There is no denying that Jesus’ teaching on money is challenging and uncompromising. Both then and today, many find this teaching hard to hear. And the more people love their money, the stronger will be their opposition to Jesus’ words. That is why the sneering response of the Pharisees (v. 14) betrays the darkness of their hearts: they are lovers of money.
The Pharisees took pride in the fact that they were concerned for the Law, but their opposition to Jesus demonstrates that they do not understand the true intent of the Law. This is what Jesus addresses in these next few verses.
We saw on Day 7 that John the Baptist’s ministry marked the turning point of the ages. He was the last of the prophets of the old covenant, but his preaching announced the beginning of the new age under the rule of the Messiah. It is an age where there are no barriers to anyone coming into the kingdom and verse 16 in today’s passage literally means, “Everyone is strongly urged to enter it”. But the call to enter the kingdom is also a call to live by the values of the kingdom.
All that Jesus taught about living by the values of His kingdom is consistent with the Old Testament Law. His teaching isn’t abolishing the Law. Rather, by His teaching, He is showing what the Law really expects of people.
Traditionally, two areas of obedience to the Law which highlight most clearly the genuineness of a person’s relationship to God are money and fidelity. What were the great sins of Israel in the days of Malachi? They gave to God sacrifices that were second-rate and damaged, and they divorced their wives (Malachi 1:8, 2:16). We can also see this later on in a parable that Jesus tells about pride and humility, where a Pharisee boasts that he is neither greedy nor an adulterer (Luke 18:11).
Following Jesus and pleasing God is, on the one hand, so simple. Love is the fulfilment of the law. Love your neighbour by living a life of material generosity, and love your husband or wife through lifelong devotion. On the other hand, it is also demanding, and only possible by God’s saving grace and power. Yet those who love like this can be assured of heavenly blessings.
Reflect on the fact that there is a spiritual dimension to both money and fidelity. Money is a god who beckons us to trust it (v. 13). What is it about money that makes it a God-substitute?
The Old Testament often likens idolatry to spiritual adultery. How is an idolater like an adulterer?