers, traitors, and despisers of good.
Next, notice that they “...also heard all these things, and they derided him.” There are tenses of verbs here that say more than the version just cited. Literally the verse says that they “kept on hearing him” and they “kept on deriding Him.” Their's was not a passing judgment nor was it a passing disdain. The more they listened, the more they hated what He was saying. The word translated derided is used twice and only by Luke in the New Testament. The other occasion of its usage speaks of people sneering at Jesus when He was on the cross. The rulers said, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” (Luke 23.35). According to various scholars, this Greek word literally means to “turn one's nose up at another.” So, literally the lovers of money turned their noses up at the Christ!
Finally, notice that Jesus told these mockers that they were “...those who justify yourselves before men.” Whatever it was, they had good reason, at least in their own minds, to be lovers of money. They were more concerned about their standing before their peers and contemporaries than they were about their standing before God. Hence Jesus went on to say, “For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” They were the role models of their generation; they were the idols of their countrymen. They lived in the big houses that others could only dream about!
In our previous paragraphs, we intentionally passed over one phrase that Jesus uttered in reference to those who justified themselves before their fellowman. Here is the last word on the matter: “But God knows your hearts!” Even if the whole world went after such men, God still knew their hearts and that knowledge would be enough to condemn their actions. The majority doesn't determine justification!
1. What were the three parables that preceded the parable of The Unjust Steward?
2. What particular sin made the parable of The Unjust Steward so distasteful to the Pharisees?
3. How did Jesus say God sees that which is highly esteemed in the sight of men?
4. What role does the majority have in deciding who is really justified before God?
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