Introduction: Welcome to Expound our verse-by-verse study of God's Word. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God by explaining the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Lord, we have a very interesting and difficult chapter before us. The material that Jesus gave on that day that he gave it was no doubt a shock to his audience. It was meant to be thus. And because of the material that has covered the subjects that are brought forth in this section, they are uncomfortable even to a modern audience, and perhaps especially so. So give us your grace, Lord, as we are open to your Spirit now, taking these ancient but inspired truths and making application to us personally, in Jesus' name, amen.
When I was a kid, I was trying to think about this today, I don't really remember my dad necessarily tucking me in and telling me bedtime stories, but I do vividly remember my older brothers doing that. Not really tucking me in and telling me comforting stories, but rather with the lights off trying to shock me and scare me with their imaginitory stories. And I know it's going to sound really, really weird and off the wall, but my brother Rick had this ongoing narrative that he called "the ghost, the bloody bones, and the pea patch." If you ask me to explain the connection, I couldn't. It was just one kid's crazy imagination. But he tried to say it in such a way, and with a tone of voice, and in a way to get my brother Bob and I really shaken up.
"The ghost, the bloody bones, and the pea patch." I don't know where that fits in, but . . . [laughter] but he wanted to shock us. And we come to two stories---some think two parables, others think one parable and then an actual story---that was intend to shock Jesus' audience. In chapter 16 he turns from the scribes and the Pharisees that he was addressing in the previous chapter now to his disciples. If you remember in the previous chapter, the Pharisees and the scribes, who at this point in Jesus' life they are never far away. They are on his tail. They are looking for ways to trap him by his language, by his words, hoping they will be inflammatory enough to bring a charge against him. But they're watching him closely.
So, in the previous chapter, they noted that the tax collectors and sinners loved Jesus and pressed to get close to him. And so they brought an accusation saying, "This man eats with tax collectors and sinners and he invites them," which was true. But then Jesus launched into three parables toward the scribes and Pharisees, three parables, three stories about three lost things: a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son. With each parable the value was increased. A sheep was valuable, but a coin that was used on a woman's wedding day and her headdress was important because of the relationship it depicted. And then a son who is lost was more valuable than the previous two items.
And the Lord was talking about that they should rejoice when one person is found by God, and they ought to rejoice when there is salvation. But they're in a completely different page. Now the Lord turns toward his disciples and he gives a story to them. But there are two stories, two parables in chapter 16. One, verses 1 through 13, is directed to the disciples, as you will see. And then he'll expand upon that, because the Pharisees are listening closely, and react to the first parable told the disciples. In other words, they're eavesdropping. They're hanging out and Jesus is speaking at a volume loud enough that the disciples could hear, but anybody else could hear.
And so he tells the first parable to the disciples, the Pharisees react to it, so he tells the second story to them. That's verses 19 through 31. In both of these parables there is the mention of money. It's not the central issue, but it is an issue. It certainly is central in the first parable. But it's interesting, because Jesus spoke so much about finances. It's estimated that one parable out of every three parables Jesus taught had something to do---was somehow related to our use of, or our relationship with, or the way we look at money. So the Lord spoke a lot about it. And it's a common subject. I mean, who doesn't need it? Who doesn't want it? Who doesn't use it? It's a very, very common story to tell.
And so the Lord one time out of every three parables, one parable out of three, speaks about it. Somebody even once said, "If you live to be eighty years old, you'll spend fifty years of your life thinking about money." I don't know if that's, like, hard research, or something somebody made up, but I do know a lot of people spend a whole lot of time thinking about it, and working for it, and working toward it. So the first parable, beginning in verse 1, is really a shocking story, because the hero in the story is a crook. And this would get anybody's attention, and I believe Jesus did this in order to get their attention. So the main guy is a crook, and he becomes the hero of the story.
