Does God care what is popular or fashionable among men? Will God change His mind or judgment so as to be accepted by men? Should we be more concerned of the approval of men or the acceptance of God?
Jesus told the disciples: “10 He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? 12 And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” 14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. 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” (Luke 16:10-15).
If we do not make a right use of the gifts of God’s providence, how can we expect from him those present and future comforts which are the gifts of his spiritual grace? Our Saviour here compares these, and shows that though our faithful use of the things of this world cannot be thought to merit any favour at the hand of God, yet our unfaithfulness in the use of them may be justly reckoned a forfeiture of that grace which is necessary to bring us to glory, and that is it which our Saviour here shows, v 10-14.
[1.] The riches of this world are the less; grace and glory are the greater. Now if we be unfaithful in the less, if we use the things of this world to other purposes than those for which they were given us, it may justly be feared that we should be so in the gifts of God’s grace, that we should receive them also in vain, and therefore they will be denied us: He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much. He that serves God, and does good, with his money, will serve God, and do good, with the more noble and valuable talents of wisdom and grace, and spiritual gifts, and the earnests of heaven; but he that buries the one talent of this world’s wealth will never improve the five talents of spiritual riches. God withholds his grace from covetous worldly people more than we are aware of. [2.] The riches of this world are deceitful and uncertain; they are the unrighteous mammon, which is hastening from us apace, and, if we would make any advantage of it, we must bestir ourselves quickly; if we do not, how can we expect to be entrusted with spiritual riches, which are the only true riches? v. 11. Let us be convinced of this, that those are truly rich, and very rich, who are rich in faith, and rich towards God, rich in Christ, in the promises, and in the earnests of heaven; and therefore let us lay up our treasure in them, expect our portion from them, and mind them in the first place, the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof, and then, if other things be added to us, use them in ordine ad spiritualia—with a spiritual reference, so that by using them well we may take the faster hold of the true riches, and may be qualified to receive yet more grace from God; for God giveth to a man that is good in his sight, that is, to a free-hearted charitable man, wisdom, and knowledge, and joy (cf. Eccl. 2:26). [3.] The riches of this world are another man’s. They are ta allotria, not our own; for they are foreign to the soul and its nature and interest. They are not our own; for they are God’s; his title to them is prior and superior to ours; the property remains in him, we are but usufructuaries. They are another man’s; we have them from others; we use them for others, and what good has the owner from his goods that increase, save the beholding of them with his eyes, while still they are increased that eat them; and we must shortly leave them to others, and we know not to whom? But spiritual and eternal riches are our own (they enter into the soul that becomes possessed of them) and inseparably; they are a good part that will never be taken away from us. If we make Christ our own, and the promises our own, and heaven our own, we have that which we may truly call our own. But how can we expect God should enrich us with these if we do not serve him with our worldly possessions, of which we are but stewards?
We have no other way to prove ourselves the servants of God than by giving up ourselves so entirely to his service as to make mammon, that is, all our worldly gain, serviceable to us in his service (v. 13): No servant can serve two masters, whose commands are so inconsistent as those of God and mammon are. If a man will love the world, and hold to that, it cannot be but he will hate God and despise him. He will make all his pretensions of religion truckle to his secular interests and designs, and the things of God shall be made to help him in serving and seeking the world. But, on the other hand, if a man will love God, and adhere to him, he will comparatively hate the world (whenever God and the world come in competition) and will despise it, and make all his business and success in the world some way or other conducive to his furtherance in the business of religion; and the things of the world shall be made to help him in serving God and working out his salvation. The matter is here laid plainly before us: You cannot serve both God and mammon. So divided are their interests that their services can never be compounded. If therefore we be determined to serve God, we must disclaim and abjure the service of the world.
We are here told what entertainment this doctrine of Christ met with among the Pharisees, and what rebuke he gave them. (1.) They wickedly ridiculed him, v. 14. The Pharisees, who were covetous, heard all these things, and could not contradict him, but they derided him. Let us consider this, [1.] As their sin, and the fruit of their covetousness, which was their reigning sin, their own iniquity. Note, Many that make a great profession of religion, have much knowledge, and abound in the exercise of devotion, are yet ruined by the love of the world; nor does any thing harden the heart more against the word of Christ. These covetous Pharisees could not bear to have that touched, which was their Delilah, their darling lust; for this they derided him, exemykterizon auton —they snuffled up their noses at him, or blew their noses on him. It is an expression of the utmost scorn and disdain imaginable; the word of the Lord was to them a reproach (cf. Jer. 6:10). They laughed at him for going so contrary to the opinion and way of the world, for endeavouring to recover them from a sin which they were resolved to hold fast. Note, It is common for those to make a jest of the word of God who are resolved that they will not be ruled by it; but they will find at last that it cannot be turned off so. [2.] As his suffering. Our Lord Jesus endured not only the contradiction of sinners, but their contempt; they had him in derision all the day. He that spoke as never man spoke was bantered and ridiculed, that his faithful ministers, whose preaching is unjustly derided, may not be disheartened at it. It is no disgrace to a man to be laughed at, but to deserve to be laughed at. Christ’s apostles were mocked, and no wonder; the disciple is not greater than his Lord.
He justly reproved them; not for deriding him (he knew how to despise the shame ), but for deceiving themselves with the shows and colours of piety, when they were strangers to the power of it, v. 15. Here is,
[1.] Their specious outside; nay, it was a splendid one. First, They justified themselves before men; they denied whatever ill was laid to their charge, even by Christ himself. They claimed to be looked upon as men of singular sanctity and devotion, and justified themselves in that claim: “You are they that do that, so as none ever did, that make it your business to court the opinion of men, and, right or wrong, will justify yourselves before the world; you are notorious for this.’’ Secondly, They were highly esteemed among men. Men did not only acquit them from any blame they were under, but applauded them, and had them in veneration, not only as good men, but as the best of men. Their sentiments were esteemed as oracles, their directions as laws, and their practices as inviolable prescriptions.
[2.] Their odious inside, which was under the eye of God: “He knows your heart, and it is in his sight an abomination; for it is full of all manner of wickedness.’’ Note, First, It is folly to justify ourselves before men, and to think this enough to bear us out, and bring us off, in the judgment of the great day, that men know no ill of us; for God, who knows our hearts, knows that ill of us which no one else can know. This ought to check our value for ourselves, and our confidence in ourselves, that God knows our hearts, and how much deceit is there, for we have reason to abase and distrust ourselves. Secondly, It is folly to judge of persons and things by the opinion of men concerning them, and to go down with the stream of vulgar estimate; for that which is highly esteemed among men, who judge according to outward appearance, is perhaps an abomination in the sight of God, who sees things as they are, and whose judgment, we are sure, is according to truth (cf. Rom 2:1-3). On the contrary, there are those whom men despise and condemn who yet are accepted and approved of God (cf. 2 Cor 10:18).
Let us ask God to change our hearts and minds so that we may be accepted and approved of Him: