Sometimes we practice selective hearing. While we hear the comfortable parts of Scripture, we avoid the uncomfortable demands of Scripture. In Luke 16:14–18, Jesus confronts three coping mechanisms to avoid these uncomfortable demands— legalism (16:14–15), lawlessness (16:16–17) and reinterpretation (16:18). Instead, he calls us to forceful entry into the Kingdom, pressing in honestly and obediently (Luke 16:14–18).
First, we replace legalism with honesty (16:14–15). Legalistic Pharisees look down on others instead of looking at themselves. They sneered at Jesus’s demand to use money to serve God instead of honestly seeing their own love of money. It’s always easier to criticize others than to see ourselves properly! Yet though we can fool people we cannot fool God, so we should focus less on looking at the failures of others and more on recognizing our own failures.
Second, we replace lawlessness with forcibly entering the kingdom (16:16–17). Others dismiss the demands of Scripture since “the Law and the Prophets were until John” (16:16). Yet Jesus clarifies that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void” (16:17). Instead of dismissing the Law, Jesus fulfills the Law and proclaims the good news of the Kingdom. He invites us to come in, forcibly entering the kingdom.
Finally, we replace reinterpreting the Law with obedience (16:18). Jesus takes the example of divorce, where people reinterpreted the Law’s prohibitions by broadening them so wide that anyone could do it. Similarly it is easy to reinterpret the demands of Scripture to fit our desires. However, Jesus calls for obedience to the Law, since “everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery” (16:18). Clearly this is not a universal, unqualified principle, since elsewhere Jesus permits divorce on certain grounds (Matt 5:32) and Paul seems to permit remarriage in certain cases (1 Cor 7:15). However, Jesus is challenging the practice of reinterpreting the demands of the Law to satisfy our desires. Instead, we should obey.
So what? The radical demands of the Kingdom are an invitation. The response is not passive, but “everyone forces his way into it” (Luke 16:18). May we force our way into the glorious promises and realities of the kingdom. The Kingdom is here. Will we ignore its demands or forcibly enter in?