There are other people involved in the story who are complicit in the conniving, in the-in the backroom deal that this guy is making with them. They're accomplices to it. And then, finally, there is the owner himself. And the owner himself who is the victim, the victim in this story, actually commends the crook for what he has done to him. And then to make matters worse, Jesus himself extols him. So this has caused a lot of misunderstanding and misinterpretation over the years by lots of people. But here's what you ought to know, and Luke was really good at bringing this up. There are parables of comparison and there are parables of contrast.
And Luke, more than any other gospel writers, will highlight the parables of contrast that Jesus gives, and this is one of them. You'll find more as we go on. In chapter 18 he'll speak about the parable of the unjust judge. And he'll compare the unjust judge to God. Actually, he will contrast the unjust judge to God. He is not saying God is like the unjust judge. But if an unjust judge can do that, you gotta know that God who is just can do this, can do more. Then in the very next chapter he will speak about the wicked servant who didn't invest what is master entrusted him with, as opposed to the good ones and did invest. So here we have one of those parables.
And Jesus isn't saying be bad, be wicked, be scheming, and be conniving like this guy in the story, because we know that he is simply dealing with the way things really are in the world. You will see. And what our Lord is saying is that that's how worldly people act. You are called to a different life. You are called to a higher level. As Jesus prayed in John 17, "Lord, I have chosen them out of the world. They are not of this world." And then the apostle later will say, "Be not conformed to this world." "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." So, essentially, what we have in the first story, the first parable, is a bad example. But we have a good lesson from a bad example.
Verse 1, "He also said to his disciples: 'There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.' " A steward is a manager. He's an executive. This is white-collar crime. He's an executive manager who is in charge of somebody else's stuff, somebody else's estate, somebody else's investments, somebody else's property, somebody else's goods. That's what a steward is. And he is the manager for a very rich individual. How rich? Well, so rich that he has quite a number of debtors, and so rich that though he has many debtors, he is personally not involved with them. He has the steward managing all that in proxy for him.
So here's a very, very rich man who has executives under him, and one particular guy who's managing his estate, managing his affairs, entrusted everything to him, who is crooked. He is sort of like, the owner is, the Donald Trump of the New Testament. Very wealthy and probably doesn't get involved in all the minutia of deals, but he has other people doing them for him, and he's at the top. The manager, the steward, would assign the workers their duties. The manager would give them their pay. The manager would collect debts owed the master, the owner. And it was the manager who would act in business dealings in proxy for the owner himself. He would make the decisions; that's how much trust he had.
Now, if we go back in the Old Testament, we know that such stewards were not uncommon. Abraham had a steward and we know his name. His name was Eliezer of Damascus, we are told. Eliezer was sent to Haran to find a wife, a bride for the son of Abraham, Isaac. He entrusted him that much. He kind of gave him the parameters, but he sent him his way and said, you know, "You're going to bring that person back, and I'm trusting you that much with the future of my son, that you, Eliezar, as my manager as my steward, you're going to bring the right person back." But notice what it says in verse 1. "An accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods."
The word "wasting" is the same word in the previous parable of the previous chapter of the prodigal son where he wasted all of his father's wealth on wasteful or prodigal living. So "prodigal" and "wasteful," it's the same word. So, in chapter 15 we have the story of the prodigal son; now we have the story of the prodigal steward, the prodigal manager, somebody who has ripped his boss off. Also, the word "wasting" is a present active participle. All that means is it denotes an ongoing activity. This isn't a guy who just ripped his boss off one time. He has been doing that over and over and over again. It's become a practice of his, a lifestyle of wasting his master's goods. And this guy finds out. "
So he," verse 2, "he called him and said, 'What is this I hear about you?' "giving him a chance to respond." 'Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.' "Or in the infamous words of Donald Trump, "You're fired." Or, "We're going to bring the auditors in here and they're going to look at your receipts. They're going to look at your payables. They're going to look at you, at the receipts that---in all the business dealings that you've made. And the auditor is going to tell us where you fudged." That would be sort of a modern equivalent to this. Verse 3, "Then the steward said within himself"---so he's thinking this in his head.
