Devotion for the Week...
Jesus' teachings sometimes went against what the religious leaders of His day believed and taught. On one occasion, they overheard Him teaching His disciples and openly sneered at Him. Jesus had just finished explaining a parable and ended with the words, "You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13), which was met with their sneers. What was Jesus' response to them?
"The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight" (Luke 16:14,15).
I find it interesting that He calls them 'the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others.' That suggests to me that the Pharisees were very concerned with what people thought of them. They used their money, their influence and their position to make others think well of them, to make people believe that they were good people. It didn't matter what they did, so long as they could make others believe that they were doing the right thing, for the right reasons. In public relations, it's called 'spin' - interpreting things in such a way that you influence public opinion.
But what others think of us really doesn't matter! It is what God thinks of us that matters, and the Pharisees were too busy worrying about their image to think about how God viewed their actions. "But God knows your hearts," Jesus told them. The same is true for us, of course. God's opinion of us isn't influenced by the spin we put on things. He knows our real motives, and our real attitudes. He knows what really happened. Whether or not that is a worrisome thought depends on how heavily we rely on spin to influence how people see us.
The phrase, "what people value highly is detestable in God's sight" is significant too. On the one hand, since the conversation had been about money, Jesus could be referring to money, and mankind's ever present desire to have more and more and more of it. Or He could be referring to our desire to have people like us, no matter what the cost (materially or spiritually). Either way, God doesn't value things the way the world does.
In light of that fact, we need to carefully examine our own hearts and attitudes. Are we putting too much into the quest for wealth or popularity? Are we sacrificing God's good opinion of us in exchange for people's good opinion? It isn't wrong to want people to think well of us, but are we keeping the proper perspective?