abominable reputation

Near the end of last week, I was listening to a sermon that referenced Luke 16:15.  Jesus is talking to the people about the dishonest manager, who, through his shrewdness, canceled debts owed to his master and made friends with many people before he lost his job so that he would have someone to take him when he had nothing.  He admonishes us to use our resources to live generously and make friends instead of constantly pouring all of our money into the latest gadget for ourselves.

The Pharisees did not appreciate His words, because they loved money; they mocked Jesus for suggesting that giving away was shrewder than hoarding away treasures in expectation of an economic crisis.  It is at this point that Jesus turned to them and said (verse 15):

And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

The word that arrested my attention in this verse was “abomination.”  Surely that was a little strong, wasn’t it?

I went into the original Greek and discovered that this word was bdelygma, and is the same word to describe what Daniel called the “abomination of desolation”  (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14).  Furthermore, the word translates as “a foul and detestable thing,” and more interestingly (to me, anyway), “of idols and things pertaining to idolatry.” 

Furthermore, the word that we translated “highly esteemed” is hypsēlos in the Greek; it means “exalted in honor” and refers to “to set the mind on, to seek, high things (as honours and riches), to be aspiring.”  So, Jesus said that that God sees the things we in our unregenerate state prize most highly on the same level as idolatry.

The Lord made this assertion in the context of man endeavoring to justify himself in the eyes of others.  Although He specifically was referring to seeking financial honor, we often seek to justify ourselves in other ways.  I’ve mentioned before that the hardest lesson for me is often keeping my mouth shut when someone has said something untrue or unkind about me.  We also try to prove our “good person” status by seeking out opportunities to do works of charity for show, or even talking about a divine encounter with the Lord in a way that brings attention to ourselves.  For example:

“Oh just let me tell you–God healed my foot this morning.” 

“Why, that’s wonderful!  Did I ever tell you He caused my leg to grow back three inches?” 

“No, you didn’t.  But did you hear about the time He re-set the bones in my arm?”

…and so on.  We seek to share in His glory, as if seeing the most miracles has anything to do with our own righteousness.

The devil tried to get Jesus to justify Himself in Matthew 4, saying again and again, “If you are the Son of God…”  It’s interesting that the last temptation he offered Jesus was on an exceedingly high mountain overlooking all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8).  That word “high” is again hypsēlos to which we just referred as “highly esteemed.”  Satan took Jesus to a physical high place and offered to give Him a spiritual high place in exchange for His worship; Jesus, however, knew that to worship the devil in that place was bdelygma–abominable idolatry in the face of God.

The secret of being content in all circumstances (of which Paul speaks in Philippians 4:11) is two-fold; it involves being enthralled in the greatness of God on one hand, and losing all care for man’s esteem on the other.  The more I try to justify myself before other people (whether in arguing my position, gaining possessions, surrounding myself with “yes”-men rather than those who speak what I need to hear) the more offensive I smell to God; it shows that I care more about my reputation than I do about His glory.

Let’s continue to make it all about Him.


This entry was posted in grace, heart, humility, justice, meekness, sin. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to abominable reputation

  1. cindyinsd says:

    That’s sooo hard to do–I mean esteeming the praise of God and not the praise of men. It’s a constant struggle for me not to worry what people think of me. Your example of the two people comparing miracles was so right on. We always do that–not necessarily with miracles, but with pretty much everything. Thanks for the reminder. I need to hear this over and over again.


    • Chrystal says:

      You’re not alone there, friend. It’s ironic that when it comes to sports and games, I’m one of the least competitive people you will ever meet–however, when it comes to the Holy Spirit, I walk around trying to monopolize some corner of God’s anointing, as if I have anything to do with anything! It’s frustrating…I don’t know how to not make it about me, and the more I think I’m over it, the worse I realize I am. I spend so much time up at arms over perceived offenses, rushing to tell people off in my mind if they even look at me the wrong way. It’s so easy to just retaliate–or even just turn the other cheek one time; but to turn it, and keep turning it? Ouch!

  2. sierra white says:

    This is so true. Thanx for writing about this topic. I will be re-tweeting.

  3. Joe says:

    I think the passage you referenced in Luke 16 is the most difficult one of Jesus’ parables to understand (for me anyway)….

    “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (16:9)

    Wait, what ? Did Jesus really say that ? Is He commending the way the manager is acting, and the way the world normally acts in these situations ?

    I hadn’t thought about it in the way you described, that He “admonishes us to use our resources to live generously and make friends instead of constantly pouring all of our money into the latest gadget for ourselves.” I’ve always wrestled with this passage and tried to get the “main thing” from it and am still struggling. You also hit on something I find interesting – justifying ourselves before others and striking the balance between sharing what God is doing in our lives to encourage others on one hand, and drawing attention to ourselves on the other.

    Thanks for this Chrystal.

    • Chrystal says:

      I’ve struggled with this passage too, and I’ll admit I’m struggling now with the justifying thing. I’ve been hurt/wronged/_______ by some people who, in a perfect world, I would have expected to have been the first to be loyal and loving (isn’t that the way things happen?). The Lord brought deliverance from deep depression at the beginning of the year, but I find myself daily struggling with offenses–all couched in the justifying language of, “well why would I ~want~ to go back into that anyway? I’m free now and it’s nice to be at peace.” However, when I take a long hard look at myself, it’s probably more a case of, “they hurt me and I’m going to build walls around my walls because I never want to go through that again.” Not exactly the character of Jesus on the cross. I have turned the other cheek so many times–have given hours of my time…and my flesh is demanding recompense while my spirit is asking, “what was your motivation? Recognition?” I’m sure that on the other side of time when we loose ourselves totally in His glory all of these things will seem petty and insignificant….however, walking through the process, it’s a gritty, rage-inducing mess, and I respond incorrectly as many times as I choose the right course of action. Thank God for grace.

  4. inspiredword says:

    Nice. Its all about pleasing Him and Him alone. Great truth!

  5. slamdunk says:

    I like how you break it down like that–focus on pleasing God and forget what man thinks of you. Certainly, neither part is easy and I take steps backwards regularly on each front. Thanks for the strong message.

    • Chrystal says:

      If only it wasn’t so hard–but it’s a daily (sometimes hourly, minute-by-minute, second-by second) process. Good to know I’m in good company! Bless you!

  6. lheyralston says:

    Wow! Amazing Posts! Thank You For Sharing!

    LHEY 🙂

    • Chrystal says:

      thank ~you~ for reading and taking the time to comment. it always encourages me so much to hear from others and gain new perspectives!

      bless you!

  7. “The secret of being content in all circumstances (of which Paul speaks in Philippians 4:11) is two-fold; it involves being enthralled in the greatness of God on one hand, and losing all care for man’s esteem on the other. “

    Mmm. So true. Most often, I consider that verse in terms of what it is to be content vs. happy; your insights were wonderful to read. Very encouraging.


  8. Josef Sefton says:

    May the God of the Holy Bible continue to abundantly bless your life Chrystal .

    Sensitivity to doing things correctly is a gift from God, so I think you should be encouraged by your efforts thus far!

    As your love for the Holy Bible deepens even more, you’ll find that you will have more consistent success in these and similar very demanding areas of your life.

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