Sermon: The Deadly Practice of Grading Yourself on a Curve (Luke 16:14-18)

Luke 16.14-18AUDIO

Luke 16:14-18

The Deadly Practice of Grading Yourself on a Curve

Introduction

Many of you remember in school not doing as well as you’d hoped on a particular test or quiz.  Occasionally, if the class as a whole did either poorly or not quite up to par, the teacher would add points to bring the overall class avg. up to where it should have been.  This is a dreadful practice.  Looking back, I liked it while in school but now I see the real issue wasn’t with the exam but with my commitment to study and prepare for the exam.  Curving the grades is basically saying, there is nothing wrong with the students; it was the test that was too hard.  Usually, it is the students who are not prepared.

Through these kinds of practices, we can grow up expecting the standard to be adjusted to us rather than us conforming to the standard.  God’s Law, found in the Old Testament, is the standard.  We must be very careful to work with God and conform to His standard rather than adjusting the Laws of God to conform to us.  God does not grade on a curve. 

Today, we’re shown a group of religious people who were grading themselves on a curve.  It’s one thing when someone else grades you on a curve but it gets infinitely worse when you begin to grade yourself that way.  When this happens, the sky is the limit.  There are no boundaries set and you create for yourself a license to sin and you can reason by way of this curve that God even approves it.

Please hear God’s Word for us today at Grace Community Church…

Lk 16:14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.

Lk 16:15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Lk 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.

Lk 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

Lk 16:18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Father, use Your unchanging eternal Law to conform us to the image of Christ.

1. Those Who Love Money More Than Jesus (16:14)

Lk 16:14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.

They heard Him teach as he told the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.  They heard Him as He taught His disciples about the way in which a follower should be as shrewd toward eternal things as the children of the world are with their goods.  At the end of the day, their grumbling turned to mocking and ridicule.  In ridiculing Him, they disassociate themselves from Him completely.  Not only that, but their goal is to discredit Him in front of His would be followers.

Luke, the writer, places a parenthetical comment in here.  The Pharisees, who were lovers of money.  Based on all Jesus has been teaching, this really speaks volumes.  Last week Jesus concluded with the fact that if you treasure money you do not treasure God.

Lk 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Brothers and sisters, we must avoid the trap of the devil that says you can play in both fields…you can pursue money and God; you can love money and God at the same time.  Luke makes the point clear here in this verse the Pharisees loved money not God.

What God wants us to see here is that if your heart’s affections are fixed on money then the teaching of Christ will seem foolish and absurd to you.  We read Luke 16:13 and see the truth and logic of Jesus in this verse; they saw it as absurdity and ridiculed Jesus for it.

How do you view those hard teachings of Jesus?  Do you seek to live by them or do you change their meaning in your mind into something not quite as demanding?  So is the practice of one who loves money more than Jesus.

2.  Those Who Love Man’s Justification More Than God’s (16:15)

Lk 16:15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Their allegiance has been discovered.  Worldly things have their affections.  They love money and they love man’s praise.  They want people to look up to them and admire them for their religion.  Their purpose in life was to secure man’s approval over God’s approval.

Luke rightly called them lovers of money, their first overarching characteristic.  Jesus gives us their second; they were self-justifiers.  Their two overarching habitual traits were, they loved money and loved to justify themselves.

Literally, Jesus tells them, You are those who justify you but God knows you…

Here’s the picture of what was going on with the Pharisees: They had committed a crime and removed the true judge from the bench and placed themselves as judge.  The true judge would have declared their guilt and sentenced them appropriately.  However, in their system, they had removed the Law of God by reducing it to manmade rules whereby they could acquit themselves of all charges.

Their guilt was manipulating the Law of God by not teaching it correctly and by finding loopholes for their own benefit.  In so doing they had placed themselves over God and His Law and declared themselves sovereign.

Jesus nails it down for us when He very accurately declares that the very things they loved so dearly…namely, money, worldly wealth and fame, and self justification God absolutely detests… For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Abomination– Hatred of an extreme nature.  If there are degrees to God’s hatred of sin, these things are way at the end of the scale.

These religious leaders were opposed to God.  What they loved, God hated, namely, idolatry and self-justification and what God loved, they hated, namely justification by grace through faith.

These Pharisees were just as wicked in their idolatry as the worshippers of Baal on Mount Carmel—Ligon Duncan

Are you a Christian because you seek man’s approval?  Are you a Christian because you think people will think better of you because of your character traits?  Are you a Christian because you want others to like you?  We can trust old so and so he goes to church every Sunday.  What happens at work when being a Christian causes you to have to stand up for something and be unpopular?  The Pharisees would never do that.  Those who’s Christianity is simply surface convenient morals will not either.

