In Luke chapter 16, Jesus was talking to the Pharisees about money. As usual, they were not happy – the text says they “were lovers of money” and that they were “scoffing at Him”. And he replied with this stunning charge:
“You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” (Luke 6:15)
Of course the whole counsel of Scripture shows that Jesus was right about the Pharisees – they were more about appearances and external compliance to the law, and they lacked the “truth in the inward parts” that King David spoke of in Psalm 51, his great psalm of repentance.
But as I read this account, I wonder about you and me… Jesus could’ve been talking to us. Do we justify ourselves in the sight of others? Do we “highly esteem” that which is detestable in the sight of God? Here are some thoughts on ways we justify ourselves in the sight of men and that we highly esteem that which God detests:
We justify ourselves by…
- When we say, “I’m a good person. I’ve never murdered anyone, I’ve never cheated on my wife, and I’ve never robbed anyone”. Really? Jesus clarified that external compliance to the law is not the only thing we’re accountable for. He said that we’re also responsible for our thoughts about these things.
- So, you’ve never murdered anyone? Have you murdered them in your mind? Have you hated them? If you’ve hated another, the Bible says you’re a murderer (1 John 3:15).
- So you’ve never committed adultery? Have you ever lusted after another woman or man? If so, according to Jesus, you’ve already committed adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).
- So, you’ve never robbed anyone? Have you ever given less than a full day’s work for a full day’s pay? That’s robbing your employer.
- When we highlight and promote our good qualities and good deeds and gloss over or ignore the less flattering aspects of ourselves.
- When we are caught lying, we call it a white lie. We say that we didn’t want to cause a dispute or hurt the other person’s feelings. We justify our lying. We think it’s no big deal. (Proverbs 12:22)
- When we drive over the speed limit, roll through stop signs, make right turns on red when the sign says “No Right Turn on Red”, smoke in non-smoking areas, put more charitable contributions on our taxes than we gave and many other things and then say, “Well, everyone’s doing it”
We highly esteem what God detests when we…
- Idolize anything other than God. This can include, but it not limited to:
- Money / Material Possessions / Career (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
- Your happiness
- Sex, Food and other “appetites”
- Celebrities / Sports stars / Entertainment
- Personal Freedom (to behave however you want with no constraints) – Luke 9:23-26
- Your family (Luke 14:26)
- Your reputation (being loved by men) – Galatians 1:10
- Your sin – Romans 6:12-14
- Say that abortion grants a woman the “right to choose” what to do with “her own body”.
- Say that homosexuality is not a sin and that homosexuals are just being who they are and loving who they want.
Friends, let’s make sure that we’re not doing the very things Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of. Let’s not be hypocrites (Matthew 23:24-28). Let’s live for the Lord. Let’s say with Paul, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)!