Gospel of Luke ~ Chapter 16
Outline of the Book:
I. Preface: The Method and Purpose of Writing, Luke 1:1-4.
II. The Identification of the Son of Man with Men, Luke 1:5-4:13.
III. The Ministry of the Son of Man to Men, Luke 4:14-9:50.
IV. The Repudiation of the Son of Man by Men, Luke 9:51-19:27.
I. Instruction in the Light of Rejection, Luke 12:1-19:27.
14. Concerning wealth, Luke 16:1-31.
a. The unrighteous steward, vs. 1-9.
b. Principles on the righteous treatment of wealth,vs. 10-13.
c. Rebuke of the Pharisees’ love of money, vs. 14-18.
d. The rich man and Lazarus, vs. 19-31.
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c. Rebuke of the Pharisees’ love of money, vs. 14-18 – Good stewards must be obedient.
Luke 16:14, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.”
Once again, we see the Pharisees “listening,” the Imperfect, Active, Indicative of AKOUO, to Jesus’ teaching and rejecting Him and His teaching, as they were “scoffing at Him,” the Imperfect, Active, Indicative of EKMUKTERIZO, ἐκμυκτηρίζω that means, “ridicule, sneer at, deride, or scoff at.” It is only used here and Luke 23:35. Therefore, we see that their scoffing continued throughout our Lord’s ministry, even while He hung on the Cross.
Luke 23:35, “And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One”.”
EKMUKTERIZO is a compound of EK “from” and MUKTERIZO, “to mock, sneer,” that comes from the noun MUKTER, “nose.” It literally can mean, “to turn up one’s nose,” but comes to mean, “to despise, deride or scoff.” We have noted in the book of Proverbs how the nose was used as a euphemism for mocking or scoffing, Prov 1:26; 12:8.
The reason they were scoffing at Jesus was because of His teachings on the appropriate attitude towards wealth, which was contradicting their “love of money.” The phrase, “who were lovers of money,” uses the Adjective PHILARGUROS with the Verb HUPARCHO that means, “be, exist, have, or possess.” PHILARGUROS, φιλάργυρος means, “avaricious or fond of money.” It is a compound word from PHILEO, “to love or have affection for,” and ARGUROS, “silver or money.” As such, it describes those obsessed with concern for money. It is only used here and in 2 Tim 3:2, in the NT.
2 Tim 3:1-2, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy.”
We have further instructions in the NT to “not be lovers of money,” APHILARGUROS, as it will have a detrimental effect on your spiritual life. In that, we see the requirements for being a Deacon of a church, which includes not being a lover of money, Heb 13:5; 1 Tim 3:3; cf. Titus 1:7.
Heb 13:5-6, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?””
1 Tim 3:3, “Not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.”
Paul also wrote how the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and has a negative effect on the soul, 1 Tim 6:10. There, Paul used the cognate noun form PHILARGURIA, which is only used there in the NT.
1 Tim 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Remember, the scriptures do not say “money is the root of all evil,” it states “the love of money is….” Money is a necessary commodity in the world. It is the means of stating the prices of goods and services as well as expressing debts, salaries, wages, rents, etc. It is a medium of exchange whereby goods and services are paid for and debts are discharged. Money is necessary for the function of an economy. It is not carnal or sinful for the believer to possess money or use money in a legitimate way. Money is legitimate, its accumulation is legitimate and its use is permissible. The function of money is part of the work ethic. There are monetary principles in the work ethic: earning money, saving money, spending money, giving money, and investing money. Therefore, it is not wrong or sinful for believers to possess money, even in large amounts. It is a tool or resource we need and are to use wisely. It glorifies God when it is part of your escrow blessings.
On the other hand, its illegitimate uses include: bribery, trying to buy power, influence, or love, or to corrupt character. Money becomes a wonderful slave or a cruel master, depending on your spiritual condition, Jude 11, “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” The deceit of Balaam was monetary lust. Therefore, do not ever let money become your master, because, if you love money, it means you are inordinately lusting after it, and lust for money can destroy the right priorities for life, James 4:13-14.
James 4:13-14, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
Remember, money cannot buy salvation, (the spiritual death of our Lord was the purchase price for our salvation). Money cannot buy love, it is not a means of happiness, nor is it a means of security, Mat 6:24‑33. Money cannot buy everything. There are many other things that money cannot buy, such as security, perfect happiness from God, stability of soul, or peace of mind.
