The Letter or the Intent of the Law (Luke 16:12)

“And if in what belongs to another, you have not been faithful, who will give you something of your own?”

(Luke 16:12)

 

As we have been discussing, the Pharisees, for all of their zeal toward protecting the letter of the law, had missed the point of why the law was given and what the law meant.  They, in fact, had added series upon series of lists and rules to the law with the intention of aiding their understanding of how to obey the law, but that had rapidly degenerated into a legalistic set of rules that was an unwieldy burden for most men and women. 

With that in mind, we must not miss the parallel that Jesus is making between the things of this world and the things that belong to the next.  This steward is called a steward of unrighteousness, using the language of unrighteousness almost metaphorically to refer to the wealth of this world.  Yet, parables also contain a deeper meaning as they apply to the kingdom of God.  Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees, ones who were entrusted not only to steward the word of God, but also the righteousness of God, as they were one of God’s representatives to the people.  Not only did they fail to demonstrate God’s righteousness, keeping it honored amongst the people, they were often guilty of defaming God’s righteous name because of their hypocrisy.  Thus, Jesus writes, if you are not faithful with keeping that which belongs to another, how can you expect anyone to give you anything of your own.  Or, more specifically, if you have proven yourself unfaithful in protecting and stewarding the righteousness of God, how is it that you expect God to impute righteousness to you?

This language of imputed righteousness is essential in our understanding of Christ’s redemptive work.  Men and women before God’s throne are judged on the basis of righteous actions; hence, we all deserve utter damnation.  Yet, Jesus, having lived a perfect and sinless life and having borne the guilt of our sin upon the cross, imputes his righteousness to his people.  This does not mean that we inherently become righteous and it does not mean that Jesus’ righteousness mixes with our righteousness, kind of blending it into something that might be acceptable to God.  No!  God cannot accept sin in his presence and even the most righteous amongst us has all of his righteous actions tainted by sin and sin’s motives.  Both the Apostle Paul and the prophet Isaiah described their own righteousness in the most lowly and despicable ways (Isaiah 64:6, Philippians 3:8).  No, it is imputed to us, credited to our account.  When we stand in judgment, we stand not clothed in our own rags plus the garment of Christ, but we stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ as if a clean, white robe were placed over our filthy and wretched selves.

Now, please understand, this imputed righteousness is not something that you earned by your actions in any way.  It is not a reward that is given to you as a result of your faithful honoring of God’s name, His Word, or His righteousness.  In fact, you cannot even begin to honor God’s name, Word, or righteousness until you have been born again by the blood of Jesus Christ and have Christ’s righteousness imputed to you—your new clothing will shape the way you live and behave.  But let us talk honestly with each other.  Though we have received this gift, all too often we who have been re-clothed in Christ live as if we were only wearing our own filthy rags.  All too often, we take the gift of grace all too casually and live like the pagans do.  Beloved, let us turn away from the temptations of our own pride and treasure the unsurpassed gift of Christ, living like Christ’s sacrifice has made a difference to us in this world as well as the next—living in such a way that others see the change that Christ has wrought within us and come to see what Christ might do in their life.

All to Jesus, I surrender,

All to Him, I freely give.

I will ever love and trust him,

In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all.

All to Jesus, I surrender, I surrender all.

-Judson Van de Venter

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