Luke 16:15 (NIV)
15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.
On verse 15: What does it mean to “justify yourselves in the eyes of men”? To justify yourself means to do things or say things with the goal of showing God or others how good, righteous and godly you are.
The Pharisees were famous for justifying themselves. They would boast about the things they had done as a way to show how spiritual they were. They would even point to their wealth as evidence that they were righteous in God’s sight. That is why just prior to this verse Jesus speaks against the Pharisees’ love of money.
Today people try to justify themselves also, whether they realize it or not. For example, when I ask people whether they think they will go to heaven when they die, the conversation will often go like this:
– “Do you think you will go to heaven one day when you die?”
– “Yes, I think so.”
– “Why do you think so?”
– “Because I’m a good person. I don’t try to hurt anybody. I try to do what is right. I help others when I can. I give to charity.”
When a person begins to list a resume of good deeds to show that they deserve to go to heaven, that is a classic case of justifying oneself. Yet, as Jesus says, God knows our hearts (v15). God knows that no matter how good we make ourselves out to be, we will never meet God’s perfect standards. In the end we are imperfect sinners in desperate need of a Saviour. As Romans 3:23-24, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” We will never be able to successfully justify ourselves. Only through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us can we truly be justified.
When we in our pride attempt to justify ourselves and show God or others how deserving we think we are of God’s approval, what we are doing and what we are highly valuing is “detestable in God’s sight”.
Luke 16:16-17 (NIV)
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 his 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.
On verses 16-17: Prior to John the Baptist’s ministry, what the Jewish people had was “The Law and the Prophets”. The Law and the Prophets consisted of God’s law, which required perfect obedience to God’s commands, as well as God’s prophets which were pointing to the day that God would send a Saviour (a Messiah) to save the people from their failure to perfectly obey God’s law. With John the Baptist’s arrival, people could now be pointed to “the good news of the kingdom of God”, which is that Jesus Christ is the Messiah whom the Law and the Prophets had been anticipating.
When Jesus says “and everyone is forcing his way into” (v16b) the kingdom of God, he could mean that many people were imposing their own theories on what was required to enter God’s kingdom. In verse 17 Jesus upholds the importance and relevance of God’s law that, no matter what we think or would like to think about how a person is saved or gets to heaven, God’s laws will always be important and relevant and are unchanging.
Luke 16:18 (NIV)
18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
On verse 18: As an example of God’s unchanging laws and the need to respect them, here Jesus talks about how seriously God looks at marriage and divorce. Contrary to the culture of Jesus’ day where men would try to divorce their wives for superficial or selfish reasons, here as well as elsewhere in Scripture Jesus upholds marriage as a sacred institution that should not be torn apart by divorce.
Luke 16:19-31 (NIV)
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores
21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.
26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house,
28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”
On verses 19-31: There are a number of things we can learn from this parable:
1. In Jesus’ day there were those who taught that material wealth was a sign of a person’s righteousness and that financial poverty was a sign that a person was a sinner far from God. Yet here in Jesus’ story we find a rich man in hell and a homeless person in heaven. Jesus was showing, contrary to what others taught in Jesus’ day, that material wealth does not indicate that a person is righteous before God just as financial poverty does not indicate that a person is unacceptable in God’s sight.
2. Heaven and hell are real places. Hell is a place of torment and agony (v23-25).
3. Those in hell will not be able to cross over to heaven, and those in heaven will not be able to cross over to hell (v26). Thus it is crucial that we place our trust in Jesus and His saving work at the cross during our time on earth. Don’t wait until it is too late to trust in Jesus. Let’s do it while we still can.
4. God has given us sufficient evidence by which to place our faith in Him (v29). When people appear before God, “not having enough evidence” will not be an excuse for not believing in Him.
5. In verses 27-31 Jesus was alluding to his own resurrection. But, as verse 31 suggests, Jesus was also fully aware that though he would rise from the dead and appear before many people including his critics, many would remain hard-hearted, closed-minded and stubborn and refuse to believe in him. Faith is as much a heart and humility issue as it is a matter of miracles and evidence. A person can be presented with the most compelling evidence and the most amazing miracles, but if that person’s heart is hard and prideful, not even the most compelling evidence or the most incredible miracles will convince that person.
Heavenly Father, instead of me hopelessly trying to justify myself by my own good deeds, thank You for sending Jesus Christ so that I could have a perfect Saviour to hope in. Thank You that by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am justified, forgiven, accepted and brought near to You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!