Money corrupted Solomon, Eccl 5:10-6:2, also Balaam as we noted above, Rev 2:14-15; and Ananias and Sapphira of the early church, Acts 5:1-10. Therefore, money does not mean prosperity, Prov 11:28, or capacity for life, Prov 13:7, 11.
Prov 11:28, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.”
Prov 13:7, “There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing; another pretends to be poor, but has great wealth.”
For the unbeliever, there are dangers regarding money as it cannot buy salvation, Mark 8:36‑37; 1 Peter 1:18‑19. It causes the rich man to have faith in wrong objects, Mark 10:25. The “eye of the needle” was the small door in the main gate of the city. One man could just barely get through the door. The camel could not fit through the door, and in analogy, the rich man cannot buy his way into heaven. Therefore, money hinders the unbeliever from seeking salvation, as we will note in vs. 19‑31. Money may have credit with people, but it has no credit with God, Prov 11:4.
Prov 11:4, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”
The righteousness of God is the credit you need to live with God forever. That is gained by faith, i.e., believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Some questions we can ask ourselves to see if we are lovers of money or not include:
- Does my pursuit of money interfere with obeying God?
- Do I always look for something that will benefit me financially, regardless of how it affects others?
- Am I more concerned with what my cost will be instead of allowing myself to be moved by compassion?
Money related to right perspective and mental attitude is taught in 1 Tim 6:3-11, 17-19.
Luke 16:15, “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.”
In this passage, Jesus exposes the fundamental sin of the self-righteous Pharisees as they “justify themselves,” which is DIKAIOO HEAUTOU. DIKAIOO means, “to justify, render innocent, or pronounce righteous.” They were doing this regarding themselves, “in the sight of men,” ENOPION HO ANTHROPOS. That is why we call this “self-righteous” arrogance. They justify their thoughts and actions as being holy and righteous against their own standards rather the standards of God, cf. 2 Cor 10:12.
2 Cor 10:12, “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.”
Luke also uses DIKAIOO in Luke 7:29, 35; 10:29, 18:14. The last two, Luke 10:29; 18:14, are similar in application to our passage.
Luke 10:29, “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?””
Luke 18:14, “I tell you, this man, (the tax collector, sinner), went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Yet, those who are truly justified by God live be faith, as Paul stated when quoting the prophet Habakkuk, Hab 2:4, in his letter to the Romans, Rom 1:17. Cf. Rom 4:3 with Gen 15:6; and Rom 4:7-8 with Psa 32:1-2. See also Isa 53:11; Rom 3:30; Gal 3:8.
Isa 53:11, “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”
Rom 1:17, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith”.”
Rom 3:30, “Since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.”
Gal 3:8, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you”.”
Even though man may try to justify himself by his human good works, “God knows your hearts,” DE THEOS GINOSKO HUMEIS HO KARDIAS. This phrase is used in the Scriptures to describe the fact that God knows the inner thoughts of a man, not just the outward appearance as man sees, 1 Sam 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chron 28:9; Prov 21:2; 24:12; Acts 1:24; Rom 8:27.
1 Sam 16:7, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart”.”
Prov 21:2, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.” Cf. Prov 16:2; 24:12.
For the hypocrite, like these Pharisees, this fact is unbearable because he realizes that his actions fool neither himself nor God. Therefore, even though we may hide our thoughts from man, there is no hiding of our thoughts before God, as He knows every one of them. God knows our attitudes, our motives, our feelings, and everything else that is under the surface regarding the thoughts of our souls. Our problem is our heart. As Jer 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”
We may fool ourselves and others, but we will not fool God. God knows who we are all the way down to the bottom of our souls. As such, we should not try to fool God, as we try to fool others and even ourselves. Therefore, knowing that God knows your every thought should lead you to have great honesty and integrity in your thoughts and your actions. If you have been putting on a façade for others, stop what you have been doing and start operating in the integrity of God with great faith as His Word flows through your soul.
This doctrine should be a great comfort for you, the believer, as you realize that human judgments upon your actions are not important. You realize that you serve a Master who judges your motives more than your accomplishments. You seek to please no one but God. Paul states that the goal of Christian instruction is love coming from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, 1 Tim 1:5.