"The steward said within himself," the manager's thinking and he said," 'What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig.' " So, he probably was sort of weak and flabby, and he's a white-collar worker. He's not---he doesn't get his hands dirty. "I can't dig." I mean, anybody can dig. [laughter] This guy said, "Well, I can't do that," which is really, "I won't do that." And then notice this: "And I'm ashamed to beg." Now that's funny to me, because he's not ashamed to steal [laughter] over and over and over again. But he says, "Well, I'm too proud of a man, I'm not going to beg. I'm too ashamed to beg, to steal---to beg." "I've resolved what I shall do."
"I've got it. I know what I'm going to do. I've got a plan in my head." This is his little eureka moment. "That when I am put out of the stewardship," when I'm kicked off of the staff as being this high-profile executive manager, "They may receive me into their homes." So this guy's basically losing his job. And because he's losing his job, he's losing his pay check. He's losing the benefits that come with this position. He's losing his house, because his house would have been on the same estate as this rich man. He's overseeing the estate. It's sort of like the servants in Downton Abbey. They live on the premises. This guy's losing his reputation, because he's going to be known as a crook in the community.
So he's losing everything, and he has to come up with a plan. And his plan is, "H'm, I've got an idea." " 'When I'm put out of my stewardship, they"---that's key, because the "they" will be explained in the next verse---" 'may receive me into their houses.' So he called every one of his master's debtors to him"---that's the "they" in the story, "his master's debtors," the people that owed his master an enormous amount of money. Now there is an important verse of Scripture that says, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap," in the book of Galatians. Also, there's a text in the Old Testament that says, "Be careful, for your sin will find you out."
His sin just found him out. He's now going to reap, at least in part, what he has sown. When I was a kid, I learned the lesson of "my sin will find me out." I wanted to build a fort in the back, and so my brothers and I---remember, I had three older brothers. I'm the baby, so I used them for the-for the muscle, the back. They dug the hole and our fort was in the ground. We just dug this huge hole. To me it was---it was like the size of a house, but I'm sure it was just a couple feet, because memory does that. But it was this big hole in the ground. Then we put a few two-by-fours and we put plywood over it. And then we covered it with dirt, and we actually put little bushes on it, so it would look like dirt.
And that was our secret hiding place. Nobody knew where it was . . . until the day a neighbor's horse stepped on that faux ground that I had laid, and sunk into it causing damage to the horse, and causing damage to me, because of my father's corporal punishment. He believed in that. In other words, I got whipped, got spanked for it. But my sin found my out. My secret was uncovered. Then there was that time---and I've told you this story before---when my dad and my mom were going on vacation. They entrusted the estate to me, which is our house. They wanted me to make sure that the plants were watered, the grass was mowed. And not only was the grass mowed, it was summertime, weeds were coming up.
I had to pull all the weeds in the yard. Well, we had an acre and a half, so the prudent thing would be to go out there early and just pick a few a day. Well, I waited till the day before they got back. And by this time there were---I can't---I couldn't tell you how many. The whole---it was infested. [laughter] And so I had to think what I must do. I can't dig. [laughter] I'm too ashamed to beg. [laughter] I know what I'll do! And so I got the lawn mower out that I just mowed the lawn with, put it on its absolutely lowest setting to where it dug through the earth, just scraped the ground, and I mowed all the weeds in our property. I effectively destroyed the lawn mower.
But when I came back---when they came back, the next day, they said, "Hey, the house looks pretty good. Yard looks great. The plants are watered, the lawn looks nice, and all of the weeds---you pulled the weeds, didn't you?" So now I had that moment. I should have said, "No. I really didn't pull them. I fudged on it and I mowed them." I just said, "Oh, yeah." And so they had worked out a deal that if I did that, I would get a---this remuneration, some kind of a reward. And I got it. And then about a week and a half later I really got it. [laughter] Because it doesn't take long for weeds that are trimmed to gain a little more growth in the summertime, and that's exactly what happened.
