Luke 16:13-15 - [Jesus said] "No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed Him. And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God."
Do you remember the phrase, "Flattery will get you nowhere"? Originally, it meant that despite one's sweet talk and lavish compliments, the receiver would not be swayed. Well, I've read that an early film star who was being complimented turned it around and said it this way: "Flattery will get you everywhere."
This way of saying it implies that we are a people who love to be flattered, who may even need to be flattered. And that leaves us open to temptation, manipulation, and worse. It can lead us to a life that demands that even God stroke our ego if He wants our love.
Jesus, however, tells us to be careful who we're listening to. 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 there's the voice of the enemy—the world, money, power, 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're not always sure who we're listening to. The people in Jesus' time thought the Pharisees, the outward religious leaders, were the voices to be heard. Jesus says they are not. Today, we hear voices promising economic success, political power, temporal peace—as if they are the only voices that can do it. They stroke our egos by telling us it's entirely up to us; we can solve all our problems.
But we can't. We can't exalt ourselves among men and justify ourselves before God.
Jesus came to destroy all of that. That's why He bore His cross for our sins, died, and rose three days later. That's why there is a life to be lived for us now in His Name for others. That's why a new heaven and new earth are coming, because this one is passing away.
When it comes to serving God—and Him alone—sorrow and repentance for our sins, and trusting Jesus' sacrifice for our redemption is what matters most. But don't just trust me on this; trust the straight-talking Jesus of the Scriptures.
WE PRAY: Dear Jesus, give us hearts that trust in You because we know You really care for us. Amen.
From "Flattery Will Get You Everywhere?" a devotional message from Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Have your loyalties ever been divided between people? Did you find a workable compromise?
2. Why is impossible to serve God and money?
3. How can we stay on guard against the world's many temptations to stroke our egos?
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