Next, in vs. 15, our Lord states, “for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.”
“Highly Esteemed,” is the Adjective, used substantively, HUPSELOS that means “high” and usually is a modifier to describe high things. But, here it has a figurative or metaphoric use as a noun and is translated “highly esteemed,” It is modified by the prepositional phrase “among men.” Literally, the Greek reads “the among men high thing.”
Apparently, what the Pharisees thought was impressive to others, themselves, and God, was actually not impressive to God at all. In fact, it was the complete opposite. Previously, we have noted how the Pharisees would make a big deal about presenting their prayers and giving to the poor, so that they would impress others, Mat 6:1-2, 5.
Mat 6:1-2, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”
Mat 6:5, “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”
In order to give, they had to have money. In order to have fine robes, they had to have money. But their lust for money went even beyond that. They thought that if they were rich, it was proof that they were truly righteous and God was blessings them, as He had done with Abraham, David, Solomon, etc. But Jesus was telling them that this is a reversal of God’s value system. Their pursuit of material gain was actually an abomination to God, i.e., “detestable in the sight of God.” The Greek here is BDELUGMA ENOPION HO THEOS.
BDELUGMA, βδέλυγμα means, “abomination, detestable thing, or something morally repugnant.” It is used here and in Mat 24:15; Mark 13:14; Rev 17:4-5; 21:27. The other two Gospels usages, define who the Antichrist of the Tribulation is, “the abomination of desolation,” cf. Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.
Mat 24:15, “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand).”
Therefore, our Lord was saying to the Pharisees who loved money that their behaviors were like Satan and his Antichrist. The mentality of their soul was truly detestable to Him, not one that is justified by Him. We see in the OT, many things are an abomination or detestable to God, like deviousness, cheating in business, perverse hearts, lying, false worship, arrogance, scoffers and scoffing, etc. The most famous is Prov 6:16-18. Cf. Prov 3:32; 11:1; 12:2; 15:8-9; 24:9; 28:9.
Prov 6:16-19, “There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
We could say that the way the Pharisees were operating due to lusting for money that they were doing all of these things in one way or another.
Prov 11:20, “The perverse in heart are an abomination to the LORD, but the blameless in their walk are His delight.”
Prov 16:5, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; assuredly, he will not be unpunished.”
Prov 24:9, “The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men.”
Prov 28:9, “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination.”
Prov 15:8, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.”
Prov 21:27, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, how much more when he brings it with evil intent!”
These last two are dealing with false religion and worship. Therefore, as the Pharisees were performing their worship with the intent for monetary gain, it was with evil intent, which is an abomination / detestable to God. Cf. 1 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:7, 11; 1 Peter 5:2.
1 Peter 5:2, “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness.”
Luke 16:6 “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.”
“The Law and the Prophets,” HO NOMOS KAI HO PROPHETES, are two of the three parts that made up the Hebrew Bible. The other part is called the Poetical books. In all parts, the gospel of God’s plan of salvation for mankind were taught, shown, and depicted. These sections of the Hebrew Bible where taught right up to the time of John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
“Until John” is the Preposition, MECHRI, “until,” with IOANNES, “John.” As noted above, this John was the Baptist, which we noted and studied about back in the early Chapters of Luke’s Gospel. Remember what Jesus said about John in Luke 7:28a, “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John…”
“Since that time,” is APO TOTE, “from then, since then, or since that time.” This gives us an interesting division from the time of the Hebrew Bible being preached up to the time of John the Baptist, and from that time to now. From the Hebrew Bible to the time of John the Baptist, they were prophesizing about the coming Christ / Messiah / Savior. Since the time of John’s preaching to the current time, the Messiah was visibly manifested in the person of Jesus Christ and proclaimed by Him and His teachings, Mat 4:23.
Mat 4:23, “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.”
“In the Synoptists the presence and future of the divine rule are brought together in Jesus, who is the Bearer of salvation both present and future. Jesus speaks here as He who inaugurates the new epoch which replaces and transcends all that has gone before, the Law, the prophets and the Baptist. To this degree the saying underlies that of Paul in Rom. 10:4, i.e., that Christ is the τέλος of the Law (cf. Jn. 1:17).” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament – Volume I.)
