Luke 16

Read Luke 16

This chapter contains one of the strangest parables Jesus spoke in verses 1-8. It is about a bad manager who, when he was getting fired, gave deep discounts to the customers of his master (vv. 1-7).

The purpose of those discounts was to make the customers like him so that they would give him a place to stay after he was fired (v. 4). After wasting his master’s money (v. 1)–probably by making risky loans that went bad–this man lowered his master’s revenue even further by reducing the profit his master would make on the few good loans this bad manager made.

Think of it like this: Back in 2008, banks started to lose money on all the risky loans they had made. You made all your mortgage payments on time and would continue to do so even though your lender was going bankrupt on all your other loans. Imagine you owed, say, $50,000 on your house. Then the loan officer at your bank called you and said, “I’ve re-financed your mortgage; you now only owe $25,000. You can pay it off now, if you can or just keep making the same mortgage payment but you’ll be done much earlier.”

That would be nice, right?

But what if that loan officer got fired and needed a place to stay. Would you let him sleep on your couch for a while, or in your basement or spare bedroom?

It would be weird; but given how much money he saved you, wouldn’t it be worth a few months of free lodging?

If I were the master in this story, I’d be mad at the money manger for wasting my money and I’d REALLY be mad at him for giving such deep discounts to the few profitable clients we had left. But that’s not what the manager in the story did. Instead, he “commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly” (v. 8). Though he lost a lot of money, he had to admire how his ex-manager made a safety net for himself out of nothing. That was a shrewd thing to do.

Jesus applied this story to us and the way we use money. He commanded us to “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (v. 9). What does this mean?

It means be generous with your money and give it away to others instead of being stingy with it. After all, money all belongs to God, not to us (v. 12a). If we trust God, we’ll be generous knowing that our eternity is secure (v. 9). Generosity is the result of faith in God; it does not buy God’s affection.

But the reverse is also true–stinginess is the result of no faith in God. Instead, when we live like money is everything and should never be shared, we are revealing that we love money more than we love God (v. 13).

Think about how you use money. Does the way you save it and spend it reveal that it is your god? Or, are you growing in generosity because you are a servant of God?

What is one financial decision you could make today that would bring your money-management into greater alignment with your statement of faith?

Luke 15

Today’s reading is Luke 15.

The other day I was standing in line at a coffee shop while the couple in front of me placed their orders, paid, and received change. As the cashier was handing the man his change, he dropped one of the coins. I watched it fall to the ground where it leaned on its edge against the man’s shoe.

My first instinct was to reach down, pick up the coin, and hand it back to the man. But then I hesitated for two reasons. First, the coin was touching him, so reaching down to pick it up would put me uncomfortably into his personal space. Second, the coin was a penny, so was it really worth it for one measly cent?

Before I made a decision, he reached down and picked it up himself so my problem was solved. But the fact that it was a mere penny got me thinking about things that are lost. If you lost a penny, you might look around for it for a few seconds, but probably would not waste too much time searching because the value is so low. If you lost a ten thousand dollar check or an extremely rare coin– one that was of great value to collectors and of personal value to you because it was given to you by a favorite grandpa or aunt or someone else you loved–you would tear the place apart looking for it, right? You’d do that because of the immense value it has in terms of cash and personally to you.

Here in Luke 15 Jesus overheard the muttering of the religious (v. 2) about Jesus’ tendency to spend time with the outcasts of society (v. 1, 2b). “Those people” were not worth anything to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They were worth less than a penny because they were “sinners.” If they were coins, not only would the religious people refuse to stoop down to pick them up, these religious leaders would grind them into the dust with their sandaled feet.

Jesus told three stories here in Luke 15 to illustrate why he spent time with sinners. All of them have to do with the worth of the sinners involved. To Jesus, saving sinners was like a shepherd finding a lost sheep (vv. 3-7), a woman finding a lost coin (vv. 8-10), and a man reconciling with his lost (that is, rebellious) son (vv. 11-24). The point of these stories was to invite the religious leaders to reconsider their hatred of sinners (vv. 25-32). But another key point of these stories is to illustrate how much lost humanity means to God.

I have many things in my past that I am ashamed to have said or done. In my present life, there are areas where I wish I was more like Christ and had a greater desire to improve. While I don’t think of myself as worthless, I have to admit that my sinfulness makes me far from desirable to a holy God. Jesus taught, however, that God loves to find his lost sons. This chapter calls us, then, to look at sinners differently. We should see ourselves and others not as worthless pennies but as precious in God’s sight, so precious that he came to find us. Let’s give thanks for God’s love and remember to love other sinners, no matter how reprehensible we think they are. To do anything else puts us in the place of the judgmental older brother who missed out on the party because of his unloving attitude.

