Money – Bridge or Barrier? 1-31
Money is a theme in the Gospel of Luke and chapter 16 is devoted to the proper use of money. This chapter begins with the parable of the dishonest steward and several lessons about stewardship. The Pharisees scoffed about the teaching of money by Jesus and Jesus accused them of justifying themselves. Jesus followed up on the subject with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
The general idea is that money can build bridges or set up barriers. Our use of money is a temporary thing but the way we use it has eternal consequences. If we use our money rightly, then it can create an eternal fellowship. If our money is used wrongly, then it separates us here and hereafter.
The Shrewd Scoundrel 1-8
This is a difficult parable to grasp. Part of the problem is the uncertainty of some of the circumstances in the parable. The question we must ask is in what sense did Jesus intend the dishonest steward to be an example for His followers?
The steward was the manager for his master’s estate. The steward was accused for wasting his master’s possessions. This may have been because of his dishonesty or incompetence, or maybe both. His master wanted to see the records of the estate as part of his removal of being the manager.
Knowing that he was soon to be unemployed he began to plan for his future. He ruled out doing manual labor and was too proud to beg. The steward thought of a scheme to use his present position to make friends that they may care for him when the bad times came upon him.
The steward called everyone that owed his master and one by one recorded their debt. Whether this was a legal thing for him to do is not clear in this parable. He may have still had the power of attorney. If this was the case, then on the surface it appeared to be legal, but still it was done behind the back of his master. If this was a legal action, then there was nothing that the master could do.
There is another factor that may have been involved. The law forbade an Israelite from charging interest to another. (Deuteronomy 23:19-20) Most people got around this law by applying it only to the poor. (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-36) Most likely the master probably charged interest to his debtors which showed they themselves were well to do.
The steward may have only reduced the payments by what interest they had been charged. This may be the reason that the master did not undertake to recoup his loses. The debtors must have thought that the master had authorized this reduction in the money owed. They may have thought that the master was putting religious scruples above profit. This thought would have enhanced the reputation of the master by him placing principle above property.
In this spirit the master commended the steward for is shrewdness. The steward had managed to secure his future by his clever manipulation of his master’s wealth.
A Lesson for the Sons of Light 8-9
In the second half of verses 8 Jesus begins His observations about the parable. The rich man had commended the steward and Jesus’ observation is that the sons of light can learn a lesson from this son of darkness. Jesus was not commending the steward’s dishonesty, but He did point to his initiative in planning for his future.
In verse 9 points to the lesson that should be learned from this parable. Someday money and possessions will fail us. This sometimes will happen in life, but Jesus is here speaking about death. After death wealth and possessions will be useless. On the other hand, money can now be used in ways that create eternal fellowship.
The steward is an example for us only in an indirect way. Jesus was not talking about using money to buy friends, but He was talking about using money to advance God’s Kingdom by meeting human needs. Money fails but God’s Kingdom is eternal. When our life comes to an end the wisdom of lasting investments will become clear. God and His people will welcome us to the eternal abode of the family of God. Money will not be there, but money makes possible what is there.
Money is the Acid Test 10-12
A wealthy father may entrust his son with a small amount of responsibility before he comes of age. The son’s faithfulness shows he also will be faithful over all that ultimately will be entrusted to him.
We are trustees of what God has given us, as it all belongs to God. If we are faithful in using what God has given us, then we show that we are fit for even larger responsibilities and ultimately the full inheritance as children of God.
Money, Possession or Possessor 13
If we are not carful we can be possessed by our possessions. A person can serve only one God. If a person’s attitudes and actions are preoccupied by money, then mammon is that person’s master.
Like all false gods, trust in mammon is a deceptive and destructive thing. Nothing is more tragic that a person who makes that discovery too late.
A Contrasting View about Money 14-15
The first 13 verses was spoken to the disciples of Jesus but the Pharisees were listening. They were scoffing about Jesus lesson on money. The Pharisees had a different view about money. They saw money as evidence of God’s favor, not a false god that would take God’s place.
Jesus said that the Pharisees justified themselves before men. They in their self-righteousness never considered the possibility that they were wrong. The parable of the Pharisee and the publican was directed to this fault of the Pharisees. (Luke 18:9-14)
Jesus said, “For that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is illustrated the teaching of verse 15. The rich man was exalted in human society but faced divine judgment in the grave.