Rom 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
John 1:17, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”
This is why some have considered a dispensation between the Age of the Law and the Age of Grace / the Church called the Dispensation of the Hypostatic Union. It is a unique time in the history of gospel preaching and a transitionary period of uniqueness for living the spiritual life between the Law and Church.
Next, we get into a bit of a messy translation, as the Greek simply reads, HO BASILEIA HO THEOS EUANGELIZO. Literally it reads “the kingdom of God is proclaimed or preached.” The messiness comes in with the Verb EUANGELIZO, εὐαγγελίζω that means, “bring or announce good news, or proclaim or preach (the gospel).” Here, it is actually in the Present, Passive, Indicative. With the Passive Voice, it is the action of receiving the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. In the Present tense, it is an “Extending-from-Past Present tense,” where it describes action that has begun in the past that continues into the present. The emphasis however is on the present time, but it is translated like a past tense to encompass the past action that continues into the present time. Therefore, we could translate this as “the Gospel has been and continues to be preached to you, which you have received.”
In the NASB English translation, the meaning of EUANGELIZO is broken into two parts that surround BASILEIA OH THEOS, “the Gospel of the Kingdom of God has been and continues to be preached.”
The KJV uses the more literal translation and states, “The kingdom of God is preached.” Preaching the Kingdom of God is preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as He is the only way to enter the Kingdom of God. It also gives us the broader spectrum of not just our entrance into it at salvation, but also the eternal nature of it; living in the kingdom for all of eternity. That is what Jesus was trying to emphasize in this statement.
Matthew has a parallel passage that is in a slightly different context but helps to understand Luke’s, in Mat 11:12-13.
Mat 11:12-13, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven 1) suffers violence, and 2) violent men take it by force. 13For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.”
Luke stated that “the Gospel has been and continues to be preached.” Matthew says this in vs. 13, by simply stating the prophets and Law, “prophesied,” which uses the Aorist, Active, Indicative of the Verb PROPHETEUO προφητεύω that means, “prophesy, speak by divine inspiration, foretell the future, or be a prophet.” What the prophets and the Law prophesied was the Kingdom of Heaven, which is another way of saying, “the gospel of Jesus Christ,” that gives someone entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
From Matthew’s account, it seems like the gospel and Kingdom of Heaven are being attacked by violent men. But, in the context of the overall passage, it is actually stating how warriors are receiving salvation and entrance into the Kingdom. Nevertheless, given the words used in Matthew’s, which are metaphoric in the positive sense, when one of these words is used in Luke’s, it has the negative connotation of the original meaning.
1) In vs. 12, of Matthew’s account, we have the phrase, “suffers violence,” which is the Present, Middle or Passive, Indicative of the Greek Verb BIAZO, βιάζω that means, “to force, use violence, suffer violence, or enter by force.” It is only used here in Matthew and by Luke in our passage in the NT.
It indicates a forced, involuntary act. The compelling force may be through unauthorized persons or natural forces, externally or internally. The sense is “overpower, to compel, to force, or an unwilling conscript.” In the LXX, as in classical Greek, it is used most often to denote compulsion or coercion. Yet, it also has the idea of fervent effort.
Matthew uses this verb to indicate that the Kingdom Of God is forcefully advancing and forceful men take hold of it. This is the sense of the “Onward Christian Solider.” It is sought after with fervent zeal in spite of violent opposition. This is the positive aspects of entering the Kingdom of God.
2) Matthew’s double emphasis with “violent men take it by force,” which uses the noun cognate BIASTES, βιαστής that means, “one who forces, a person of violence.” It is only used here in Matthew in the NT and is an extremely rare word in the Greek language. In classical Greek, it meant, “violent men” who achieve their desires by theft. But here, it is used metaphorically with the meaning of valiant men grasping and seizing the Kingdom of God through the preaching of the Gospel.
On the other hand, Luke uses only BIAZO to portray the picture of pressing into it with force, and uses the modifier PAS, meaning “all or everyone” for, “everyone is forcing his way into it.” BIAZO has the meaning of “entering violently” with forceful endeavor. It means one presses himself in to seize the kingdom with his own energy as if the kingdom could be had or grasped by one’s own efforts. The meaning indicated by BIAZO is “violently to assault the Divine rule, and to rob those who come to it of its blessing.”