Luke 14

Read Luke 14.

“Ok, these guys won’t like it if I heal you now. So come back tomorrow, if you still want me to heal you and I’ll do it then. Mkay?”

Jesus could have said that in verse 4.

Instead, after asking the Pharisees and scribes if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, Jesus went ahead and healed him after “they remained silent” (v. 4). Jesus knew they wouldn’t like it; that’s why he asked them about it in verse 3. Instead of changing his actions to suit the expectations of the religious, so that they would like him, Jesus challenged their false assumptions and healed the man anyway.

Then he explained to them why it was NOT wrong to heal on the Sabbath day (v. 5).

How often do we act like this?

How often do we do the right thing or say the righteous thing even when we know it will anger the people around us?

How often do we have the courage to do what God wants us to do even if it is offensive to others.

For me, not often enough. If I think someone might not like what I have to say or what I’m going to do, I’ll avoid the topic, change the subject, try to soften the statement or do what I’m going to do privately or another time.

Jesus didn’t run away from controversy. He looked for it. He took every opportunity to do good, even if others didn’t like it. He knew God would be glorified and God’s people would be blessed and that’s all that mattered.

There’s no reason to be unkind or act like a jerk. That’s not godliness.

But it is also ungodly to be a chameleon. Jesus could have acted like the Pharisees when he was around the Pharisees. He could have sneaked over to the home of the puffy man in verse 2 and healed him privately after he left the dinner party.

Shoot, he could have just said nothing at all and healed the guy remotely as the man walked out the door and nobody was watching. Instead, he took the opportunity to heal the man and shine a light on the hypocrisy (v. 5) of the religious crowd.

We care too much about what others think and not nearly enough about what is right. Let’s look for ways to be more like Jesus and less like a chameleon.

Luke 13

Read Luke 13.

A few weeks ago, workers in China built a new hospital. The hospital was needed to quarantine and treat victims of COVID-19 which was spreading rapidly.

Construction on the hospital took 10 days. The time-lapse video of it being built is very impressive.* It’s incredible how rapidly they were able to built it.

God’s kingdom doesn’t work like that. God does not build his kingdom rapidly. Instead, Jesus said it was like a mustard seed that grew into a tree (v. 19) or yeast that permeated a huge lump of dough (v. 21).

Both of these things happen slowly, imperceptibly. You can plant a mustard seed and look at it everyday. You will see that it has changed over time but you can’t see it changing in time. The growth is happening too slowly to see in real time, but it is happening.

So it is with the gospel. There have been times in church history when thousands came to Christ at the same time (Acts 2:41) but every salvation happens individually and usually those individuals believe alone or in a small cluster. Yet, everyday, all over the world, people are being saved. The church worldwide grows a little bit all the time and, when Jesus returns, we’ll enter the kingdom and see how that little mustard seed has become a massive tree.

If you’ve lost faith in God’s saving power, take heart. The kingdom of God is not a hastily assembled hospital built by people forced to work around the clock by their tyrannical government.

Instead, it is a tree, growing slowly but constantly. And you and I contribute to that growth as we share the gospel message with others.


*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VvV10S4QSw

Luke 12

Read Luke 12.

In verse 1, Jesus warned the disciples about the “yeast of the Pharisees” which he defined as “hypocrisy.” The hypocrisy he had in mind has four elements:

  1. Create a system of rules that define what godliness is. These can be based on biblical commands but made specific and rigid.
  2. Live by that system rigorously on the outside.
  3. Be hard on people who don’t abide by the system of rules.
  4. Sin privately, if you think you can get away with it. Your sin can be a private violation of the rules you say you live by or it can be a violation in other areas.

Let me make up an example. Here in Luke 12:21 Jesus condemned someone who “stores up things for themselves.” Let’s say I take that phrase out of context and say, “This means it is wrong to save money in a bank account. You should have no bank accounts because that is a place to store up things for yourself. Instead, you should spend money as you need it and give the rest away.” Let’s run this example through the four elements listed above:

  1. Create a system of rules: “Don’t store up things for yourself” = never have a bank account.
  2. Live by that system on the outside: I close all my bank accounts, sell all the assets I have and give the proceeds away.
  3. Be hard on people who don’t abide by the system: I start protesting outside banks with signs that say, “God hates banks.” I rail against bank customers coming in and out and, if I see someone writing a check in a store, I give that person a hard time about their sin.
  4. Sin privately: Unknown to you, I shrink-wrap thousands of dollars in cash and store it in my attic. Or maybe I do have a bank account my wife’s name or in the name of some corporation that I own.

