Jesus’ Stories – Luke 16 1-14

Readings for this week August 17 – 21
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Jesus Stories - Booklet Cover2

Day 1  – Held Accountable

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 16:1-3
This is one parable on which all the commentators agree. They agree that it is probably the hardest to interpret! What sort of point is Jesus making by holding up as an example, a rascally dishonest manager? Evil things that we are familiar with can be used to illustrate a point, without praising the thing itself. Consider how Paul uses images of war and slavery to illustrate the Christian life.

Undoubtedly there are cultural nuances which we miss in Jesus’ parable. Almost certainly Jesus’ listeners would recognise the story of a landowner and steward/manager as a picture of God and Israel. Had not Israel been entrusted, as God’s chosen people, with the law, set apart to be God’s representatives? But Jesus’ message is that God is now moving in a new direction – through himself. Israel was not acting as a faithful representative; therefore they could not expect to hold their position for ever.

Of one thing we can be clear. The rich man in the story is going to hold his manager accountable. He will answer for his actions both good and bad. This is a solemn warning, that all we possess is a gift, held in trust. The Master expects obedience and accountability for how we use his gifts. While this story is based around material possessions, Spurgeon, the great English preacher noted that we have to give account for our stewardship of: time, talents, substance and influence.

Questions to Consider
Are there areas of my life that I view as intrincically ‘mine’ rather than gifts from God? On what basis do I decide how to use what I have been given?

Prayer
Father God, as I consider my many blessings and opportunities, help me to gratefully receive them all as gifts from your hand. Thank you that you trust me to be your representative, acting in your name. Speak to me about how to wisely use what is mine, to your glory, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

 


Day 2  – Look to the Future

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 1:3-8
The steward knows his position is gone and things are going to change. But looking to the future he takes every opportunity to improve his lot. In cancelling part of the debts owed to the Master, he may have been forgoing a commission that he would have raking in off the top of the bills, therefore not actually defrauding his Master of what was owed. If however he was cutting the amount rightfully owed to the Master, he has now put him in a difficult position. The debtors must have been overjoyed and would be praising the generosity of the Master far and wide. For the Master to turn around and correct the situation would be to put him in an embarrassing and unpopular position.

So why is the steward commended for his maneuvering to carry favour with the debtors? He took advantage of his present position to improve his future prospects. Jesus is talking about two ages. This age, where the people of this world value material wealth, status and power, and use all their skills to get ahead. The people of light belong to the age that is coming, the kingdom that Jesus is introducing. An upside down kingdom where success comes through service, and wealth is measured in different values. Jesus is commending, not their goals, but the prudence and zeal with which people look to their future. The steward used his shrewd wisdom to plan for his future. William Barclay laments that if only Christians were as eager and ingenious in striving for goodness as people of the world in their attempts to attain money and pleasure, they would be much better people! Likewise its been asked why Cocoa Cola has spread faster and further than the gospel? Jesus asks us to look to our future. Inparticular, to look at participating in the kingdom that he is bringing among us.

Questions to Consider
How much do I think of the future, beyond just material prospects?
Do I strive to attain goodness, or wait for it to somehow fall upon me?
“The purpose of money, whether little or much, is to use it in the uncertain present in order to enrich the certain future.” Discuss.

Prayer
Father, help me see your perspective of the present, and build my joyful anticipation of the future, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

 


Day 3  – Suits Without Pockets

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 16:8-9
On occasion undertakers are required to provide clothing for the deceased. Special suits are made available; like regular suits but with one exception – they have no pockets! What would be the need? We all face the imminent and certain end of all our material resources. As it has been said, you can’t take it with you. Or can you? Jesus is saying that one investment bridges the gulf between this existence and the world to come – friends. “Meaningful personal relationships, ties of spiritual life sharing, family ties in Christ, all these survive death” R Stedman.