In other words, the Pharisees were trying to force their way into the Kingdom of God with their self-righteous, legalistic, arrogant, human good works rather than by faith in God and Jesus Christ. It speaks to their thoughtless eagerness to seize the gospel / the Kingdom of God by their own self-righteousness. See the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament for a detailed explanation of the word usage of BIAZO, βιάζω under BIAZOMAI, for more definition.
As such, Matthew records Jesus using the positive aspects of the results of the missionary evangelistic work of John the Baptist, while Luke records Jesus using it in the negative sense of the Pharisees’ self-righteous, legalistic, arrogant thinking that by their good works of “keeping the Law,” they would be saved and enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus was saying this is the wrong type of thinking.
Interestingly, on face value, you would interpret Matthew’s to be a negative usage while Luke’s the positive. But in the context of the surrounding passages, we see Matthew’s as the positive and Luke’s as the negative. This is another verse in this chapter of some of the most difficult passages to interpret in the Bible, especially if you do not go into the depths of the Greek language as we have. Having done that, we understand that Jesus is reproving and rebuking the sneering Pharisees for their rejection of His teachings overall, especially of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, but more directly here in regard to their relationship with money.
By lusting after money and making it their master, they are sabotaging their own souls, being blinded to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as they lead others to blindness as well. Therefore, we too, who have already believed in Jesus as our Savior, are warned of the negative influence the “love of money” can have on our souls, where we will reject or be blinded to the Biblical principles of how to truly and faithfully live the unique spiritual life of the Church Age, as we should. Instead, we will be living for the materialism of this world, serving mammon / money as our master, and not be serving God or mankind as we should. At the same time, we will either be ineffective at leading others to Christ, or actually be a hindrance to them accepting Him as their Savior, or living the unique spiritual life of the Church Age for themselves. Therefore, serve God through faithfully taking in and applying His Word in your life daily, so that you are an overcomer, not overcome.
Luke 16:17, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.”
“But it is easier,” DE ESTIN EUKOPOS. The Adjective EUKOPOS is used only 7 times in the NT, in three situations. Luke used it 3 times too.
The first account is the healing of the paralytic in Mat 9:5; Mark 2:9; Luke 5:23, where Jesus asked, “Which is easier to say, ‘your sins are forgiven’ or ‘get up and walk?’” Therefore, the first mention principle emphasizes the forgiveness of sin through the person and work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
The second application was in the story of the “Rich young ruler,” in Mat 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25, where Jesus stated, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Here, Jesus was also speaking about the blindness the riches of this world can cause in the life of the possessor, when it comes to knowing God’s plan of salvation. For the rich man to enter the Kingdom of God he would have to believe in Jesus as His Savior. In the case of this rich young man, he loved his money more than he loved God. Because of his love for money, he was blinded to God’s plan and provisions of salvation for him. Therefore, in the second usage, it speaks to having faith for salvation versus being a lover of money.
In the first two instances, Jesus was making the point that with God it is not a matter of one condition being easier than the other, as God can forgive sins, heal, and make a camel pass through a needle’s eye just as easily as He can allow a rich man to enter heaven. The principle is, with God all things are possible, Mat 19:26; Mark 10:27.
In our passage, which is the third and last principle, it stands alone. EUKOPOS is used without any implication as to God’s ability. It is simply a contrast between heaven and earth passing away and the Law remaining intact. Nevertheless, it is part of the rebuke against the Pharisees, who were lovers of money rather than lovers of God, as to their self-righteous arrogance thinking that their works would save them. In that, they were rejecting God’s plan of salvation for the forgiveness of sins through the work of Jesus Christ. Their lust of money had blinded them to God’s plan as they rejected Jesus as their Savior / Messiah / King.
In this last phrase, our Lord was comparing the ease of “heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.” The Greek reads, HO HOURANOS KAI HO GE PARECHOMAI E HO NOMOS HEIS KERAIA PIPTO. “Letter,” is the Noun KERAIA that means, “apex, extremity, horn, or point.” Ancient grammarians used this word to describe the accents and diacritical points of Hebrew letters, “jots and tittles.” It is only used here and Mat 5:18.
Mat 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” The KJV uses, “jot,” IOTA and “tittle,” KERAIA.
