Luke 16

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Parables - part 5

Luke 16:1-15

This is one of the most misunderstood parables of them all.

There seems to be no consistent interpretation of this parable.

Part of the problem that God’s people have had interpreting and understanding this parable comes from the very problem that this parable addresses: God’s people often lose their creativity and cleverness!

Prudishness has caused us to attempt a “clean-up” of a parable that Jesus intended to be filled with rogues and scoundrels.

We are Children of Light:

  1. The parable of Luke 16 has been very controversial. Don’t avoid the shock and controversy. The main character of the parable is a scoundrel. The master of the servant is also a scoundrel. They are both crafty and shrewd. Let’s make no bones about it, they are dishonest and self-centered. They are the children of this world; the servants of mammon.
  2. Attempts have been made to clean the story up, but that’s special pleading.
  3. Jesus is intentionally opening a window into the ruthless world of greedy people. That is how he is going to make his point. Jesus shows that these people who supposedly “worship” money are actually cavalier and careless in their efforts to acquire it and control it. And they are clever.
  4. Jesus is showing us that if people like this – the sons of this world - are so focused and clever and dedicated in their service to the false God of money, then shouldn’t the children of light be all the more clever, ingenious, and dedicated in our service to God?
    1. Adopt their scruples? Not at all. But we ought to consider what is really important to us.
    2. The Pharisees offered lip service to God, but their conservative, hoarding, timid approach to using their money was actually a deeper form of wealth-worship than the shifty manager who was a bit free with his master’s wealth.

We are managers of a “kingdom” trust. We have responsibility to use that trust for God’s purposes (parable of the talents), but we are also called to “use it” and be creative and resourceful.

Eugene Peterson describes the point of the parable well in his translation, The Message:

Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way - but for what is right - using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.
-- Jesus in Luke 16:8-9, from The Message by E. Peterson.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 2 May 2010

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