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 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 9

Read Luke 9.

This chapter began with Jesus sending out the Twelve to give the gospel and to do miraculous works to authenticate their message (vv. 1-2). Jesus told them to take nothing so that they would learn to rely on God’s provision for everything (vv. 3-6).

God did provide for them and he used them powerfully to serve Jesus (v. 10). But they did not completely learn the lesson. When food was needed for a large crowd, the Apostles wanted Jesus to send the crowds away (v. 12). Jesus challenged their thinking and commanded them to feed the crowds themselves which they protested (vv. 13-14). Christ showed them once again that he had the power to meet every need they had in ministry. But the implication is that, if they’d had trusted him, they could have fed the crowd themselves through his power (vv. 16-17).

When we’re serving God, we can trust him to meet every need we have. He has more than enough power–infinite power, in fact–to meet every need we have and then some. The question is whether or not we look to him in faith to provide for our needs or if we conclude in unbelief that it cannot be done with the present resources.

Ministries and churches–including us–are being tested on this right now. As the precautions against the spread of COVID-19 do damage to our economy, we have the opportunity either to trust God to provide or to freak out about what this will mean.

Will you believe God with me for our church about this? Will you pray and ask God to keep providing money to pay our staff, fund our missionaries, provide for those who have benevolence needs, and continue to pay for our building and other expenses?

Will you trust God to provide for you and your family and keep giving to his work? We have a unique opportunity to see God work and provide. Will you trust him in faith or give up in fear?

Luke 8

Read Luke 8.

Why is it that only a few people respond to the gospel message and are saved?

Jesus answered that question in the parable of the soils here in Luke 8:4-15 and the illustration of a light on a stand in verses 16-18.

The parable of the soils teaches that people don’t respond to the gospel because of problems in their hearts. Sometimes the devil distracts them before the word can be planted in their hearts (v. 12). Sometimes their response is superficial not genuine (v. 13). Sometimes the distractions that come from living in this world (v. 14). Only the heart that is prepared can truly receive the word (v. 15).

The gospel is God’s word. The problem of unbelief is clearly not with God’s word. God scatters his word widely so that it falls on all kinds of hearts (vv 5, 11). He puts his word high on stand like a lamp (vv. 16-17) so that the light goes all over the place. The word of God is not defective. It is not hidden or sterile. It is neither hard to find nor expensive to acquire.

Given the pervasiveness of God’s word, we need to be careful listeners according to verse 18. That verse goes on to say, “Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” The more you listen to God’s word, respond to and obey it, the more truth God sends into your life.

On the other hand, when you don’t receive God’s word, you don’t stay in one spot spiritually. Instead, Jesus said, “even what they think they have will be taken from them.” Your grasp of truth weakens when you don’t apply God’s word in your life.

How’s your response to God’s word? Are you eager to receive it, believe it, and obey it? Or are you distracted by other things. If your spiritual life is not moving forward, it is going backward. Ask God to give you a responsive heart to his word so that you can grow in your faith and knowledge of God.

Luke 3

Read Luke 3.

Luke chapter 3 begins with some historical context. It told us that John the Baptist began his ministry during “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (v. 1). Then it goes on to list some other leaders. These leaders can be classified this way. When John’s ministry began there was:

One world leader: Tiberius Caesar (v. 1a).

Four regional leaders:

  1. Pontius Pilate of Judea
  2. Herod of Galilee
  3. Philip
  4. Lysanias

Two religious leaders:

  1. Annas
  2. Caiaphas

Luke’s purpose in listing these men was to establish the life and ministry of John, and then, of course, Jesus, in human history.

But Luke may have had another purpose in mind when he listed these leaders. Despite the many layers of government and religious authorities over God’s people, God’s word did not come to any of them. Instead, verse 2 says, “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” And that message was to get ready because “the Lord” is coming (v. 4).

When God began his kingdom program, he did not give his word to the politically powerful or even the religiously significant. Instead, he began speaking to a man out in the desert. Through him and through Jesus Christ, who did most of his preaching in small towns outside of Jerusalem (and Rome), God began to send his “salvation” (v. 6).

Does God need a President of the United States? Does he need a majority in the two houses of congress? Is his will subject to which legal ideology controls the court system?

No. In fact, God’s ways and will are done outside of human politics and inside of human hearts (vv. 7-8) through the power of his word (v. 2).

There is value in voting and in using politics to communicate what is righteous and sinful and to preserve whatever freedoms we can. But government cannot make people love God or find God’s love, righteousness, and forgiveness in Christ. Only the gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can do that. Put your faith there, not in politicians. Put more energy into the spread of God’s word than in the election of a candidate or in getting legislation passed.