(Jesus said) "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." 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 16:13-15
Do you remember how the phrase goes? You ready, "Flattery will get you nowhere"? That's right, that's how it originally was used, and this saying was meant to convey the truth that despite a person's tone -- you know that persuasive salesman, that suave young man or sweet-talking young lady who was trying their best to convince you or me that they really cared (for some reason or another). Well, we would not be swayed so easily, right? Well, I've read that the phrase was later turned around by an early film star who was being complimented in the film and then said it this way: "Flattery will get you everywhere." And so it's been said ever since.
The new way of saying it though, implies not a reasoned, disciplined skepticism of someone who, in a sinful world, lays it on thick. The new way of saying it implies that we are a people who love to be flattered, who may even need to be flattered. And that way of living leaves us open to temptation, manipulation and worse. It leads us to a life that demands that even God stroke our ego if He wants our love.
Jesus laid in on the line in our message yesterday. He continues today, saying be careful who you are listening to. There are really only two voices in the world. There is the voice of God, the One who loves you, who calls you to repentance for the sake of your forgiveness, life and salvation, and then there's the voice of money, the voice of power, the voice of sinful self-interest, ego and flattery. Jesus says you are listening to one or the other, and there are ramifications to both.
What's hard for me in this passage is that for many, including myself, we are not always sure who we are listening to. The people in Jesus' time thought that the Pharisees, the outwardly very religious leaders, were the voices to be heard. Jesus says they are not. Today, we follow voices that promise ultimate economic success, political power, temporal peace, as if they are the only voices that can do it. We flatter ourselves when we think we're in control, when we think our genius, our craftiness, our wisdom will get the big jobs done once and for all. Like Jesus said -- that flattery will work in the eyes of other sinful human beings, but not with God.
The problems we face, the issues we struggle with, even the sin in our hearts, these things are beyond our ability to solve them. That's why there is a Jesus Christ in the world. That's why there is a cross and a resurrection in history for all. That's why there is a life to be lived now in His Name for others, and a new heavens and a new earth coming because this one is passing away. Flattery won't get you anywhere when you think you are laying on thick with God. When it comes to serving Him, real sorrow for sin, real repentance, and real trust that He has done all things well for you in Jesus Christ -- that will get you everywhere, everywhere that matters most. Don't trust me; trust the straight-talking Jesus today, for you.
THE PRAYER: Dear Jesus, one of the reasons people have a hard time following You is because You got to the heart of the matter. You talked straight. Give us hearts that trust in You because we know You really care for us. Give us courage then to follow You in our daily lives with confidence! Amen!
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz
Speaker of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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