And as they came up and he saw how the tops were just sort of severed off and mangled, it dawned on them what I had done. My sin found me out. This manager, this steward is now busted. So, but he's got a plan, and he calls his master's debtors to him. Now here's what you gotta know: Jesus is giving a story that was common and is common to this day. It's common to this day. This is how the world operates. The world operates on the basis of self-preservation. "What can I do to get through it and make sure that I'm okay?" Satan was right. In the book of Job he ascertained human nature well when he said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life."
He'll do whatever it takes. And so in worldly business, self-preservation is key. And that's what he does. "He called every one of his master's debtors to him, and he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' " So he gets the books out. He's going to change the accounts, as you're going to see, and give the debtors less to pay. "And he said," the first guy said, " 'A hundred measures of oil.' And so he [the manager] said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly and write fifty.' " So notice two things. First of all, in this first transaction the manager is giving the guy, the debtor who owes the master, this much. He's giving him a 50 percent discount.
The other thing, notice, he says do it quickly, "Sit down quickly." You know, con men are always like this, right? They're in a hurry. They're talking real fast and they're telling you the benefits. "Sign here. Sign here. Do it quickly." "Then he said to another," this is the second debtor, " 'How much do you owe?' He said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' And he said, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' " So he gives him a 20 percent discount. He writes "paid in full" on all the invoices. Now a hundred measures of oil is between nine hundred and a thousand gallons. It is worth three years' wages. And it is the product of olives that have been pressed in an olive press from one hundred and fifty olive trees.
A hundred measures of wheat is about a thousand-thousand bushels. It would take a hundred acres to produce a thousand bushels, and it's about nine years' worth of labor all together that it would take to produce this. So, this manager shrewdly---that's the keyword here, you're going to see "shrewdly"---comes up with a plan to get the debtors that owe his master an enormous amount of money and he cuts their bill down. He makes it easy for them to pay. He takes the old bills, destroys them, so there's no evidence. There's no witnesses. He's very, very clever. It's wrong, it's unethical, it's illegal, but in the world of self-preservation and survival of the fittest, it's shrewd, as you will see.
Now, this would do two things. First of all, the debtors would be very grateful, because they don't know what's going on behind the scenes. And he says, "You know what? Just pay this much and you're okay." "Well, thanks. That's great." So they're going to be very grateful to him, which means later on if he needs a favor, he's going to go, "Remember what I did for you? I scratched your back, now you scratch my back." And in that culture of honor where something was done like this, they would be indebted to him. The second thing it did is make them accomplices. So now he has leverage. So, if they were ever to say, "You know what? You're a dirty, rotten scoundrel."
He'd say, "Well, you were part of it. You paid it. You did it with me." And because there are no witnesses, his case would be as strong as theirs. Okay, so, here's a bad guy, really a bad guy, but the worst is yet to come, because now the boss, the victim will compliment him. That's shocking enough, to make it even more shocking, Jesus will compliment him. "So the master commanded"---or excuse me, "commended," extolled. "The master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly," cleverly. And then Jesus remarks, "For the sons of this world"---that is, unbelievers---"are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light"---that is, believers.
Now this is shocking, because you would think the owner, the man who has the estate, the boss, would want revenge for this. He wouldn't commend him, say, "Are you kidding? I'm going to sue you. I'm going after you." Because that's human nature, right? How do you feel when somebody clips you off on the freeway or pulls you off---pulls in front of you? You're going thirty-five, he's going ten, and he just sort of goes really slow. Does that ever get to you like it gets to me? [laughter] I've never liked bad drivers. So whenever it happens---it always is-it is--it's a trial of my trust, my faith, and my joy. Because I can have wonderful joy in the Lord, and if somebody does something like that, ooooh. [laughter]
Now I've learned to be better, but there was a time when I would just, I'd drive---I'd follow them all over the state. [laughter] Years ago I was a---when I surfed every day and it came to a---it came to a head one day when I realized this has become an idol. It's a great activity. It's a lot of fun. It's good exercise. It's very refreshing. It's exhilarating. But it had become an idol, and I knew it. When I was out one day and I---a set was coming and I jumped on the board. I dropped in. And just as I was riding it, somebody came behind me and didn't like the fact that I caught it, and so he---it's what you call "shoulder hopping" somebody. He just jumped on me, cut in front of me, threw me off my board, and just pushed me in the water.