In Matthew’s use of this phrase, Jesus was saying that the Law would be fulfilled or accomplished, which means God’s plan of salvation will be accomplished. He had come to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it.
In Luke’s usage, this phrase is in support of the previous verse that spoke of the Law as being one of the evangelists of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the believers in the Age of Israel / the Age of the Law. The Law preached the good news of the kingdom of God, which is the fact that Jesus would die on the Cross for our sins, and through Him we have salvation. Jesus is saying here that this truth is timeless, eternal, and absolutely reliable; it will never pass away or fail. As the Christ-Centered Exposition puts it, “Nothing God has ever said and written in his Word has an expiration date. No requirement of God for his people has “void” written on it as if it were a cancelled check.” In other words, “the Law still stands,” as their tutor to lead them to Christ, cf. Gal 3:24-25.
It also gives us the comparison, like the story of the paralytic, that it is easier for God to rearrange things in this material world than it was for Him to complete His plan of salvation for mankind through His Son, Jesus Christ. In other words, it is easier for God to destroy and rebuild the heavens and the earth, than it was for Him to send His Son to the Cross to suffer and die for the forgiveness of our sins. But nevertheless, even that was accomplished by God.
Similarly, in the story of the rich young ruler, what man sees as an impossibility, i.e., “a camel going through the eye of a needle,” God can and did accomplish; providing salvation for all of mankind through His Son Jesus Christ.
Because the Pharisees were so tied to keeping the Law as a means of their salvation, Jesus used the Law here as the final and absolute Word / authority regarding God’s plan of salvation, which the Pharisees could not deny. This rebuked the Pharisees who thought that they were the perfect keepers of the Law, in that they were blinded to its true message as a result of their love for money. Because of their blindness they could not see Jesus Christ as their Savior / Messiah / King, and therefore were missing out on entering into the Kingdom of God / Heaven.
This passage also supports that last phrase of vs. 16, “everyone is forcing his way into it, (i.e., the Kingdom of God).” Remember, this positive used negatively spoke of the Pharisees trying to forcefully gain entrance into the Kingdom through their human good works. They were trying to enter the Kingdom in a radical manner by their radical acts of human good works. Yet, to enter the Kingdom of God, it requires a renouncing of self and dedication to God through faith. It is the opposite of the hypocrisy the Pharisees were living in, which Jesus was attacking. Instead, they had to take their eyes off of themselves and their love of money, and focus on God and His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, as the parallel in Mat 11:12-15, was emphasizing.
Mat 11:14-15, “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. 15He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Finally, this phrase about not, “one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail,” also sets up the next passage that Jesus spoke regarding divorce according to the Law given to Moses. As the fourth saying serves as an example of the permanent force of the Law.
Luke 16:18, “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.”
This identifies the permanent force of the Law, as Jesus added one more reference to make His point even more forceful about correct attitudes in relation to money and God. “Here the Lord calls to mind the most intimate and fundamental of relationships. He views marriage as a stewardship. How we manage or care for that relationship matters to God.” (Christ-Centered Exposition.)
“Divorces,” is the Greek verb APOLUO that means, “release, let go, send away, dismiss, divorce, depart, etc.” The Hebrew equivalent is SHALACH. The technical/legal Hebrew word is KERITHUTH that means, “divorce, dismissal, or bill of divorcement,” Deut 24:1, 3; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8. The Greek equivalent is APOSTASION, Mat 5:31; 19:7; 10:4.
APOLUO or divorce is a release from legal obligations in regard to the marriage between a husband and wife. This release of legal obligation was also given in the OT, to identify the lawfulness to remarry if one was divorced. As we see in this verse, if one divorces his or her spouse and gets remarried, they are committing adultery. See Deut 24:1-3; Mat 5:31-32; 19:1-9; Mark 10:2-12; 1 Cor 7:10-11.
Mat 5:31-32, “It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; 32but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, (PORNEIA, πορνεία – fornication, prostitution, illicit intercourse, habitual sexual immorality, etc.), makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
In this case, PORNEIA cannot mean “fornication.” because that is technically sex between two unmarried people. Therefore, PORNEIA here is any illicit sexual intercourse or habitual sexual immorality, which can include adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, pornography, pedophilia, etc. These things are forbidden by God, especially for the married person because Heb 13:4, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
Interestingly, PORNEIA was also used in the ancient Greek for idolatry, (cheating on God as it were), that involves economic and social “adultery” against God, Jer 3:8, cf. Rev 17:2, 4ff.; 18:3. Therefore, when Jesus brought up this one aspect of the Law, He was speaking of the Pharisees’ adultery against God, their idolatry being lovers of money, among other things.
