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Parables of Christ

Christian Life

Various Scriptures

Lesson audio

The Unjust Steward

Luke 16:1-9 NASB  Now He was also saying to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.  (2)  "And he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.'  (3)  "The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.  (4)  'I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.'  (5)  "And he summoned each one of his master's debtors, and he began saying to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'  (6)  "And he said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.'  (7)  "Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' And he said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He *said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.'  (8)  "And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.  (9)  "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Who's Who

One of the principles used in interpreting the parables of Christ is that each actor represents someone else. In this particular instance, we have:

·         The rich man — who represents God. It's clear that each of us will give an accounting to God of what we did. If you will, God "fires" the manager, which is approximately parallel to have him die.

·         The manager, on the other hand, represents each of us. We cannot be perfectly righteous, and God himself will call us to account. The real question is, what are we going to do about it before hand?

·         The debtors represent the rest of humanity. Each of them is in debt to God, that is to say, none of us are perfect. What's interesting here is that they eagerly take an adjustment to their bill from the manager.

The accountant in the room will now object that such a procedure cannot be supported. The reader will carefully note the double entry bookkeeping was invented in the late Middle Ages by the Italians. Before that time you had to trust your manager. So in Christ's time this parable would be something that really could have happened.

Options

Our unrighteous manager now must consider his options. He discovers three things he can do:

·         He can take his fat, old body out to the streets and hired himself out as a ditch digger. Apparently his doctor has advised him that this is a good way to have a heart attack, and therefore he rejects this option. Getting old is not for sissies.

·         He could select some cardboard and a marker to make a sign. Then sit by the freeway off ramp, plastic cup in hand and looking forlorn. Notice the reaction: shame. It's tantamount to admitting to the entire world that he mismanaged the rich man's resources, and now is completely reduced to the bottom of society as a beggar. I wonder how many of us really could go out to freeway off ramp and beg.

·         What he selects is known today as networking — formerly known as friends. He shrewdly sets about making friends with his master's debtors. By such measures he makes himself welcome at anyone's feast.

That last requires some explaining. Remember that there is no such thing as refrigeration or freezers in this time. So if you are going to barbecue a steak, you have to use up an entire cow. The way you did this was by inviting your friends over for a feast — for which they later reciprocated. Our manager here is going to be a frequent diner at other people's feasts.

Okay — let's see if we can make some sense of this.

Stewardship

We can find a number of lessons in Christian life in this parable. All the things we will find, though, are related to the concept of stewardship. Specifically:

·         All that we have is given to us by God. It is, after all, his universe. If you think it's yours permanently, try giving it away 10 min. after you're dead.

·         God not only expects us to take good care of his universe (and the particular bits he's put in our care) but ultimately he will demand an accounting. This is more commonly known as Judgment Day.

·         The surprise is this: he expects us to use it to benefit others. This stuff is temporary, but we can make eternal use of it.

As the song says, he is no fool if he would choose to give the things he cannot keep to buy the things he can never lose.

One final point from this one: in regard to the matters of this world the children of light are not nearly as shrewd as the children of this world. This is how it should be. I leave to the reader to explain why.

Friend at Midnight

Luke 11:5-8 NASB  Then He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves;  (6)  for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him';  (7)  and from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.'  (8)  "I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Signs of the Times

This passage makes a little more sense if you know something about the way people lived during this time. The concept of having a locking door with the key existed — but was commonly used in prisoner cells. The average house would not have such a thing; it was secured privilege like a barn might be secured on a farm. The house itself likely had only one bedroom, with one very large bed. It was the custom of the time to keep that head warm at night by having everybody in the family sleep in it.

Now you can see why the fellow was a little reluctant to get up. He was going to have to break that warmth, step over the kids (probably waking the kids) to supply what he probably saw as his s neighbor’s failure to bake. The lady of the house might be particularly annoyed that the husband would do such a thing.

The Man in Bed

Most interpretations of this particular parable focus on the fellow who's banging on the door. From this we are to learn persistence in prayer. But let's take a look at it from the other side — can learn some lessons from a fellow in bed? Perhaps even apply them to ourselves?

·         The man is peeved at the inconvenience. It's not a catastrophe; it's just that he had his things lined up the way he wanted them. It's an annoyance. But is it surprising the lack of charity that comes from simple annoyance? How often do we fail to be charitable simply because it's inconvenient? Those guys with the roadside signs always seem to be on the roadside.