So I didn't really get to enjoy it. Now, he had did it just 'cause he thought I shouldn't be there and he should have gotten that wave. And I remember, I was a believer, but I was a very angry believer. I was so angry it came---I came really close to going after him and having it come to blows. Because I saw him, I said, "I could take this kid. This is easy. [laughter] I'm going to show him. I'm going to teach him a lesson. He needs to be taught a lesson." And the Lord, it was as if he spoke to me. And I remember, I took a break from it. I took a hiatus from surfing for months, because I realized it had-it had become that much of an idol. Anyway, he didn't do that. He compliments a guy. Why? Not for being a crook, but for being shrewd.
He complimented him for having foresight, for thinking of his future, thinking of his future. He thought ahead. And then Jesus says, "The sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light." In other words, sinful people will use any means to secure their future. That's the way of the world. That's the way of the world. That's what sinful people do. "The sons of light," however, are typically different. They don't use every means at their disposal to think of their future and plan for their future. And I will explain. You'll see how this is fleshed out in just a moment. So, basically we have a story. You have a worldly boss who praises or commends or extols a worldly manager for worldly wisdom.
And then Jesus says the sons of this world are smart, they're shrewd in their dealings. "And I say to you," verse 9, "make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when they fail---when you fail"---or when, some translations say, "it fails," your income fails, the money fails---"they may receive you into an everlasting home." Okay, Jesus uses the story as an attention-getter, as a hook to shock people, and to get their attention, and to teach a good lesson from a bad example. And here it is, here's the basic thrust of it: If believers were as determined in their spiritual lives about spiritual things and their future as unbelievers are in their physical, temporal lives, things would be a lot different, but they are not.
Unbelievers will serve their goals often with more passion and more devotion. Think of the businessman, I've seen so many in the airport---Wall Street Journal, cell phone, computer---making deals until the stewardess finally says, "You gotta put your phones away now." And then as soon as they touchdown and you can use your phone, they're on the phone and they're sealing the deal. And they're just really devoted to thinking about their future, managing their future. They've got the foresight to put all of that energy into motion. Or an athlete who will train and diet and work hard to shorten their time in the event; they put so much effort into it.
And then verse 9, I just need to read again and explain a little bit. "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves." Now, remember, he's teaching his disciples, so this is for us. "Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon." You know, "mammon" is simply another word for money. It's the Syriac or Aramaic word for money. And mammon was actually considered by some in that day as a god. And so he uses the term of antiquity, "mammon." It's translated thus here. "Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail"---or when "it" (the mammon) fails, again, as some translations say---"they may receive you into ever---into an everlasting home."
Okay, this was a typical way for a rabbi to teach. It was a---It was an ancient rabbinical style of teaching a lesson from the lesser to the greater. If an unbeliever will be that devoted to his or her future, then what kind of-of seriousness and effort should believers be putting into preparing for their future? Now, this is not teaching that you work your way to heaven. No. That's a free gift. But as I think I told you last week: the entrance fee to the kingdom of heaven is free; the yearly subscription is everything. So this guy used his money. This guy used his status. He used his position to purchase for himself homes, future dwellings that these people, these debtors.
"When I'm broke, I can knock on their door and I can say, 'I need to move in with you for a while.' " "What do you mean move in with me?" "Remember the deal I cut you? Now I'm out of a job. You owe me." So he's thinking in advance to purchase for himself future dwellings. He's being shrewd. And Jesus is saying, "At least be as shrewd, as thoughtful as unbelievers." How? And here's-here's an interesting point: Use the money you have today to buy friends for heaven. I'm going to let that sink in for a moment. Use the money, the resources you have right now, your-your-your physical resources, your money, to purchase friends for heaven.
