Introduction to Christianity with Luke
Luke 16:1-12: A lesson on wealth
This story has always confused me as it seems that Jesus is commending a guy for his dishonesty. I wonder if being fired shocked the guy into changing his ways, and it reflected positively on his boss. Certainly, it would have reflected badly on the rich guy if he fired such a popular employee. He was certainly now in a bit of a pickle.
Jesus shows us that this manager opened up a world of influence for himself. Although it was dishonest, Jesus uses this as a lesson about how we should use our wealth to influence people for God’s kingdom.
This reminds me of Abraham’s love for hosting strangers passing through his land. I read somewhere about Abraham having had a garden, where he would encourage travelers to rest on their journey. Maybe this is like the backpackers we often stay with in Geraldene. They have this huge old house. They don’t seem to make a lot of money, but they love spending time with their guests.
It seems our house is similar. Sometimes it feels huge and beyond our means, but over the years, dozens of exchange students have been part of our big, crazy family, as well as dozens of Israeli travelers and other guests. We wanted a bigger house so we could have a guest room, maybe for a student. What was a 4 bedroom + study quickly evolved to 8 bedrooms, and we’ve had up to 13 people living here all at once. We’re tight on finances, always have been, but we’re rich in relationships, and many have felt challenged to seek God.
Luke 16:13-18: You can’t serve two masters
Wealth is so deceptive. We need money to live, and it seems reasonable to want to be comfortable. However, this often becomes more important than serving God. In ancient times, people would worship idols and have sex with temple prostitutes to guarantee fertile land and a good harvest. Today, many worship wealth in less obvious ways. The proof is in the fruit. Are people growing closer to God through our influence? If not, it would seem that God is not the master of your life, but something else.
Luke 16:14 … What is important to humans is disgusting to God.
Jesus goes on to expose the Pharisees’ love for wealth. They focused on the law, which applied since Moses until John, but with Jesus, times were changing. However, people were, and are still trying twist the good news to fit the old ways and mindsets.
Luke 16:19-31: A rich man and Lazarus
In this story, the beggar would have eaten scraps from the rich man’s indulgent lifestyle. But even these weren’t given to the guy who begged at his gates. Because he worshipped his wealth, the rich man died and went to Hell, but the beggar believed in God and found eternal comfort.
The Pharisees, like many others throughout humanity, strictly applied the law that godliness leads to prosperity. They assumed that if a person is prosperous, it’s because they’re godly, and if they suffer, it’s because they’re sinners. Therefore, they treated the down-and-outs with contempt as dirty rotten sinners, who might infect us, instead of with the compassion and charity God repeatedly demands us to extend to widows, the fatherless, and foreigners.
The Bible teaches that the law that godliness leads to prosperity is not so simple. Other people’s actions can affect others’ prosperity. While God judges the wicked, he withholds this to give me and you a chance. While God prospers the righteous, this too doesn’t happen immediately, and there’s consequences of the past to work through. This includes the general affects of living in a world that is degrading due to the influence of past and present sins. Often God allows bad things to happen to good people to build their character and compassion for others when they go through bad times. Only after this life, will we receive the full prosperity for our righteousness, or the full punishment for our refusal to believe in and receive Jesus’ sacrifice to cover our wickedness.
The Pharisees’ attitude to the poor is rooted in unbelief of the power of God. Their “righteousness” could be corrupted by interacting with sinners. Whereas true righteousness overwhelms the effects of sin and brings restoration.
As the Pharisees walked past,
people were condemned and cursed.
As Jesus walked past,
people were forgiven and healed.