Wedged between two passages about riches is this bridging passage. We frequently don’t see how whole books of the Bible are written as units. We do not see the Bible itself as one large story of the whole of human history. We need to be mindful of the bigger picture when we look at a few verses. These few verses remind us of whom Jesus is talking to. He is talking to people who love to appear respectable, all together, religious, and wealthy. Jesus points out here that ultimately our lives are to be about one thing and that is God’s Kingdom. Anything, pursuit of money, relationships, honour or power aside from God are distractions at best. Jesus does not abolish the morality of the Old Testament or its devotion to God above all else. Jesus is the means to live out the morality and the devotion that the Old testament call for. This is with a heart that is sincere and authentic. Who are you beneath the facade?
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
16 “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 their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
- What did Pharisees love?
- What does God think about what humans value highly?
- How were Pharisees probably justifying divorce?
- How do God’s laws become modified today by those wishing to justify themselves?
- How do we recover over time from living for wealth or self-justification?
The Authentic Self
Everyone lives in denial to a greater or lesser degree. We either justify our dysfunction by saying that we are victims of our circumstances or we say that things are our fault and become stuck in self-loathing. Some people who think that they are the most healthy are those who can not see their inability to change or who have mastered their environment to suit themselves but to the destruction of others. The Apostle Paul knew that he would not attain all that God wanted him to be in this life. He was redeemed in Jesus after the Damascus Experience of Acts 9, but he did not cease changing to be more Christlike until the day he died. We see in the gospels and in Acts how the disciples changed through their experience with Jesus. When we think that we have no major changes to make we have not arrived at our ultimate destination, we are in a state of denial.
To become the selves that God has created us to be we must look at the things that we blame others for. Where are the sources of pain in our lives? We can not change others. We must admit our responsibility for our own feelings and actions. We are responsible for our own unhappiness and for our own reactions to circumstances. We only have control over ourselves. We must reach out to others with unconditional love. This means that we must repair our broken selves so that we can truly love without conditions. We must learn to heal from the pain that neglect, abuse, or conflict have built within us. Why do we sometimes think, like the Pharisees, that our interpretation of the law must be upheld by all? What insecurity is this hiding? Why do we take advice as criticism? Why do we shut down conversations that would require us to change?
Often our inability to change is because we consciously and subconsciously protect ourselves from pain. Rather than investigate the pain that we have suppressed over the years we claim that all is well and we will not talk about issues. Of course, this either leads to depression, anxiety, or personality disorders. Why can we not express our opinions in a conversation? What are we afraid of? Why can we not participate as equals with others? Why do we go to the other extreme and control others through emotional manipulation or even violent authority? Why do we not argue through the storms of conflict to a place of calmer waters?
Jesus did not shy away from conflict. He told the truth to those who ran from it. The Pharisees even sneered in reaction to the truth about how they were enslaved by money and tradition. They wanted tidy rules and financial security. They sanctified these pursuits and even blessed their own divorces lest they have to face the truth inside themselves. Unlike the Pharisees, can we list some serious flaws that we have? Can we see their origins? Can we travel into the darkness of our hearts trusting God to light the way and give hope? God has a course for us to sail. However, we can only sail if we lift the anchors that we have put in place for safety. Trust God with safety and be free.
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
(Shakespeare: Julius Caesar)