57. Sermon in parables (3 of 4)
Sermon in parables (3 of 4)……JESUS said also to his disciples,
There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig: to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, A hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write four-score.
And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
If herefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s who, shall give you that which is your own?
¶No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
The Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided Jesus. He said unto them,
Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were unto John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and married another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
¶There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and it was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would comefrom thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Scripture: Luke 16:1-13
Meditation 1 0f 4:
How can a bad person possibly give good example? Jesus obviously thought that the example of a rascal would be a perfect illustration for a spiritual lesson about the kingdom of God! What’s the point of Jesus’s parable? The dishonest steward is commended for his shrewdness. The original meaning of “shrewdness” is “foresight”. A shrewd person grasps a critical situation with resolution and foresight. Jesus is concerned here with something more critical than a financial crisis. His concern is that we avert spiritual crisis through the exercise of faith and foresight. If Christians would only expend as much foresight and energy to spiritual matters which have eternal consequences as much as they do to earthly matters which have temporal consequences, then they would be truly better off, both in this life and in the age to come. Ambrose, a 4th century bishop said: The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever. True wealth consists not in what we keep but in what we give away. Possessions are a great responsibility. The Lord expects us to use them honestly and responsibly and to put them at his service and the service of others. We are God’s servants and all that we have belongs to him. He expects us to make a good return on what he gives us. God loves generosity and he gives liberally to those who share his gifts with others. The Pharisees, however, had no room for God or others in their hearts. The gospel says they were lovers of money. Love of money and wealth crowd out love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus makes clear that our hearts must either be possessed by God’s love or our hearts will be possessed by the love of something else. What does your heart most treasure?
“Lord, all that I have is a gift from you. May I love you freely and generously with all that I possess. Help me to be a wise and faithful steward of my time, finances, and possessions. May I regard all that I have as yours. Free from greed and possessiveness and fill me with generosity in giving liberally to others, especially those in need, and to the work of the gospel.”
Scripture: Luke 16:9-15
Meditation 2 of 4:
What does “tainted money” (or “unrighteous mammon”) have to do with eternal life? Jesus exhorts his disciples to follow in the footsteps of the shrewd steward who used money generously to make friends for himself. Generous giving is connected with almsgiving — giving financial assistance to those in need (sell your possessions and give alms -Luke 12:33). Those who receive alms become your friends because you are merciful to them in their time of need, just as God is merciful to you in your need for his forgiveness and help. What is the enemy of generosity? It’s greed, the excessive desire for personal security. True generosity does not impoverish the giver, but enriches him a hundredfold! Generosity expands the soul; greed contracts it. God is generous and superabundant in lavishing his gifts upon us. We can never outgive God in what he has already given to us. Do you know the joy and freedom of generosity and liberality in giving to others what God has so richly given to you?
Jesus concludes his parable with a lesson on what controls or rules our lives. Who is the master (or ruler) in charge of your life? Our “master” is that which governs our thought-life, shapes our ideals, controls the desires of the heart and the values we choose to live by. We can be ruled by many different things — the love of money or possessions, the power of position, the glamor of wealth and prestige, the driving force of unruly passions and addictions. Ultimately the choice boils down to two: God and “mammon”. What is mammon? “Mammon” stands for “material wealth or possessions” or whatever tends to “control our appetites and desires”. There is one Master alone who has the power to set us free from the slavery of sin and addiction. That Master is the Lord Jesus Christ.
God loves generosity and he gives liberally to those who share his gifts with others. The Pharisees, however, had no room in their hearts for God. The gospel says they were lovers of money. Love of money and wealth crowd out love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus makes clear that our hearts must either be possessed by God’s love or the heart will be possessed by the love of something else. What does your heart most treasure?
“Lord, may the fire of your love burn in my heart that I may be wholly devoted to you above all else. Free me from greed and attachment to material things that I may be generous in using the gifts and resources you give me for your glory and for the good of my neighbor.”
