Open Your Bible
Luke 16:1-31, Proverbs 15:16, 1 Corinthians 4:7-13
BY Guest Writer
We tend to pluck out Christ’s teachings and deliver them as neat and tidy Sunday school lessons. Every word is true and useful (Proverbs 30:5; 2 Timothy 3:16), and yet, when we place ourselves in the sandals of the original hearers and listen as they would have listened, we discover a depth we might otherwise miss.
Let’s use Luke 16 as our case study for this principle. Luke 15 sets the scene. A crowd of tax collectors and sinners had gathered around Jesus, annoyed that “this man receives sinners and eats with them” (v.2). The nerve! Jesus addressed their unrighteous indignation with a string of vivid lessons. If we were watching this text unfold as a theatre performance, our program might read something like this:
Scene 1: A sheep, a coin, and a son—three stories about the lost.
The curtains would then fall and rise again to…
Scene 2: A swindler, a beggar, and a rich man—two stories about true riches.
Christ’s words, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10, ESV), are scribbled into the bottom of my laundry baskets as a reminder that if Jesus can’t trust me to do laundry well and with joy, He surely can’t trust me with something more significant. Laundry aside, this is the point Jesus makes in the parable of the dishonest manager. Though at first glance it might seem Jesus holds up the manager’s swindling as model behavior, it’s not the dishonesty Jesus wants us to emulate; it’s that he views money as a means to an end. So should followers of Jesus; the accumulation of wealth should never be our goal, but if we can use earthly wealth for eternal good, we will prove ourselves faithful. “So if you have not been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with what is genuine?” (v.11, CSB).
Fast forward a few verses. Jesus is still responding to the hard-hearted Pharisees (vv.14–15) when He tells the tale of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Lazarus dies and is in glory; the rich man dies and is in torment. After the rich man pleads for Lazarus to go to his relatives and call them to repent, the lesson ends with these words: “If they don’t hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (v.31). God’s Word has been beating the same drum since the beginning: wealth might make things easier in this life, but it’s not what matters for the next. End scene.
Jesus was talking to people who valued wealth and saw it as a sign of God’s favor, but He reminds them that the kingdom doesn’t have quite the same economy. The faith of a child—not money or possessions—is all that’s needed. Money is alluring, but it is a master who ultimately disappoints. God looks at our hearts, not our bank account statements. “And he told them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight’” (v.15).
Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.