Also, PORNEIA meaning, “habitual sexual immorality or illicit sex,” is closely related to MOICHEIA, “adultery,” in Mat 15:19; Mark 7:21, and both come from the heart.
Mat 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”
This links us to vs. 15, the “detestable things or abominations,” to God. Therefore, PORNEIA is an abomination to God and because of it He reluctantly allowed it to be the main grounds for divorce with the ability for the innocent party to remarry without it being adultery. The other two grounds for technical divorce with the ability to remarry are the death of the spouse, or in the case of an unbelieving husband or wife abandoning their believing wife or husband.
“Commits adultery,” is the Verb MOICHEUO in the Present, Active, Indicative. It is used twice in this verse for the husband who divorces his wife, or vice versa, (for grounds other than death, abandonment, or PORNEIA), and remarries (GAMEO), and for someone who marries a divorced person, (i.e., the innocent party). In our passage, both instances put the onus on the man/husband as the one who is committing adultery, whether they remarry after being divorced or marry a woman who has been divorced. Mat 5:32, also puts the man as the one who causes his divorced wife to commit adultery if she remarries. In 1 Cor 7:10-11, Paul gave instructions from the Lord that the innocent divorced woman should not remarry, but can be reconciled to her husband. Likewise, the husband is commanded not to divorce his wife.
Yet, this institution was virtually erased from the OT with the Pharisees’ self-serving rules. The Mishnah preserved the oral tradition of the rabbis, yet following one of their hero Pharisees, Hillel, who lived shortly before Christ, they created reasons for easily divorcing their wives. The Pharisees, who favored the teaching of Hillel, said that marriage could be created on a whim and dissolved just as frivolously. For example:
1) By causing her husband to eat food that had not been first tithed.
2) By not keeping a temple vow.
3) By walking in public with her hair loose (down).
4) By flirting with a man.
5) By being noisy, so that neighbors can hear her arguing.
6) If the man found a woman who was more beautiful.
Therefore, they knew full well what they were doing by allowing divorce that was outside of the boundaries of the Law. As such, Jesus did not need a long discourse to prove His point. He merely referred to the marriage / divorce issue and their ridiculous dismantling of God’s design and God’s Word. As a result, the Pharisees wisely shut their mouths, at least for the moment, as He proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the Pharisees subordinated the Word of God to serve their own desires.
Marriage as taught in the NT, is founded upon God’s Word and purpose, not upon the customs of man. Both Jesus and Paul taught about marriage in relation to God in His role as Creator, Mat 19:3-6; Eph 5:31, cf. Gen 2:24. God intends that men and women who join in marriage do so for life, and He has always intended that since the creation of mankind, Gen 2:24, cf. Rom 7:1-4; 1 Cor 7:39. As noted above, although the Law permitted divorce, this was not because God intended it to be; rather, it was because of the “hardness of people’s hearts,” and their inability or refusal to reconcile with each other. Originally, God did not want divorce, Mat 19:8, and the only grounds Jesus allowed for divorce was PORNEIA, “fornication, adultery, or sexual immorality,” Mat 19:9, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
The interesting thing about Jesus stating this here was that He was not addressing the issue of marriage between a man and a woman, per se, but was addressing the marriage of Israel and God, which the Pharisees represented in this case. In fact, the laws about divorce are really about the laws for lawful remarriage. If there was a divorce, the only lawful reason for remarriage on the part of either spouse was because of death of the husband or wife, or a divorce due to sexual immorality where the innocent party could remarry, but not the guilty party. Likewise, in 1 Cor 7:15, if an unbelieving husband or wife leaves/abandons/divorces the believing husband or wife, the believing partner can get remarried lawfully.