The steward used his influence with money to better the position of the Master’s debtors, in the hope that they would view him as a friend and when his position was gone doors would be opened to him. In the Greco-Roman world money was often used to make friends, secure patrons and achieve social standing. Jesus, however, commends his disciples to use their resources for the betterment of others, but not to create a relationship of obligation. Kingdom giving has no strings attached and creates genuine social solidarity and real friendships. The ultimate result – a welcome in heaven. Investing in people, particularly people who can never repay your generosity, is living with an eye to the future world that Jesus is bringing about.

Question to Consider
Is money in itself, good…bad…or neutral?
When have I seen money used ‘with strings attached’?

Prayer
Father, help me take seriously these principles for using money. Thank you that you entrust me with resources that can be used to demonstrate your great love for people who are far away from you, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

 


Day 4  – Master and Slave

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 16:10-13
Our society applauds those who do well with money. Being a ‘self made man’, building great financial empires, is often seen as the pinnacle of success. From Jesus’ kingdom perspective money is one of the ‘little’ things. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” He contrasts ‘worldly wealth’ (false riches) with ‘true riches’. This is not to say that money is all bad. It is a case of whether it is used faithfully or unfaithfully. “Faithfulness is determined by one’s capacity to orient oneself around the coming aeon (age) and by extension, by one’s capacity to reflect in one’s practices the in breaking kingdom of God” Joel Green. In other words, are you serving this world and all its selfish values, or Jesus’ kingdom with its values of grace, generosity, hope, love and peace?

We are very used to compartmentalising our lives. So much time is given to jobs, family time, hobbies, quiet time, date nights, holidays and so on. In biblical times a slave was owned exclusively by one Master. His or her whole life was dictated by the will of that Master. There was no part time option, no knock off time, no split allegiances. Just as our lives are to reflect the character of our Master, so generosity and wise use of money reflects the generous nature of our God. “Money possessing a man is the direst curse, for it hardens his heart and paralyzes his noblest powers. The money of a God possessed man is a blessing, for it becomes the means of his expressing sympathy with his fellows” Morgan.

Money is a hard subject to grapple with. Take some time this week and ask the Holy Spirit to examine your attitude towards money. Ask for practical steps that will protect you from being tied to the greed and false security that this world’s system draws all of us toward.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, today I pledge my allegiance to you again. I know that in you alone is my security, my provision, my hope. Help me be open and transparent with others about how I orient my life. May your kingdom values be evident in my life, and a witness to your great love for those around me, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

 


 

Day 5 – The Heart Of the Matter

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 16: 14-15
Jesus has told a parable around money, and is about to tell another. But in between is a short teaching passage which gets to the heart of the issue. While sharing the parable of the steward with his disciples, the Pharisees have also been listening in. Many of Israel’s religious leaders had become very wealthy. Archaeological digs have identified the ruins of opulent houses which were owned by priests. Land played a large part in their religion; it and the riches it brought them were viewed as a sign of God’s blessing. Luke identifies the Pharisees as those “who love money”. These Pharisees turned their noses up at Jesus’ teaching that one could not serve God and money. Jesus cuts to the chase by focusing in on the condition of one’s heart. The Pharisees were very conscious of looking good in front of others, but Jesus says, “God knows your hearts.”

The whole of this chapter can be wrapped up in the term ‘faithfulness’. Whether we have little or much, God is looking for faithfulness to himself as Master and to his kingdom priorities. What our heart is set upon will be reflected in our actions and attitudes. Tom Wright sums it up nicely. “As soon as we begin to think of money, or land, or other people, as commodities we might own or exploit, we take a step away from our vocation to be truly human begins, God’s true children, and towards the other master, who is always ready to accept new servants.”

Question to Consider
Does our pattern of giving show the condition of our heart?
How do we evaluate what we truly value?
Taking everything Jesus has said into account, can we view earning/saving/spending as a spiritual activity?

Prayer
Lord Jesus, you call me to be truly human, reflecting the image of the Father. Please show me the true condition of my heart. Keep me aware of the seductive power that money can have, and help me develop a generosity that mirrors your own, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)