·         He could also be mad at his neighbor's lack of foresight. He might feel himself justified in refusing to do anything. After all, the man doesn't deserve it. It's his own fault; or at least, the faults of his wife.

·         One thing is clear: he is trying to say "no." He doesn't want to do this. Had he been asked while he was still out and about, he probably would've said yes without too much difficulty. His expectation was a good night sleep; you know how human beings are when their expectations are not met.

·         His neighbor wants three loaves of bread. It's unlikely that his wife is baked any much more than that, so this means she'll have to get up bright and early to bake some more. At least one scholar identifies the three loaves as the customary gift to a departing traveler. There were no preservatives in the bread of that time, so it would be pretty stale after three loaves.

In this man's behavior we can see several problems. He has a chance to be charitable, and dismisses it because it's not convenient. He thinks ill of his neighbor for failing to prepare, even though the parable implies that he had no idea a visitor was coming. Satan will get some mileage out of this man's attitude. We, therefore, should learn to do the opposite. Consider: how often have you been peeved at some minor problem in the neighborhood when you could've considered an opportunity to be charitable?

What Would God Have Us Do?

Let's make a mental list: who are the inconvenient, unwelcome neighbors for each of us? Is it the lady next door with the barking dogs? Is it the fellow who wants to borrow a left-handed crescent wrench? Or is it perhaps the woman who has to talk to somebody, and you're somebody. Whoever they are they want something material you, or your time and patience, or both. We have already learned that material things are used for eternal purposes by giving them away. We need to address time and patience, then.

If you ask most Christians, they will agree that "my time is my own." Really? Then try putting it in a bottle and giving me 15 min. worth of it. You can't. Your time is not your own; it's God's, and he's only loaning it to you. Included in that loan are the talkative neighbors and the barking dogs. C S Lewis once remarked that if we were asked by our Lord, in his bodily form, to devote the next 24 hours absolutely to his service that none of us would refuse. If he then told us that the service he wanted was to listen to an old woman chatter for half an hour, we would be terribly disappointed. We would say, "that's it?" Lewis then points out that we have indeed been asked for the next 24 hours (and the rest of our lives) — just not in bodily form. Perhaps we need to re-examine our attitudes towards others in this regard. My wife has a method in this. It involves our grandchildren. Which ever grandchild is on her lap at the moment is the most wonderful grandchild of all. She has three favorite grandchildren. Perhaps we need to have three favorite neighbors.

Two Builders

Matthew 7:24-27 NASB  "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  (25)  "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.  (26)  "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  (27)  "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall.

Life with Contractors

it happens that the author of this paper has been through several versions of hiring a contractor to make additions to my house or corrections to my house. There are several things I have noticed about contractors. The first is that they're very promising people; they promise you certain things at certain time. Delivery is another matter. It seems a contractor is always late and there are always things that he forgot in the construction. But once you get to a specific stage in the construction, whatever they left out is gone forever. It is therefore advised, should you happen to have need of a contractor, that you exercise great diligence in overseeing his work, get everything in writing, and remember you have only one shot to get this right.

Parallels

The two builders here represent the two basic options in life. Please recall that I said to exercise great diligence over your contractor. The same is true (and with much greater reason) in your life. You are only going to get one shot at life. You have to make it a good one.

As Jesus points out here, the key thing to getting your building right is the foundation. Many, many things can be fixed with spackling, paint and of course duct tape. Many, but not all things. If the foundation is not set correctly there is no way to fix the problem. So you need to set the right foundation. This metaphor for life is used several times in the New Testament. At every opportunity, the metaphor says that the right foundation is Jesus Christ. I would point out two things:

·         First, we are dealing with the foundation. That means everything else in life rests upon this. If Jesus Christ is not number one in your life, the basis on which you live, you are getting it wrong. If you have "done a corner" in Christ, you have the wrong foundation.

·         Second, the foundation is not something that you manufacture as much as you put in place. You do not get a choice in this matter. You need to use the Jesus who is, or invent something else (even if you put his name on it).

Choices

This is the fundamental choice that all Christians get. It breaks out this way: you can select Christ as your foundation, or you can select anything this world offers — the flesh, the world or pride. You know the risk of doing that. But there is another point as well. You can hear the Word, not yes and do nothing. Or you can hear the Word and practice it. It is amazing how many people can deceive themselves into thinking that everything is just fine because they come to church on Sunday. Examine yourself, please. Be like the builder who put upon the rock; hear the Word and be obedient to it.

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