Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Oct 27, Lk 16-17

Today's readings are Lk 16-17. Tomorrow's reading is Jn 11.

The parable of the dishonest manager (Lk 16:1-9) is a tough one to understand. There are many ways to interpret the details but it may be wiser to stick to the main point of the parable rather than get mired in the less crucial matters of how the main point is portrayed.  While the manager is clearly guilty and loses his job, he remains wise enough to see that he will have a need in the immediate future and prepares for that need. As a result, the manager earns the commendation of the master for looking ahead and acknowledging his need (Lk 16:8). Keeping in mind that this is a parable and intended to teach a lesson, not necessarily intended to assess moral virtue, the lesson being taught is to recognize our need for security in the future and make pragmatic moves toward meeting that need. The coming need for material security is real enough and should be planned for. But our spiritual need for eternal security should be acknowledged as well. The spiritual need should never be neglected to meet the material need.

To emphasize this point, the thrust of Lk 16:9 seems to be an admonishment to the disciples to use whatever money they come by, the text calls this unrighteous wealth, not for their personal gain, their material need, but to minister to those around them, the eternal need of others. In other words they should give their money away to bless others materially. They are to do this so that when others see that money fails to provide what they truly need, the disciples will be welcomed into their homes presumably to preach Jesus and eternal security to them.

The overall lesson is clarified in Lk 16:10-13 where the disciples are cautioned to avoid making the accumulation of money and worldly goods a goal. They are to be faithful in how they use the currency and material possessions of the world (unrighteous wealth). 

This begins to make even more sense as Jesus rolls into a teaching about the Pharisees and their love of money (Lk 16:14-16). God sees and knows their hearts. They exalt power, prestige and worldly goods above all else. God sees this as an abomination. They have no foresight for their own eternal spiritual need like the manager had for his own worldly material need. 

This entire passage (Lk 16:1-31) is brought to a summary teaching in the parable about the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31). We don't want to make too much of "Abraham's side" (some versions translate this as "Abraham's bosom") in Lk 16:22. The text is notoriously unclear as to what the phrase means and it would be a mistake to build a doctrine around it. The main point of the parable is to emphasize the fate of one man who enjoyed worldly possessions in life and ends up in hell for not making God his priority. He sees a poor man, a man he looked down upon in life, in heaven and asks for help. The poor man is unable to help the rich man. It is too late. 

The parable ends with the ominous note (Lk 16:29-31) that even a dead man returning from the dead will not convince some people to set aside worldly security and material gain to embrace the eternal security of believing in Jesus Christ. 

Jesus teaches the disciples more lessons in Lk 17. Temptations will come but those who cause temptation will be judged harshly. As followers of Christ, we should recognize that all are tempted. When someone sins, they should be forgiven. True repentance should be met with forgiveness as often as the sinner repents. God's grace toward us is endless. Our grace toward others should be as well.  

Recognizing their weakness toward temptation and a resistance toward forgiveness, the apostles ask for more faith (Lk 17:5-6). Jesus assures them that both will come just as surely as a mustard seed will grow in size and strength over time. Jesus is telling them spiritual maturity takes time and effort to grow.

The promise of the mustard seed is expounded upon. How does maturity develop? Only through those that set aside their pride and recognize their need for grace. This is a stark contrast to those religious leaders who feel they are entitled to God's favor and blessing because of who they are. There is an assurance that those who feel unworthy will be rewarded well but only if their priority is serving God rather than receiving their reward (Lk 17:7-10). Serving God demonstrates thankfulness for His grace. Expecting a reward for service shows a misunderstanding of grace. This is a mature teaching, one that will come with a more mature faith, one that starts out as small as a mustard seed. 

Jesus gives an illustration of what He's teaching by cleansing ten lepers. Only one of which comes back to thank Him (Lk 17:11-19). All ten received their material blessing, physical healing. But only one, a Samaritan, praised God and thanked Him. The nine who express no thanks are assumed to be the Jewish religious leaders. They felt entitled to a healing. The Samaritan would have been considered unworthy by the Jews. But, the Samaritan had a deeper appreciation for God's blessing because he knew he was, indeed, unworthy of receiving anything from God. The one who acknowledges his unworthiness receives the ultimate blessing, the favor God. He gets the physical blessing and the spiritual blessing as well.

Jesus emphasizes His teaching with the warning that the principles of God's kingdom run contrary to the desires of the world (Lk 17:22-37). The pursuit of worldly goods and worldly happiness can cause one to miss the kingdom. There's nothing wrong with owning things. The problem comes from making that ownership the priority over God and making self-serving happiness the primary goal of life. God has been showing mankind all along that that type of living only leads to death. 

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