The Gospel of Luke - Part 70: Use Money to Please the Lord — Luke 16:14-18
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

Review:

Last week, we started Luke Chapter 16, where Jesus uses three parables to teach us about money. The bottom line is that we need to see money from God’s perspective. Jesus spends this entire chapter focusing on issues related to our use of money. The question is:

What does your use of money say about your commitment to the Lord?

Luke Chapter 16 can be organized as:

   A.   Use Money To Prepare For Eternity
   B.   Use Money To Please The Lord
   C.   Use Money To Pursue True Righteousness

Last week we dealt with using money to prepare for eternity. Today we will deal with using money to Please God. We will handle the last one when we get back after New Year's.

Using money to Prepare For Eternity is about using it to plan for the long term future, whether it is to help others or to help in God’s work, things that have a heavenly reward. Included in this is being wise about the use of money so there is the most bang for the buck in the long run. Wasting it in this life just limits the long term good that could have been done.

So now let’s look at Using Money To Please The Lord.

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “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. The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail. Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.” —Luke 16:14-18
1.   The Pharisees Focused on Money:

Our study last week included discussion directed to the Disciples. Now we see that Jesus is talking directly to the Pharisees. He continues to talk about money when He turns His attention to the Pharisees. The hearts of the Pharisees were hardened and unresponsive to what He was saying. Notice the things that are said of the Pharisees here that show they had no interest in pleasing God.  Though they appeared devout, their real love was not for God but for money.

In the Greek, there is just one word, φιλαργυρος  [philarguros]. So a more literal translation might be: “The Pharisees, who were money-lovers...”. This word is used only two other times in the Bible. One was by Paul speaking of the end times:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy... —2 Timothy 3:1-2
The other place was when Paul gives a strong warning concerning money in 1 Timothy:
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. And some, by longing for it, have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows. —1 Timothy 6:9-10 [TEV]
Notice that it does not say that "money is the root of all evil" (as people often misquote). Rather, the love of money is what we need to avoid. Money itself is morally neutral, neither good nor bad. But the love of, the preoccupation with, the focus on money is very harmful.

Mother Teresa is quoted as saying:

“Once the longing for money comes, the longing also comes for what money can give: superfluities, nice rooms, luxuries at table, more clothes, fans and so on. Our needs will increase, for one thing brings another, and the result will be endless dissatisfaction. This is how it comes.” —Mother Teresa
This isn’t the first time in Luke that Jesus has addressed this issue of wealth and greed. In fact, in Luke there are at least 30 references to the words “wealth, greed, riches, money”. You may want to review the notes from Luke 12. In those notes we considered three keys to avoiding or diminishing greed in our hearts:

Three keys to avoiding greed are:

1.   God — Focus on cultivating, deepening your relationship with Him. I need to remember that joy and fulfillment and security in life don’t come from money but from God. I need to remember that only a personal relationship with God can meet the deep needs of my life; money can’t.

2.   Gratitude — Acknowledge that all we have and enjoy comes from the Lord. James 1:17 tells us that “every good thing” we enjoy in life comes from the Lord. Over and over again, God tells us to “give thanks”

3.   Generous Giving — God is generous with us and expects us to be generous with others. Another key to avoiding greed is generous giving. In First Timothy 6:17-19, God uses phrases like : “be rich in good deeds”, “generous”, “ready to share”. Does this describe you?

Solomon was one of the wealthiest people to ever live. Near the end of his life, this is what he concluded about the love of money:

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money,
    nor he who loves abundance with its income.
This too is vanity. —Ecclesiastes 5:10
Whoever loves money will never have enough; whoever loves wealth will never be satisfied with it.

2.   The Pharisees were focused on impressing people:

And He said to them, “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 16:15
Jesus told them: "You justify yourselves" — “Justify” here is from a Greek word δικαιω [dikaio] meaning “to declare righteous”. So Jesus said of the Pharisees, “you declare yourselves righteous”. That’s what most of us do. Most of us consider ourselves “good people”. Most of us try to impress others with how good we are. Are we so different from the Pharisees?

