Justified by God
“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’” (Luke 16:15).
The term Jesus uses for justify comes from the Greek word that refers to what is just, or righteous. Regarding Jesus’ teaching, they preferred their traditions over the will of God, and sought to declare themselves righteous over Christ. They were indignant regarding Jesus’ teaching that one could not serve both God and money, as they loved money (16:14). Rather than consider their position in light of the word of God, they mocked Jesus, which itself was a sign they were more concerned with their wealth than pleasing God. This wasn’t the only time one tried to justify himself to Christ. Previously, in asking Jesus what one must do to inherit eternal life, an expert in the Law took exception to Jesus’ saying one should love God and one’s neighbor. Trying to redefine neighbor in a favorable light for himself, he came to understand God’s characterization was based on fulfilling needs, not geography or lineage (Luke 10:25-37).
Whatever the motive for seeking to justify oneself, it typically doesn’t end well. For one reason, only God is able to justify, which comes through what Christ has done for us (Rom. 3:24). This is what really matters, that in Christ, God considers us right, justified, in His sight. Only by an inward honesty, and willingness to allow God’s word to transform our thinking and way of life, are we truly justified, considered righteous by the blood of Christ at work in us. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom. 5:9). Also, justifying ourselves is based on human reasoning, usually apart from the will of God. Without humbling ourselves before God, and submission to God, we are only deceiving ourselves.
In the parable Jesus offered of the tax collector and Pharisee, the Pharisee had focused only on what he believed to commend himself to God, while the tax collector had no such delusion of a self-achieved status before God. Instead of commending himself to God, he acknowledged his need. Jesus concluded, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
Satan is very effective in distracting us from godliness, even using sin to convince us we are right when we’re wrong. The power of sin deceives and then hardens one’s heart (Heb. 3:13). Allowing pride in our own reasoning, to circumvent the power of the gospel, will only end in ruin. No one really wants this! A real relationship with God satisfies and offers so much more than gratification of desires, or ego, or anything else the world has to offer. We must let go of self and hang on tightly to God, placing our desires, our hope, or very lives in Him. Human reasoning creates the problem…the love of God in Christ resolves it. “It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Cor. 1:30-31).
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”