Ridiculing Jesus

“The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him” (Luke 16:14).  

If we give Luke credit for writing a coherent narrative, we must conclude “these things” refers to the teaching in the first half of Luke 16. The Pharisees were ridiculing Jesus for his teaching about using the wealth of this age with an eye on eternity. It is not surprising the Pharisees found Jesus’s teaching ridiculous. They were, after all, “lovers of money,” as Luke plainly says. Think about what this means. As lovers of money, the Pharisees regarded money–and the comfort and security it affords–as their greatest good. In their minds and hearts, the good life consisted in an abundance of possessions. This stands in stark contrast to Jesus’s words to his disciples after they found him in conversation with the woman at the well: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Jesus understood the good life to consist of joyful obedience to his Father. The Pharisees, on the other hand, saw obedience to the Father as the price of obtaining true good: an abundance material goods. Like the older son in “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” they obeyed the Father only to get the Father’s stuff. Thus, they found Jesus’s teaching on using money to serve God rather than using God to serve money to be utterly ridiculous. “Why shouldn’t we use our money to please ourselves? After all, the pleasures afforded by money are the whole reason we were serving God in the first place.”

I find this verse incredibly challenging. At first, I was shocked by the Pharisees’ temerity. Who do they think they are to ridicule Jesus? I may not always obey Jesus, but I would never dare to ridicule him. Or so I would like to think. However, the longer I meditate upon this verse, the more I see myself in the Pharisees. I too am a lover of money. I too believe the good life consists in an abundance of possessions. I too endeavor to obey, not to enjoy sweet fellowship with my heavenly Father, but to secure a generous blessing of material goods. I may not openly ridicule Jesus’s teaching on money, but I must find his words ridiculous given the ease with which I dismiss them.

What would it mean for me to use the wealth entrusted to my care with an eye on eternity? What would it mean for me to use my money to serve God instead of using God to serve money? I must have good, detailed, practical answers to these questions. This is not a concern only for elite disciples. Jesus says plainly, “You cannot serve God and money.” “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth [i.e. the wealth of this age], who will entrust to you the true riches?” The person who serves money, is not a servant of God. The person who uses the wealth of this age to serve himself, will not be given the true riches of the age to come. Therefore, I must take heed of Jesus’s teaching and allow it to transform the way I handle my money. To do anything less is to ridicule Jesus.

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