The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.
After concluding his parable of the Shrewd Manager, a commentary about how Jesus' followers should use worldly riches to further God's kingdom, Jesus makes it clear that you cannot serve both God and money. We all know people who are obsessed with money. We shake our heads at lottery winners and movie stars who blow through their savings and wind up with nothing. Although money in and of itself is not evil, the love of and obsession with money takes our focus away from God, his will for our lives, and his provision for our daily needs. When you love money, you never have enough. When you love God, you find all you ever needed.
The Pharisees found this statement ridiculous. They loved money. Who wouldn't. Riches in this culture meant God was pleased with you. Destitution was a sign of God's displeasure. Likely your sins or the sins of your father cost you worldly comfort.
Someone was right, and someone was wrong. Jesus' teaching contradicted the traditions and teachings of the Pharisees. They rejected everything he said, unwilling to allow any conviction into their own hearts. They had no interest in using their money to bring people into the kingdom of God. Their defenses went up with every story from Jesus' mouth. They purported to be the true worshippers of God, the true leaders of the true faith. They had convinced themselves and the nation that they held the keys to God. They prided themselves on worship, praying public prayers of thanksgiving that they weren't like the poor sinners surrounding them.
They built their foundation on the shifting sands of public opinion, hypocritical acts of goodness, and worldly comforts and praise. They checked off their list of religious behaviors while devouring widows' houses. Every false religion focuses on specific good deeds and outward behaviors. Jesus was proclaiming God's kingdom as inward change, spiritual wealth, and God's glory through changed lives. He taught humility rather than deeds done by men. He taught giving so that your left hand would not even know what your right was doing rather than trumpet blasts and public proclamations of generosity.
People will notice public deeds and attention grabbing generosity, but God searches the heart for true motivation. He desires mercy rather than sacrifice and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings (Hos. 6:6).
"How can you say, 'We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,' when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and snared. They have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom do they really have?" Jeremiah 8:9