The Pharisees - Part 8

Posted in: 2011
By Tom L. Ballinger
Sep 8, 2011 - 10:05:32 AM

Plainer Words is 1968
September 8, 2011
According to “Vine’s Expository Dictionary,” the word, MAMMON, comes from a common Aramaic word for “riches.” This Aramaic word is “akin to a Hebrew word signifying to be firm, steadfast, hence, that which can be trusted.” Some people placed their trust in “riches”—hence, the name, “mammon,” arose. “Bagster’s Bible Helps” points out that the pagan’s God of riches was—Mammon.
Christ spoke a lot about “riches” (mammon). In Mark 10:23, He told His Disciples that "It's almost impossible for the rich to get into the Kingdom of God!" In fact, he went on to say that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24). Rich men usually trust in their money. Many of the poor people even longed-for an abundance of money so they could trust in it.
It has been noted that in Luke 16:1-9, the Lord Jesus told the story of “The Unjust Steward.”  It was a powerful story. He narrated it by using militant Irony. The Pharisees, who were in the crowd, realized the Irony was a story which was, very pointedly, directed at and about them.
In the verses that follow, He drops all Satire and Irony as He continued His discourse to His Disciples, but every statement was meant for the Pharisees. They, therefore, heard what followed, but they rejected the Truth spoken:
10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [ill-gotten gain], who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall 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 hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous [and lovers of money], heard all these things: and they derided Him” (Luke 16:10-14).
Luke calls our attention to the fact that, “…the Pharisees also, WHO WERE COVETOUS, heard these things: and they derided Him” (Luke 16:14). “Heard,” in the sense of they understood.
In most of Luke 16 the Lord Jesus taught by means of using Satire and Irony. However, in the recent quotation of the Lord Jesus He did not use Satire. In Luke 16:10-14, He was teaching His Disciples, but His words were clearly a “two-edged sword” and cut to the heart of the listening Pharisees. Even though the Lord was not speaking to the Pharisees, they clearly understood the meaning of His speech. By way of contrast, most of today’s students and teachers fail to see, or notice Christ’s use of Irony and Satire. (Satire, Irony, and Sarcasm are bedfellows. Sometimes, it is hard to distinguish between them). But, the Pharisees did not fail to see. They knew that the Word of God, which is to say, the Old Testament, used Satire-Irony-Sarcasm as literary forms in its composition.  Since they could not deny the truth of His words, they sought—though in vain—to relieve His bitter attack by deriding, scoffing, sneering, or ridiculing Him.
The Pharisees scoffed at Him because He had their number. They loved their Law    (John 19:7). They loved the uppermost seats in the synagogues. They loved long robes, and greetings in the marketplace. They loved long prayers. They loved the praise of men. They loved respect and attention, but nothing moved them more than their love of money. It was the strongest love of all; more than God, country, parents, and mankind. No cause could persuade them to open their pocketbooks. Much of their doctrine was devised for the purpose of obtaining more money (see Matthew 23:14), or holding onto what they had.
An example would be that the Law of Moses said, “Honor thy father and thy mother; and whoso curseth (i.e., dishonors) father and mother, let them die the death” (Matthew 15:4). To “die the death” is to be put to death. Being stoned to death would be the prescribed manner for capital punishment (cf. Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 5:16. 27:16; Proverbs 30:17). In view of this, we would think that the love of parents would outweigh their love of money. This was not the case. In order to keep from having to support their parents, they developed a doctrine in their “Oral Law.” All they had to say to their parents was, “It is Corban;” that is to say, all of their money was dedicated to God and, therefore, could not be used to help support their aged and destitute parents. According to the “Oral Law,” it freed them from any obligation to financially help their Mother and Father.
The Pharisees “derided” Christ, and it caused Him to interrupt His message and speak directly to them.
15 And He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men [the Oral Law] is abomination in the sight of God. 16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. 18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery (Luke 16:15-18).
Jesus Christ said, in no uncertain terms, that their HIGHLY ESTEEMED “TRADITION” WAS AN ABOMINATION IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. That was quite a BLOW! The Pharisees were gluttons for verbal punishment, as they were trying to find something He said which was worthy of “the death.”
(A side-note about the phrase, “for that which is highly esteemed among men,” is that it is used to improperly to condemn anything men esteem other than the Word of God. This is mentioned, again, a few paragraphs later).