You say, "Well, what do you mean by that?" You could invest your money now in such a way so that when you get to heaven, you will have planted seeds with your money, your finances, so that you will have a welcoming committee in heaven. Wouldn't that be a wonderful thought? "I'm here in heaven because of you giving to that mission project, or you giving to that ministry, or that television, that radio thing, buying those tracts, those Bibles for that event." Wow, it's an incredible thought. Go back in your minds to chapter 12, just in your minds; I'll tell you the story. Jesus said the ground of a certain rich man produced plentifully. And he had so many crops, but his barns were already full.
And so he goes, "What am I going to do? I know what I'll do, I'll tear them down. I'll build bigger ones. And then I'm going to sit back, take my ease, eat, drink, and be merry, and just live off all that I have produced. I have years and years ahead." And he said that that man was a fool. God came to him that night and said, "You fool! Tonight your soul shall be required of you; then whose things shall those things be that you have stored up?" That man was a fool, because he didn't think far enough ahead. And then Jesus made a very, very similar application. Now I want to-I want to say something to you. Did you know that you can send your wealth ahead of you, so to speak, you can send it to heaven?
Now, you know, people say, "Well, you can't take it with you." Well, just let me play with that a moment. No. You can't really take your cash with you or your credit cards to heaven, but there is a way you can send your wealth ahead to heaven. You know, you can't send your car to heaven. You won't need it. If you have a motorcycle or skateboard, you can't send it. You wouldn't need it. You're going to be just buzzing around, buzzzz. [laughter] You're not going to send your house to heaven. You're going to get a mansion. You're going to get a lot better dwelling than you have now. But you can, in effect---here's what Jesus said: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven."
How many of us consciously think, "I am going to make an investment that will mean I'm laying up, sending ahead treasures for my future"? And we do that by getting involved and using the finances God has given us in gospel-preaching endeavors where souls are being saved and fruit is abounding, where there is the teaching of the Word, the preaching of the Word, missions are happening. You know, I've never believed that Christians should give to any organization that says, "You know, we're really struggling this month, and we're going to close if you don't send your gift." Well, that to me speaks of a tree that's dying.
I want to see a fruitful tree that's branching out and going into all the world and sharing the gospel and preaching Jesus. Because what that means is I can make an investment so much so that one day they're going to say, "Thank you for your investment." So, invest in that. Now, somebody's going to say, "Well, I don't have that much. If I had more, I'd give more. If I won the lottery, [laughter] I'd give more." No, you would not. "Oh, yes, I would. If I had a lot more, I mean, listen, it's hard for me, but if I had more, I'd actually, like, give to God's work." No, you would not. "So how could you say that?" Well, listen to what Jesus said: "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much."
See, it's not about how much you have, it's about who you are. It's about what priority you place on your stuff versus his stuff. That's what I read. So, he who is faithful in least is faithful in much. He who is not faithful in least, is not in much. This is called an axiom, a self-evident truth. Nobody's going to argue this. Nobody's going to dispute this. Faithful people are faithful people, whether they got a lot or a little. Unfaithful people are unfaithful people, and they'll have excuses if they have a little or they have a lot. That's what it's teaching. "Therefore, if you have been faithful in the unrighteous mammon---if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to you---your trust the true riches?
"And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?" Did you know that your place in heaven is guaranteed? All right, if you-if you---if Jesus is your Savior presently, if you have trusted Jesus' finished work, you have said, "I'm turning from my sin. I'm turning to Christ. I belong to him," if you're born again, your place in heaven is guaranteed. There's a place for you. You won't be cast out. You'll be admitted, because you're trusting in what he has done for you, not what you have done for him. That's how you come to him. So your place is guaranteed. Your position, however, in heaven, will depend on what you do now.
This is a very important truth expanded on in First Corinthians 3 by Paul the apostle. We don't have time to chase it all down, but he talks about the foundation has been laid. The foundation is Christ. "I've laid sort of the first bricks," Paul said, "on that foundation. But be careful how you build, because some people build with silver, gold, precious stones, or wood, hay, and stubble. And each man's work will be tested by fire. And if it survives, he will get a reward. If he doesn't, he will be saved, but he'll lose a reward." So, it tells me that there are degrees of rewards in heaven. There are positions in heaven that can be achieved by what we do now with what God has given us. This is not salvation by works.
