August 29, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 16:14-15.
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him. And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”
The Pharisees had apparently overheard Jesus teaching his disciples about sharing possessions or almsgiving and taking care not to put worship of wealth before worship of God. It is useful to remember that at the time wealth was considered a sign of goodness, of God’s favor. Unfortunately, not much has changed in 2,000 years. Jesus, once again, was challenging the status quo, the conventional way of thinking and of living in the world. In this instance not only did Jesus challenge the Pharisees, he used the strongest possible language to shock them out of their smug self appraisal. In the Hebrew scriptures “abomination” was used to describe a thing or action utterly reprehensible to God or unclean and primarily associated with idolatry according to Luke Timothy Johnson in The Gospel of Luke. That’s pretty strong stuff and it’s meaning would have been clear to the Pharisees.
Obviously, Jesus didn’t get through to most of them, just as he doesn’t get through to most of us today. It is ridiculously easy for me to justify my judgments, decision, and actions. There is something in my psyche that makes it important for me to be right and to appear good before others. A lot of the time if I stop and think about it, I have to admit that I’m just deluding myself. If I stop and think about what God is calling me to do, it would often be something else. But I don’t often do that; I’d much rather live with my justifications and self-delusions and selfishness. And I want you to go along with me.
But God knows my heart. Just reading that pierces me and makes me gasp. He strips away all my justifications and exposes my real desires and motivations. They aren’t very pretty and they wouldn’t appear to be good to others, that’s for sure. John Sanford in The Kingdom Within writes, “This ‘heart’ is a synonym for the unconscious. It is the inner world where there are thoughts and feelings and images that, though not conscious, nevertheless profoundly affect us and make up our true nature….It is because of the reality of the human heart that the Pharisaic attitude is so destructive to the one who would enter the kingdom. Our greatest delusion is thinking that we can avoid the unconscious and solve the moral problems of life be creating a righteous exterior, or by an ethic of outer obedience to laws. But this is of not avail, for God sees into the human heart; ruthlessly his eye penetrates into the deepest recess of the soul….With the ripping away of the masks we have been wearing and the exposure of what has been hidden within, we come to the key to the ethic of the kingdom….[F]or only those who are conscious of the total self, and whose ‘hearts’ are not hidden to them, can reach a deeper morality than that of the scribes and Pharisees. All else is a facade and bars the way to the kingdom.”
First, I have to seek out my true heart, explore my desires and motivations as dark as they may be. Then, I have to be honest with myself and with you instead of justifying myself, not masking my true heart. That will be pleasing to God because He knows the real truth and He expects me to own it. If I don’t, I will be self-righteous, a hypocrite, like the Pharisees. If I don’t, I won’t be building the kingdom, the community of God here on earth. It’s a pretty scary thing to be open and honest with myself, let alone others. I can only do it if I truly believe that God made me, God loves me, God wants me to love myself, and God wants to use me as He made me for His purposes. Then I don’t have to fear being an abomination in His sight; I will be precious.
So, this is about money, yes. But it’s about much more. It’s the much more that’s the challenging part for me.