The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them,... (Luke 16:14-15)This of course followed Jesus' previous statement regarding not being able to follow two masters.
The question is whether the translation of Luke 16:14 to "who loved money" is the best choice of translation of Jesus' statement.
Is "loved money" the right translation?
The phrase "loved money" is being translated from the Greek word, φιλάργυρος (philargyros). Yes, this can mean loving money - but also avarice in general - being covetous, or greedy.
Yes, in modern society, a person who is greedy typically loves money. However, a person who is avaricious or covetous or greedy isn't simply satisfied with money. They are also typically greedy for fame, material things and physical pleasures as well. Not that they simply want money and if they get it, they are now satisfied and don't want anything else.
This is the nature of greed: It is insatiable. But why? Why is a greedy person never satisfied with what they have? Why does a greedy person always want more?
This is not just a so-called greedy person's issue. Each of us seeking happiness within the physical dimension is never satisfied with materialism. Materialism never brings us happiness because we are not material:
Our identity is spiritual, not material.
Let's use an example. Let's say that a fish leaps out of the water onto a wharf. It starts flopping around the wharf. It is anxiously flopping around. Just then a family is walking on the wharf. One of the children sees the fish flopping around and says, "it must be hungry - let's give it some food."
So they put some fish food down next to the fish and it continues to flop around, gasping. Then the sister says, "oh, it must be cold - let's give the fish a blanket to warm up." So they put a blanket down and the fish still flops around. Then the mother says, "maybe the fish is bored - let's play some music for the fish." So they turn on a radio and put it next to the fish.
The fish still flops around on the wharf. Meanwhile, the father arrives at the solution: "Let's put the fish back into the water." So they toss the fish back into the water and the fish swims happily away.
Because the fish was out of its element - the water - the fish was unhappy regardless of what was put in front of the fish. The fish needed the element of water.
We are the same way. We are 'flopping' around this physical world looking for something to fulfill us because we are spiritual, so material things do not satisfy us. They simply do not provide what we are looking for.
What we need isn't within the material things of matter: We are looking for our spiritual relationship with the Supreme Being. This is what our spiritual self needs. We need to resume our loving-service relationship with God. This and only this will make us completely satisfied.
And this is why materialists keep searching for happiness. No matter how much money we have; no matter how large our family is; no matter how big our house or car is; no matter how famous or powerful we are - it's never enough. We have an unlimited emptiness.
This is because the Supreme Being is limitless. The only way to fulfill an unlimited emptiness is with our relationship with the limitless Supreme Person.
Note that Jesus states that this condition of material greed - this unlimited self-centered desire - is detestable to God. Jesus states:
"What people value highly is detestable in God's sight."This has also been translated to:
"for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God." (NASB)Jesus is pointing out that this is the world where materialism is treasured and esteemed. A man who is wealthy is highly respected here - even if that man harms others. A man with political power or fame is highly respected, regardless of what he did to gain that power or fame.
These things are treasured and esteemed here in this world because this is the world where those who want these things dwell.
For example, an extremely violent man is highly respected in prison because prisons are places where violent people tend to dwell. Outside of prison, the violent man is not respected. He is feared and shunned. But in prison, where violence is king - the violent man is respected.
This physical dimension is that dimension where those who rejected our relationship with God are sent. It is much like a prison in fact. But it is more of a rehabilitation center.
In the spiritual realm - loving and serving God is respected and honored. The Supreme Being is esteemed in the spiritual realm. But because love requires freedom of choice, some choose not to love God.
How does a person fall from the spiritual realm to the physical world?
When a person chooses not to love God it creates an immediate vacuum. It is sort of like a man or woman losing a long-time spouse. Their life is suddenly empty without their mate.
For the spirit-person who loses their relationship with God, such a vacuum envelopes one in self-centeredness. A person who rejects their relationship with God immediately becomes self-centered and begins to desire what the Supreme Being has: Namely, power, wealth, fame and pleasure.
Such a person is no longer suitable for the environment of the spiritual realm. A person with such a consciousness is immediately tossed out of the spiritual realm into the physical world. We are given a temporary physical body with which to play out our fantasies of achieving power, wealth, fame and pleasure.
This temporary body and this physical dimension were all created by the Supreme Being to provide that facade of power, wealth, fame and pleasure. These things were all designed by God to give us the illusion that this place provides the pleasure we are looking for: The illusory energy of the material world.
But at the same time, this physical world was designed to rehabilitate us - assuming we accept its rehabilitation.
This is the reason for consequences in the physical world. The physical world is programmed with consequences - so whatever we do has an equal reaction. If we help others' bodies, our body will be helped. If we hurt others' bodies, our body will be hurt - either in this lifetime or the next.
All of this is designed to help us return to our natural position as God's loving servant. Should we learn the lessons of the physical world, this is the only real conclusion. If we decide not to learn the lessons, we will stay here in the physical world until or unless we decide that we want to return home.
You see, the Supreme Being is with us throughout our journey. He can see our hearts - as Jesus states above. He knows when we are sincere and when we are faking it.
Jesus clarifies that the pharisees were faking it: They were not actually dedicated to the Supreme Being. They might have been wearing the robes, but ultimately they were dedicated to themselves, as they were greedy for materialism - power, wealth, fame and pleasure.
No one can fake God out.
He knows our hearts. Because of His awesome power, He can be everywhere at once. He is present with each of us at the same time.
But He is still an individual. It is not that God is a void or God is everything. The Supreme Being is a person - but not like us. He has limitless powers that we don't have - powers that our material minds cannot fathom.
It is not as if we can raise our minds to come to know Him. He is beyond the capacity of the mind. Only He can reveal Himself - at His choosing - if we are ready. We cannot fake our way in. No material position or activity will earn us a vision of Him.
The only thing that will allow us to come to know Him is if we sincerely desire to re-develop our love for Him. If we desire to return to Him and truly want to be with Him. This is the only way back to our loving relationship with Him.
This is actually quite easy - but it is hard for those of us who have become very self-centered. It is quite hard to have a change of heart, but it doesn't mean we can't.
A change of heart is possible, but only with God. Jesus indicated this when his disciples asked:
"Who then can be saved?" (Mark 10:26)Jesus responded, saying:
“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)In other words, having a change of heart is only possible when we give up trying to play God: When we give up trying to be the center of our lives and accept the Supreme Being as the center of our lives. This was communicated clearly by Jesus in his greatest instruction:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’" (Mark 12:30)