Do you praise God for the Gospel?  Those who seek man’s approval become squeamish concerning the Gospel because to affirm the Gospel means one has to admit they are a sinner and for someone seeking self justification, this goes directly against their pretend game of being righteous on their own.

I pray we all love the Gospel and praise God for it.

3.  Those Who Exchange God’s Law for Man-made Rules (16:16-18)

Lk 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.

Lk 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

Lk 16:18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

I want to introduce this last point by teaching very briefly on the Law of God.  If we are to discover Christ’s deep teaching in this section, we must understand that the moral Law of God is as binding on the New Testament Church as it was on Israel.

John Calvin in his Institutes asks the question: What are the Ten Commandments to us? (Book 2, Chapter 8).  He answers by explaining that the moral Law of God is obvious, binding, and severe.  It is God’s minimum expectation of His people.  Because Adam sinned, no one has been able to keep the Law but because God is altogether Holy and Righteous He cannot lessen any of the Law’s demands.  God doesn’t grade on a curve.  According to Calvin, it is this unforgiving moral Law that shows God’s complete holiness and our desperate need of a Mediator…One who has kept the Law perfectly, namely, Jesus Christ.

With that background, lets proceed.

Now the contrast Luke sets up for us goes like this: In Chapter 15 Jesus’ ministry and teaching is called into question as the Pharisees grumble because He receives sinners and eats with them.  That prompted our Lord to tell three consecutive parables each showing that what the Pharisees grumble about causes heaven to rejoice.  Now, they have moved to the next phase of their attempt to discredit Him, they begin to ridicule Him, His teaching and ministry.  The ground on which they are making these claims has to do with their traditions not on God’s actual Law.

Now Jesus wants His disciples to see that what He has been teaching is God’s Law, but it is, in fact, the Pharisees who are not in step with God.  Jesus justifies His practices by insisting that, beginning with John, the Gospel of the Kingdom is being preached.  It is not that the moral Law given in the OT is now null and void but that through Christ we are taught the true Law and it is through Christ that we are set free from the curse of the Law.

Lk 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

Gal 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

Gal 3:24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

Gal 3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,

Gal 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

The Pharisees had the habitual creative practice of finding loopholes in God’s law.  One such practice centered on a husband divorcing his wife.  In ancient days, a Hebrew man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever.  An example is given in ancient writings of a Pharisee divorcing his wife for burning dinner.  Another example is where a man felt his wife wasn’t as attractive as she once was so he divorced her.

Jesus brings this up so that He could show them how far they had strayed from God’s true moral Law.

As we read the Bible we are confronted with God’s moral Law.  That is the standard for us.  We must never believe that God’s Law is relaxed in any way.  It is still the standard for us.  Jesus teaches us here that there will never be a time when God’s Law becomes void or obsolete.  In our Lord’s own words,  Lk 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

As long as we are standing on this earth or as long as heaven exists, God’s Law stands as the standard for all believers, those in the OT Church and those in the NT Church.

Dt 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house,

Dt 24:2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife,

Dt 24:3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife,

Dt 24:4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

The Pharisees had interpreted this to mean that a man could write his wife a certificate of divorce over anything… because he has found some indecency in her.

The Pharisees had distanced themselves from the very Law they claimed to uphold.  They failed in wealth…they loved money more than God.  They failed in Fornication as they divorced their wives and taught others to do the same.  Both of these are called an abomination before God.  Their hearts chased after the things God called an abomination.  They grumbled when heaven rejoiced.  And they ridiculed the very Son of God as He called men and women to repentance.

The great irony of it all we’ll see in Chapter 18 when in the temple what the Pharisee thanks God because he is not like other men, are the very things Jesus condemns them for.

They were guilty of exchanging God’s Law for man-made rules.  God’s Law was to drive worshippers to repentance and faith which were what the tax collectors and sinners were doing, but man-made rules were a form of religion that served as a made up or pretend way man could keep rules in order to be justified before man.

As we continue reading through the Bible pay attention and learn all God requires of us.  Strive to uphold every dot of the Law of God and if you should fail at some point thank God for sending His only Son, Jesus Christ our Great and Perfect Mediator who never failed in keeping all of God’s Law for us.

Are we ever guilty of looking to man’s ideas or methods and equating them with God’s Word?  Do we ever think we are really not all that sinful?  Do we think that somehow God will grade us on a curve?

I pray we see the Law of God and work toward keeping it.  When we fail always remember we have a Perfect Mediator and Savior Jesus Christ.

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