Again, you have been given salvation as a free gift, but your salvation is guaranteed. Your status, however, in the kingdom will not be as everyone else's. That's a very motivating thought for me to live a holy, godly, conscious life that everything I have belongs to the Lord, and I could use my time, my talents, my treasure for his glory. "No servant can two---no servant can serve two masters; for either he's going to hate one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Now, today you might work for several people, but in that day, in a slave world---remember, it was estimated that up to half of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves.
In a slave culture, such as this, you could never have two slave-master relationships. There was one master who paid good money for you, and took care of you, and your allegiance was to that person and that person alone. And so it is with God and money, God and wealth. Who owns you? That's a good question to ask yourself: Who owns you? "Well, I own myself." Not a good---not a good answer. You gotta do better than that. So if you say that, I'm going, ehhnnt! Wrong answer. Not a good one. [laughter] And if it's "God owns you," not my job, not my status, not my money, not my possessions, not what I have, but God owns me, then that will be reflected, is the point.
Because Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." And you could reverse that: Where your heart is, that's where your treasure will be. It's the same truth. It's true either way. "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." So, Jesus died on the cross for you. We know that. We get that. But, unfortunately, we sort of stop there as believers. And the reason, I think, we don't grow and be productive is because we miss this whole realm, this whole arena of stewardship that Jesus speaks about. Listen to what Paul writes, Second Corinthians 5, "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but they should live for him who died for them and was raised again."
In other words, it's great to say, "Jesus died for my sins," but you should also say, "He was raised for my life, and I'm going to heaven, but I want to make sure that when I get to heaven, there's going to be people welcoming me into those everlasting habitations." Now, look at verse 14. He's saying this to the disciples, verse 14, "Now, the Pharisees," here they are again, "who were lovers of money, also heard these things, and they derided him." The word "deride" literally means nose. They nosed him. You know what it means? They looked down their noses at him. They scoffed him. They arrogantly dismissed him with scoffing and derision. Why? Because they were "lovers of money."
Why were they lovers of money? Because they had at that day this weird thinking that is very similar to the modern "health and wealth" gospel---that if you are a rich person, it's the evidence of the blessing of God; if you are poor, it's the evidence of the curse of God. So, "They derided him. And now he said to them,"---so he's turned his attention now. He was on the Pharisees and the scribes, and he turned to the disciples. Then they had a reaction, so now he's going to go right back to the Pharisees. "He says to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God."
That's one of those verses that I have always remembered, because when I first read it, it was like, whoa! It was such a slam to everything I had known and learned as a worldly, red-blooded American, that the value system of the kingdom is the opposite of the value system of this world. "What is highly esteemed among men, an abomination to God." And often what is highly esteemed with God is an abomination to this world. So, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached and everyone is pressing into it."
I believe he's speaking of the tax collectors, the sinners. Previously in the chapter there were so many of them pressing into hear him, loving this wonderful Messiah who preached so differently than scribes and Pharisees and religious folks. "They're pressing into it. And it's easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail." I want you to just take note here that Jesus refers to the Old Testament in the common manner, "the law and the prophets." "The law" is the law of Moses. Sometimes the word "Law" refers to just the Ten Commandments; other times the word "Law" refers to the first five books of Moses, the Torah or the Pentateuch.
And other times "the law" refers to the whole of the Old Testament. But here "the law and the prophets" does refer to the Old Testament, the prophets or the writings and the preachings of the prophets. So the term "law and the prophets" is speaking of the Old Testament. And Jesus says, "The law and the prophets were until John"---that is, John the Baptist, as we pointed out a couple weeks ago, ended the dispensation of the law. The Old Testament was done. John the Baptist inaugurated, initiated, pointed toward the Messiah. He, Jesus, has come. The Old Testament is over. There's a new way of God dealing with man based on grace through faith.