Of course we can’t really declare ourselves righteous. Only God can do that. In the end, it’s not what we say about ourselves or even what others say about us but what God says that really matters. Somehow the Pharisees had forgotten that.

Jesus says they did this “In the sight of men” — The Pharisees were masters of the art of looking religious. But they were more concerned with impressing people than pleasing God. Jesus told them: “God knows your hearts.” God knows not only what we do but also why we do it.

We need to be sure our primary goal is to please God and not impress people:  Jesus said in John's gospel:

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? —John 5:44
And he said:
Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. —John 12:42-43
Paul said:
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. —Galatians 1:10
What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight. — What do you think Jesus was referring to here? I think he was talking about religious appearances. I think He was referring to how the Pharisees fasted and tithed and went to synagogue and all the rest yet lacked a genuine heart for God.

Detestable — is a strong word here. The Greek word βεδελυγμα  [bedelugma] is most often translated “abomination”. It’s from a root word that means literally “to stink”. That makes it sound even stronger, doesn’t it? Religious activity that doesn’t come from a heart that is sincerely seeking God is an abomination to God. It stinks to high heaven! Strong words from the Lord here.

But God knows your hearts — It’s so important that we remember this truth. God is always more interested in what’s going on inside of us.

The emphasis on the heart seen here is found throughout the Bible:

But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." —1 Samuel 16:7

All a man's ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart. —Proverbs 21:2

I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve. —Jeremiah 17:10

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. —Hebrews 4:12-13
3.   The Pharisees lacked a genuine heart for God:
The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. —Luke 16:16
Though it doesn’t sound that way to us, Jesus is actually speaking positively when He says, “everyone is forcing his way into it”. The reference seems to be to the multitudes of people who are eagerly following Jesus and seeking salvation through Him. Consider: There seems to be the thought here of ‘pressing into the kingdom of God with greatest earnestness, self-denial and determination’. —Morris, Luke, p.274

The Living Bible paraphrases this verse in this way:

Until John the Baptist began to preach, the laws of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But John introduced the Good News that the Kingdom of God would come soon. And now eager multitudes are pressing in. —Luke 16:16 [TLB]
What Jesus is pointing out is the sharp contrast between the spiritual hunger of the multitudes and the spiritual hard-heartedness of the Pharisees.
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. —Luke 16:18
Another evidence of the Pharisees’ lack of a genuine heart for God was that they disregarded God's desires concerning marriage.
Some Pharisees took a loose view of divorce. It was acknowledged that a man should not commit adultery. But if a man wanted another woman, many of the Pharisees condoned divorcing his present wife for no good reason and marrying the desired woman" (Bible Knowledge Commentary).
Today we might call this "irreconcilable differences".

For Jesus to include marriage in this passage shows how important this is to God. We need to be as committed to our marriage as God is.

Some people believe that this verse shows that Jesus taught divorce is always sin. Certainly Jesus taught a strong view of marriage and a very limited few of divorce. However, other passages show that divorce may be necessary (though never preferable) in certain situations.

It was said, “Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of Divorce’;  but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” —Matthew 5:31-32

And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. —1 Corinthians 7:13-15
Except for Pat and me, at least as of right now, no one here is married. However, for use with friends or children, here are two practical suggestions related to the issue of marriage. They also work for friendships or other close relationships.

(1) Seek to be content.   Webster's defines contentment as "desiring nothing more or different". Focusing on appreciating the strengths, the positive qualities of the other person (spouse) rather than being aggravated by their weaknesses.

(2) Focus on yourself.   We can't change the other person (spouse) but we can change ourselves. Someone said, "The secret to marriage is not so much finding the right person as it is being the right person."

Are you really trying to please God?  In this passage, Jesus has given us some practical areas to assess including our money and our relationships. Are you focusing most on what you want or what God wants for you?

So remember that the use of our money should be to please God, not impress others. The same goes for everything we do or say. God knows our heart, so we ought to do the right thing from our heart, not for show.

Next Week, December 17:  Social
December 24 and 31: No class.
Next Lesson, January 7: Luke 16, Part C: Use Money to Pursue True Righteousness.