There’s one particular line in the Bible that is conspicuously shunned. It sits openly in Luke’s gospel, but it is nearly always glossed over… mentioned briefly and grudgingly at best.
On one hand, I condemn this on grounds of intellectual honesty, but on the other, I can very well understand why people run away from it. Believing this line would turn anyone into a radical, and that could be dangerous… and indeed it has been dangerous.
Today I will be ill-mannered enough to address this line. But first, please understand that Luke records these words as coming from Jesus’ mouth. That’s a fact, and no amount of evasion will change it.
Here It Is
The verse I’m referring to is found in Luke 16:15 of the New Testament, and here’s how it reads in the King James translation:
… that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
For comparison’s sake, here’s how the more modern Revised Standard Version renders it:
… what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
I could go through other versions, but you get the idea: What is held highest among men is abomination to God.
It’s quite possible to roll right past this line, but only if you never ask, “What is most highly esteemed among men?” If we dare ask that question, we run into trouble – big, ugly, hairy trouble.
Shall We Be Brave?
We all enjoy looking brave and being thought brave, but are we ready to do the hard things that make bravery real? Most people find excuses to skate past such things; they’re scary and risky, after all. But so long as we do that, we’ll never be clear in our own minds that we are truly brave.
So, here’s your big opportunity, especially if you’re a believer of any sort. This is a chance to face ridicule and shame, and to defy it: to be brave.
Humans are great at avoiding these moments, by the way. They’re particularly brilliant when making up strings of excuses that nullify the whole subject.
But presuming you’re ready to do this, here’s what you need to determine:
What is most highly esteemed among men?
That’s it. And the answer, if we face it rather than dodge it, is astonishingly clear:
There is one type of entity on Earth – and one only – that enjoys this position:
· It takes a significant percentage of whatever humans in its vicinity earn, by threat and by force, and is held to be righteous while practicing this extortion.
· It decrees what people are allowed to do or not do.
· It pursues and punishes people who do not obey their decrees, then is held to be righteous while forcing their will on people.
· It orders millions of young people into fights to the death.
· It is held to be righteous while refusing to inform the about-to-kill-and-die young people of the reasons for their death and dismemberment.
· It is held to be righteous while making decisions that will affect the lives of millions, but without letting them know the reasons for those decisions.
We all know what class of entity fits this description, but we also hesitate to admit it… which only confirms its position.
There is no other entity on Earth that can come close to the position held by our “unmentionable” group. In the worst days of the medieval Catholic Church – even as imagined by those who hate it – they could not have made claims as grand as these.
And yet, our Unmentionables enjoy all this esteem and are reflexively defended on all sides. Without any question, they stand alone at the top. They are, very clearly, the “most esteemed among men.”
“But, But, But…”
So, it couldn’t mean that? Was Jesus confused that day? Was he playing a sick joke? Was he merely a crank?
If history is any guide, many of the responses to this article will have the precise goal of making this line go away. But examining its context, the line stands (Jesus was talking to people who sought status from men). And by linguistic analysis it stands; the word for “highly esteemed” is also found in both Matthew and Luke where Jesus is taken to a “high” mountain and offered all the kingdoms of the world.
So, who on Earth has more status and dominance than our Unmentionables? The answer is, “No one.”
We can pretend that Jesus was demented, or we can presume that he was a crazed radical, or we can assume other nasty things… but if we accept him as anything more than that, we have to take this line seriously… unless we willingly blind ourselves of course.
Jesus put himself at risk when he said this, Luke put himself at risk by writing it, and we face risk by championing it today. That sucks, but that’s the way the world is.
We can face this or not, but no one who evades it can honestly call him or herself a follower of Jesus.