Scripture: Luke 16:16-18
Meditation 3 of 4:
Do you view God’s law negatively or positively? Before Jesus came and preached the good news, the law and the prophets were regarded as the final word of God. Jesus’ good news brought freedom to the most unlikely of people– tax collectors and public sinners. The scribes and Pharisees, however, had set up barriers to exclude such people.How did Jesus reconcile law with grace? For the people of Israel the “law” referred to the ten commandments or to the five Books of Moses, called the Pentateuch, which explain the commandments and ordinances of God for his people. The “law” also referred to the whole teaching or way of life which God gave to his people. The Jews in Jesus’ time also used it as a description of the oral or scribal law. Needless to say, the scribes added many more things to the law than God intended. That is why Jesus often condemned the scribal law. It placed burdens on people which God had not intended. Jesus, however, made it very clear that the essence of God’s law — his commandments and way of life, must be fulfilled. Jesus taught reverence for God’s law — reverence for God himself, for the Lord’s Day, reverence or respect for parents, respect for life, for property, for another person’s good name, respect for oneself and for one’s neighbor lest wrong or hurtful desires master us. Reverence and respect for God’s commandments teach us the way of love — love of God and love of neighbor. What is impossible to men is possible to God and those who have faith in God. God gives us the grace to love as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, to think as he thinks, and to act as he acts. The Lord loves righteousness and hates wickedness. As his followers we must love his commandments and hate every form of sin. Do you love the commands of the Lord?
Jesus teaches that righteousness involves responding to every situation in life in a way that fulfill’s God’s law, not just externally but internally as well. Jesus says that evil desires spring from the heart (Matthew 15:19). That is why the sin of adultery must be dealt with in the heart first. God’s intention and ideal from the beginning was for man and woman to be indissolubly united in marriage as “one flesh” (see Genesis 2:23-24 ). That ideal is found in the unbreakable union of Adam and Eve. They were created for each other and for no one else. They are the pattern and symbol for all who were to come. Moses permitted divorce as a concession in view of a lost ideal (see Mark 10:2-9). Jesus sets the high ideal of the married state before those who are willing to accept his commands. Jesus gives grace and power to those who seek to follow his way of holiness in their state of life — whether married or single. If we want to live righteously we must understand the intention of God’s commands and decide in our heart to obey the Lord. The Lord writes his law on our hearts and gives us his power to live his way of righteousness and holiness. Do you trust in God’s love and allow his Holy Spirit to fill you with a thirst for righteousness and holiness?
“Lord, begin a new work of love within me. Instill in me a greater love for your commandments. Give me a burning desire to live a life of righteousness and holiness. Purify and transform me that I may be fully conformed into the likeness of Christ.”
Scripture: Luke 16:19-31
Meditation 4 of 4:
What most absorbs your time, your attention, and your heart? In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man Jesus paints a dramatic scene of contrasts — riches and poverty, heaven and hell, compassion and indifference, inclusion and exclusion. We also see an abrupt and dramatic reversal of fortune. Lazarus was not only poor, but incapacitated. He was “laid” at the gates of the rich man’s house. The dogs which licked his sores probably also stole the little bread he procured for himself. Dogs in the ancient world symbolized contempt. Enduring the torment of these savage dogs only added to the poor man’s miseries and sufferings. The rich man treated the beggar with contempt and indifference, until he found his fortunes reversed! The name Lazarus means God is my help. Despite a life of misfortune and suffering, Lazarus did not lose hope in God. His eyes were set on a treasure stored up for him in heaven. The rich man, however, could not see beyond his material treasure. He not only had every thing he needed, he indulged in his wealth to excess. He was too absorbed in what he had to notice the needs of those around him. He lost sight of God and the treasure of heaven because he was preoccupied with seeking happiness in material things. He served wealth rather than God. In the end the rich man became a beggar! Do you know the joy and freedom of possessing God as your only treasure? And is your hope securely anchored in heaven (see Hebrews 6:19)?
“Lord, increase my hunger for you and for your way of happiness. Make me rich in the things of heaven and give me a generous heart that I may freely share with others the treasure you have given to me.”