Danger of Self-Justification 16-18
John the Baptist was the end of the Old Testament prophets and was the line between the old era and the new. From the time of John the Baptist and throughout the Church age the good news of the Kingdom is being preached.
The last of verses 16 is an accusation against those who would try to force the Kingdom to fit their own selfish plans. It is also a graphic description of the earnestness of those who were responding to the good news and entering the Kingdom. But not many of the Pharisees were pressing their way into the Kingdom.
The Pharisees prided themselves on their careful observance of the law and often accused Jesus for disregarding the law. In verse 17 Jesus affirmed the lasting importance of the moral truth in the law. In verse 18 Jesus attacked the moral game that the Pharisees played with the moral truth in regards to divorce.
The law realized the frailty of human nature and did make provision for divorce. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) Jesus had on another occasion showed that the divorce law was clearly set in the context of a revelation that affirmed the idea of a lasting marriage. (Mark 12-2-12); Matthew 19:4-9) The Pharisees allowed men to divorce on trivial grounds which included a man finding a woman that he liked better.
The point that Jesus was making is that such a divorce is a legal fiction. A game people play to justify themselves. Such a divorce may be legal in the eyes of men, but it is not hidden form the eyes of God what is still adulterous relationships. Man cannot justify himself into a conformity to God’s law.
Rich Man … Poor Man 19-21
In just a few words Jesus paints a contrast between a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had everything that money could buy and the poor man had none of the things that money could buy. The poor man, Lazarus, was helpless, hungry, sick, and was reduced to begging. He wanted even the scraps from the rich man’s table. His only friends were the dogs of the streets.
Beyond the Grave 22-26
The name “Lazarus” means “God helps” represented the beggars trust in God. When Lazarus died he was taken away by the angels. While on earth Lazarus was excluded from the feast of the rich man. But beyond death he shared in the feast like fellowship with Abraham and other people of faith.
The rich man died and was buried with a lavish funeral and had many eloquent eulogies. But no ministering angels came to bear him to heaven. Instead he found himself in the torment of hades.
In his conversation with Abraham we see he was basically unchanged by his experience. He still saw Lazarus as an inferior person whose role was to serve him.
Abraham’s reply does not teach that eternity is an exact reversal of a person’s lot on earth. Rather the point is that nothing is allowed to intrude on Lazarus’ bliss.
We learn from verse 26 that there is a great chasm between where Lazarus was and the rich man. During his life the rich man had separated himself form Lazarus and others like him. He looked at his wealth and said to himself, “all this is mine to use to please myself and to dispose of as I please.” The rich man was not accused of being dishonest but he had made an idol of mammon. He had separated himself from God and others.
According to the popular view of the day the rich man was considered righteous and religious. He saw his wealth as a reward from God. likewise he may have seen people like Lazarus as getting what they deserved.
Jesus taught that money and possessions were gifts and trust from God. God loans us these things with expectations that we will use them to help others. When we do we are drawn closer to God and to those whom we have helped. This closeness extends beyond death into eternity.
In contrast hades is a place of separation and alienation from God and others. The barriers of separation have been built by pride, selfishness, greed, and indifference. They have hardened into an eternal destiny. The rich man could have be welcomed into the same eternal habitation as Lazarus if he had loved God and others. But the rich man doomed himself by grasping onto his possessions. By doing this he had separated himself from others and unknowingly separated himself from God.
There are those who see verses 27-28 as a change of heart for the rich man. Another way to look at his words is that he may be justifying himself by thinking that he had not been warned of the consequences of his life. So therefore he would not be in hell if he had been told and adequately warned.
The response of Abraham shows that the man could have known the truth through the Scriptures. The rich man’s reply shows that he felt the words of the prophets was not sufficient and his brothers would need a miraculous sign such as a visit from the dead. And then his brothers would repent.
The truth is that God’s Word is sufficient to call people to repentance. People who refuse the Word of God would neither be persuaded by miraculous signs. When people who see signs the first thing they do is explain them away.
This truth was seen when another Lazarus was restored to life by Jesus. Some believed but many hardened their hearts. (John 11:45-53) when Jesus was resurrected from the dead many continued on in life unchanged and unrepentant. (Matthew 28:11-15)