What Was the Sin of the Pharisees?

07 Dec
Unjust Steward - 1

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While Jesus was teaching his disciples the Parable of the Unjust Steward, the Pharisees were listening to what he had been saying, and they ridiculed him (Luke 16:14; cf. Psalms 123:4; Proverbs 1:22). Why would they do that? What did they see in Jesus’ parable that offended them? Without saying that the Pharisees and rabbis understood the parable completely, they probably would have been able to understand that the rich man was God. Moreover, from this deduction, it wouldn’t have been difficult to understand that the steward whom the rich man rejected must point to the Jewish authorities in that day. Therefore, they ridiculed Jesus’ teaching.

Luke tells us in Luke 16:14 that they were covetous (philarguros – G5366). This Greek word has a relationship with lover of money (philarguria – G5365) and / or lover of self (philautos – G5367). Jesus seems to make it clear how we are to understand the word by saying the Pharisees declared themselves to be or worked toward the end to be seen as righteous in the sight of men. Although they may have been covetous of material wealth, after all, wealth was considered a blessing from God, I believe the intended meaning of covetous (G5366) in the text was they coveted the honor they would receive if thought to be righteous by those they sought to impress.

The common folk of Jesus’ day looked upon the Pharisees as honorable men (Luke 16:15). Nevertheless, just as the unjust steward in the parable had done, they were men who changed the Law (bill of indebtedness in the parable) for their own advantage (cf. Luke 16:4-7). They preached against the claims of Jesus and thereby kept ordinary folks from trusting him (Matthew 23:13). They evangelized the world, making disciples, but not to God. Rather, it was for themselves that they labored to influence men (Matthew 23:15; cf. Luke 16:4-7). They gathered men to themselves in order to add to their own power and wealth. Thus, they caused their disciples to imitate the Pharisaical worldview, and in doing so men declared their loyalty to them rather than God (Luke 16:8). They justified themselves in the sight of men, so that they appeared righteous, yet their hearts were an abomination to God (Luke 16:15).

The Law and the Prophets, or the Old Covenant, had been preached until Jesus’ day, but since that time the Kingdom of God has been preached, showing that while one age was ending, a new age was beginning. Everyone was seeking in one way or another to enter into that new age (the Kingdom of God). Nevertheless, Jesus had been telling folks to strive to enter in by him, rather than by another means (cf. Luke 13:24). So, the sin of the unjust steward, and that of the Pharisees (and other Jewish authorities) one sin. That is, they were united in their effort to gain the hearts and minds of those who are indebted to God to the end that they the Pharisees and other Jewish authorities would benefit of the office of a steward of God without having that authority from God.

In Luke 16:16-18 it almost seems like Jesus was getting off track by simply stating truisms that have no relation to what he had been preaching up to this point, but this is not so. In Luke 16:17 Jesus claimed that it was easier for the heaven and earth (the Old Covenant) to pass away than for any part of the word of God to fail, for it was the word of God that brought the that covenant into existence. What he meant by this is, that, just as the servant in the Parable of the Unjust Steward had done in forgiving folks’ indebtedness to the rich man (Luke 16:4-7), the Pharisees had done through their Oral Law, or the traditions of the elders. They had made the word of God of no effect at all in people’s lives, because they required the people to serve the Pharisees’ worldview, as expressed in their Oral Law (cf. Matthew 15:4-6).

This very matter is expressed in Luke 16:18, where Jesus states that by the word of God men and women should not divorce, because in doing so they broke the Law of God. Moreover, by marrying another they continued deeper into sin against the vow they made before God. Yet, the Pharisees claimed a man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever (cf. Matthew 19:3, 7).

The point of all this is that the Jewish leaders, rather than enforcing the Law of God and magnifying the people’s indebtedness to their Lord, they made disciples to themselves, causing the people to exchange their loyalty to God to loyalty to men—i.e. to the Jewish leadership—while all the while the people believed they were loyal to God (cf. Luke 16:4-7).


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Posted by on December 7, 2017 in Gospel of Luke


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