Nevertheless, all of this was to make a point to the Pharisees that their love of money had caused them to divorce their first husband, God. Because of their lust / love of money, it led them to all kinds of inordinate behavior, which was developed over the years because of their acceptance of the man-made religious edicts they had created regarding the Law of God. They had turned it into a system of works for salvation, with the ability to parlay the tithes and offerings into riches, wealth, power, and prestige for themselves. They liked what they had and did not want to lose it. As such, when the Messiah was presented to them, they were so blinded by their love of money and all that went with it that they refused to see the Christ in the person of Jesus.
“Divorce would have been a vivid example of the pharisaic attitude toward the Law; they were always looking for a way to get around it. As developed already, the main teaching of Jesus was that of maintaining a right relationship to God and to men. This was the true purpose of the Law. Divorce was an example of how this concept could be twisted, and yet retain the appearance of legality. The Jews could easily divorce their wives (Deuteronomy 24:1), but to do so was a striking example of disregard for one’s relationship to God and to his fellow man (Matthew 5:32, 19:3-9).” (Complete Biblical Library Commentary.)
Therefore, this is the scenario of “you cannot serve two masters,” from vs. 13. Because they were serving money, they were divorcing themselves from God and committing adultery against Him by going after money. They were now married to the divorcée called money, (which in this case, speaks to Satan and his cosmic system as well, who was previously divorced from God, i.e., their husband). Therefore, they are now committing adultery. In these cases, adultery is equivalent to idolatry, as money and wealth is what they were truly worshiping. As such, their actions of lusting for money was detestable / an abomination to God. This is what the rich man in our day is warned about and must be extremely cautious not to enter into, because if they are an unbeliever, they too, like the Pharisees, will not come to salvation. And, if they are already a believer, they will be committing idolatry, which is detestable / an abomination to God, which will result in Divine disciple and loss of blessings and rewards.
Nevertheless, we also see God’s grace in all of this, as God was willing to forgive their sin of adultery, just as He does with man, so that if they would believe upon His Son Jesus Christ as their Savior, they would be joined to God forever. This also has implications for the Church Age believer, as we have died to sin and the Law, and now are joined to / remarried to Christ forever, Rom 6:1-23; 7:1-6.
“Jesus speaks into that culture to remind us that we don’t steward only possessions, but we steward relationships as well. Though we live in a fallen world where marriages end for all kinds of reasons—sometimes good ones and sometimes despite the best effort of one spouse—God intends our marriages to be lifelong. He intends us to steward that relationship until the very end, the way Christ cares for his bride until the end. If we won’t steward the blessing of marriage but live adulterously, then we shouldn’t think we can steward the blessing of riches and live faithfully. We should not convince ourselves that we will be faithful to our covenant with God if we express covenant disloyalty in relationship with our spouse.” (Christ-Centered Exposition.)
“If “money” is your primary goal, then the kingdom of God is not. And your choices will reflect your priorities. Fortunately, most decision-making opportunities do not force us to choose between “money” and the kingdom of God. Generally speaking, moral choices are the best way to make money and please God. Obedience to the law and honest dealings are not only right, but they also pay good dividends—usually. Sometimes, however, the choice is not so simple. Sometimes doing what is right leads to suffering or requires us to sacrifice worldly success. And that’s when we come face-to-face with an ugly truth: We typically make decisions that serve the interests of “money” and then feel relieved when our choices also happen to be morally right. The Lord’s parable asks the rhetorical question, “What choice will you make when the interests of ‘money’ and the kingdom of God conflict? Which master will you serve when kingdom living doesn’t get you ahead in the world?” Citizens of God’s kingdom side with integrity, even when it hurts.” (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary.)
“We can’t fool God. God doesn’t love what we love. His Word stands forever. So all who call themselves “Christians,” “disciples,” or “stewards” must obey God. Is there any area of your life where you trick others into thinking you’re religious but the truth is something different? Have you soberly considered that God knows your heart and can’t be fooled? Is there an area of our life where we think God must be pleased with us or with something we’re doing simply because it pleases us? Have we considered that that area or thing, if it’s contrary to God’s Word, is revolting in God’s sight? Have we been thinking God’s commands no longer apply to our life or that we do not have to obey God? Let us be suspicious of any notion that it’s okay to disobey God. Finally, how are you stewarding your relationships in your home, in the church, and in the community? Do we manage our relationships in a way that demonstrates we are God’s servants?” (Christ-Centered Exposition.)
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