So, personally, I don’t have a bank account. By any technical definition, I am living righteously as I have defined it. But my shrink-wrapped cash and/or my bank account in someone else’s name is a way to store value for myself. By my definition of sin and righteousness, I’m technically righteous.

But in reality, I’m disobedient to Luke 12:21 (as I have incorrectly interpreted it) by storing up value for myself in another way.

According to this example, I’m a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is like yeast in the sense that a little bit expands until it permeates everything just like yeast expands until it ferments an entire loaf of bread. Once I start feeling good about the rule I’ve made and how I’ve been able to live up to it and condemn others, I’ll make more rules.

But hypocrisy doesn’t always involve manmade rules. We can be hypocrites if we demand obedience to clear and true commands of scripture while privately disobeying them. So,

  • Are you hard on others for a sin that you secretly enjoy?
  • Do you condemn others who fail to do right even though you don’t do right in that area either?

If so, then Jesus said: “You’re a hypocrite.” While none of us is perfectly consistent, the hypocrite is harsh when condemning the failings of others yet, s/he makes excuses for their own failures in the same area.

And, since hypocrisy grows and spreads like yeast, eventually your hypocrisy in one area will invade and corrupt other areas of your life. One problem with living in hypocrisy, however, is that eventually your secrets will be known (vv. 2-3). This fact should give us greater sense of humility and a deeper compassion for sinners who may struggle more obviously with the areas where we struggle as well.

Are you living in hypocrisy? Are you projecting a life of obedience and holiness while attempting to hide sin in your own life? Repent–change your mind–and ask God to help you root out the hypocrisy in your life.

None of us is perfect. We all struggle with things we know to be sinful; that’s not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is pretending not to struggle and being hard on those who are. It is an additional sin, layered on top of other sins you commit.

Luke 11

Read Luke 11.

Does God really answer prayer? Going by what Jesus said here in Luke 11:1-13, not only does God answer prayer, he is waiting to bless us by answering our prayers.

So, why don’t we get more answers to prayer?

One reason is that we pray very differently than Jesus told us to pray.

Verses 1-4 record what is called “The Lord’s Prayer” but should be called “The Lord’s Guide to Prayer.” Jesus was not telling us to pray this prayer in these words but rather to let the themes he touched on be the things that we talk to God about. Namely:

  • That more and more people would come to worship him and stand in awe of his holiness and greatness (“hallowed by thy name”).
  • That his kingdom would finally arrive finishing the redemption of his elect and giving us a place to finally be the society he created us to be (“your kingdom come”).
  • That he would provide for our daily needs, not make all our dreams come true (“give us each day our daily bread”).
  • That he would make us holy just as he has declared us to be (“forgive us our sins… and lead us not into temptation”).
  • That he would give us the grace to resolve the relationships we have broken by our sins (“for we also forgive everyone who sins against us”).

Jesus’ healing ministry shows us that God does care about our physical problems, but how often is our praying dominated by praying for ourselves and others to have physical healing? Do we ever pray for each other to avoid sin? Do we take time to worship God for who he is and ask him to save more people so that they can worship him?

These are the things Jesus told us to pray for, so let’s let his instructions mold our own talks with God each day.

Luke 10

Read Luke 10.

Joy is a major theme of the Bible. It isn’t emphasized a lot by preachers like me because it isn’t hard doctrine. Yet it is a theme that is interwoven throughout the Old and New Testaments and is described throughout scripture as an outgrowth of walking with God (for instance, “The fruit of the Spirit is… joy” (Gal 5:22).

In this chapter of Luke, Jesus prayed “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” (v. 21a) for God’s plan to bless the simple with salvation instead of those who believe themselves to be sophisticated (v. 21b). But in the same context, he cautioned the 72 disciples about the source of their joy. After a successful short-term missions trip, they “returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” Their joy, it seems, stemmed from their success using the spiritual power Christ had delegated to them. Power can cause pride so our Lord warned them about Satan’s fall (v. 18) and encouraged them not to find their joy in power but instead to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (v. 20b).

Our Lord Jesus Christ rescued us from an eternity of misery apart from God. He rescued us from the darkness of living apart from God and his truth. He adopted us into his family and conferred on us all the rights and privileges of sonship, even treating us as if we were as righteous as Jesus is even though we are not. He gave us spiritual power to accomplish anything and everything he calls us to do for his kingdom work. It is his grace and mercy to us and the promises he has made to us about the future that really matter. These are the things God wants us to rejoice about, not what we have done or can do or will do. Whenever the source of joy is about us, we are in danger of pride; whenever it is about God, we have joy as a blessing.

This is a great truth to start the week. God wants you to have joy and the source of that joy is him and all that he has done for us and will do for us. I hope you live today in that joy, rejoicing in God’s grace and goodness to us.