Yes, it was true that Moses, by inspiration, permitted divorce and spelled out the grounds for it. But, the Pharisees degraded God’s permission in order to fulfill their covetous desires. They “gamed” God’s Law.
The interruption caused by the sneering Pharisees did not bring an end to the Lord’s Satire. He continued to expose their fraud, and folly. His direct assault on the fallacious   interpretation of Moses by means of their Traditional Law continued to flow.
The preposterous story of “The Unjust Steward” exposed the detestable practices of the Pharisees. They discounted God’s Law in order to practice what they described as “…we have A LAW, and by OUR LAW such and such ought to be done” (John 19:7). The Pharisees’ Law perpetuated their own system through which they controlled the population. “The Unjust Steward” idea was only one of their absurd deeds. Christ referred to these in Mark 7:13:
“Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition [Oral Law], which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye” (Mark 7:13).
What follows in Luke’s Gospel is the story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” In this story, the Lord Jesus exposes a number of their ridiculous doctrines in His Satire. The account of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” IS NOT A PARABLE! It is a satirical literary genre used to expose the folly of their Traditional Law, aka, their “Oral Law.” This was the composite of doctrines which Christ referred to when He said, “that which is highly esteemed among men [the Oral Law] is an abomination to God” (Luke 16:15). This verse suffers from misapplication and misinterpretation. This verse is usually applied to “anything” that men “esteem.”
The Lord Jesus Christ warned His Disciples “to take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees …” (Matthew 16:6). “The Rich Man and Lazarus” is a satirical story, replete with leaven (corrupt doctrine). Before we look at the story, itself, we will highlight some of the “leaven of the Pharisees.”
  1. The luxurious style and splendor the Pharisees lived in while most of the Jews lived under extreme hardship as a consequence of the Roman occupation.
  2. The Pharisees’ shameful neglect of the poor, in Israel, which was in direct violation of God’s Law in Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (a must read). This neglect was justified by their “Oral Law” which they called their “Tradition,” or “The Tradition of the Elders” which was “highly esteemed.”
  3. Their teaching that, at death, angels carried certain men to a place called “Abraham’s Bosom” while others were transported to a place of torment. The Doctrine of the Pharisees was that poverty and hunger was God’s punishment upon men while they were on earth. If the poor and the hungry would accept this fate without complaining, they would not have to pay for these sins in “the future life.” In plainer words, the poor were to accept their poverty as “God’s will.” The Pharisees held that riches were a sign of God’s favor, and that poverty was evidence of God’s displeasure. The Pharisees taught the doctrine that helping the poor would be contrary to God’s will for which He had displeasure in.
  4. The Pharisees assumed the position with which God had originally endowed Moses. The Lord said of them and the scribes in Matthew 23:2; “The scribes and the Pharisees SIT IN MOSES’ SEAT.” That is to say, they assumed the position which Moses held as judge and ruler of Israel. They, also, assumed the position and rights that God ordained for the kings in Israel.
  5. They established a caste system, in Israel, which they rigidly maintained.
  6. Their harsh treatment of the “sinners” in the nation.
  7. Their doctrine that if a man received evil things in this life, he would receive good things in the life to come. This was a doctrine concocted by the rich to keep the poor in subjection. This was devised by them to keep the hungry from demanding bread “here and now!” This was the sleight of men. It was the Pharisees’ cunning craftiness; whereby, they deceived the masses.
  8. They held to the idea that God would speak to them directly by a sign; not a sign that would be given to ordinary and common people, such as the miraculous  feeding of thousands, for after the feeding of the four-thousand from a  meager supply, they demanded a sign from heaven. Christ had given them sign-after-sign, but they refused to believe they were from God—but from Beelzebub.
The Pharisees never followed their teachings to their logical conclusions. Especially note- worthy is their teaching regarding the poor receiving evil things in this life, while if they complain not, they will receive good things in the future life. They did not carry this doctrine out to cover the rich who received good things in this life.  The logical conclusion would be—the rich would receive evil in the life to come. Our Lord, in His Satire of the Rich Man and Lazarus, made their teaching a two-way deal; that is to say, whatever was held in store for the poor in the future, the opposite ought to be true for those who fared sumptuously every day. The “Tradition of the Elders” ignored its inconsistency.
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