One major problem of the Pharisees was that they were so self-righteous. They were so proud of keeping every little rule there was that they couldn’t see the sin that was so obviously there in their lives. And when their sin was pointed out, they found ways to justify themselves and their actions.
So Jesus told 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. (15)
In this case, Jesus was condemning them for their love of money. The Pharisees, as I mentioned in the last blog, justified this love by saying, “But this is God’s blessing for my being so righteous.”
Yet in their hearts, money had become their idol. They loved it more than God. The only thing they perhaps loved more than money was the praise of those around them. So when they “generously” gave to the needy around them, they made sure to let everyone know about it.
But though these things may be highly valued by people, Jesus said they are detestable in God’s sight. Money and the praise of others are not bad in themselves, of course. But when they become the purpose for our lives, when they become our gods, then they become a stumbling block in our relationship with God.
The Pharisees found other ways to justify their actions. They placed burdens on the people with all their rules and regulations that they added to the law of God, all the while finding loopholes for themselves, and patting themselves on the back for finding them.
Jesus pointed out one example in their ideas on adultery. Certain Pharisees, in order to get around the law against adultery, divorced their wives in order to marry other women. But Jesus told them,
Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (18)
The worst thing they did, however, was disassociating themselves from “sinners” instead of reaching out to them. They used the law as an excuse to condemn people instead of trying to save them, and in doing so, they shut the door to the kingdom in people’s faces. (Matthew 23:13)
Even so, Jesus said people were forcing their way past the Pharisees into the kingdom of God. The very people that the Pharisees rejected were being touched by Jesus and were pressing their way past the Pharisees and their legalistic rules into the kingdom. (Luke 16:16)
How about you? What’s in your heart? Are you outwardly righteous, when all the while you’re justifying the evil in your heart?
Are you so self-righteous that you can’t see the evil in your heart?
Let us not be blind as the Pharisees were. Rather, let us ask Jesus to remove the scales that blind us to the sin in our lives, and to tear down the walls of pride that would keep us from him.