So, "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached," by John, by Jesus, sometimes by those Jesus sent out, the twelve, and the seventy, and everyone is pressing into it. "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law . . . ." Now, he's making obvious application. These Pharisees thought they were better than anybody else. They justified themselves before men, Jesus said, and they disregarded the keeping of the law by their oral tradition. Okay, they did that, and that's why that's tacked onto this. And then Jesus gives just one example, one area of their lives where they did this, and that was in the area of their personal relationships: marriage and divorce.
It was a glaring way of their disobeying the law. Look at verse 18. "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery." Now let me be brief here. I want to go quickly. There's one Old Testament passage that speaks of the divorce proceedings; and that is, Deuteronomy, chapter 24. If a husband finds some uncleanness and his wife and writes her a certificate of divorce---and it's talked about how that's done, what the parameters are---there were two schools of thought. There was the conservative school of thought, and there was the liberal school of thought.
The conservative school of thought by---headed up by one rabbi named Rabbi Shammai, said, "Uncleanness refers to adultery. If a wife commits adultery, that's what Moses was referring to in Deuteronomy 24." However, there was another rabbi named Hillel who was more liberal, and he widened out the term "uncleanness" to almost every possible thing. For example, if a wife spoiled her husband's dinner, this is written in the oral law, that is an uncleanness suitable for divorce. If the wife goes out in public with her head uncovered, that's uncleanness. If she is a brawling woman---that's a very broad description---that is an uncleanness. [laughter]
If she derides her husband's parents or her in-laws, grounds for divorce. So which of those two interpretations, the conservative or the liberal, do you think most people wanted to believe, most men? The liberal. Its like, "Hillel, dude, that guy's awesome. Yeah, man, I love that guy's preaching. [laughter] Love his preaching. Don't like the other guy---so negative, so narrow-minded." [laughter] There was even another rabbi in that school of Hillel, the liberal school, who said---his name was Rabbi Akiva---who said uncleanness could even mean if that man finds a woman more beautiful than his wife. See, so in other words, by their interpretation of the law, their reinterpretation of the law, they were divorcing their wives.
There were no-fault divorce. They could just say, "Well, we're incompatible," and they could write a certificate of divorce. And by that Jesus says, "You are doing nothing less than proliferating adultery all over the land." Heavy stuff. You know, I wouldn't want to be a Pharisee in that crowd that day. Now, if this verse were the only verse on divorce for the Christian, this would be a problem, but it is not. I'm cognizant of the time, and I'm thinking I'm not going to make it through the whole chapter, though, I think this the relatively important. Interpreting Scripture, let me just give you a little snapshot of a little class, okay? There's a class that I have taught called Hermeneutics, or the science of interpreting the text of Scripture.
And I teach five rules of hermeneutics. If you're going to look at any text of Scripture, there's five rules you go by. Number one, every text must be interpreted in the light of its context, what's around it. What's the context? What's the purpose? Number two, every text must be interpreted according to the words that are used in the sentence. So you look at words and word meaning and verbs especially. Number three, every text must be interpreted in the light of its grammar. So you look at syntax and how words are connected and related to other words---all the stuff you and I hated in English, grammar. [laughter] Fourth, every text of Scripture must be interpreted in the light of its historical background.
So you want to dig a little bit and find out what customs were and the kind of agrarian culture and ways of doing things. And number five, the fifth hermeneutical principle is every text must be interpreted in the light of the unity of Scripture. So you don't take any text out of context, and just say that's it, apart from other texts that bear on the truth that that text is mentioning. So any text out of context becomes a pretext. So Jesus gives this statement, but there are other statements that he gives. And one of them is Matthew 19 where there's a discussion with the Pharisees about marriage and divorce. And they come to him, actually, and they ask him a question.
"So, hey Master---or Rabbi, um, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?" So now you know what the background is. They're thinking about what Rabbi Hillel said about that text, "any reason." So they're wondering, they're sort of grappling with, "Which interpretation should I follow?" "So is it---is it lawful to just dump my wife because I find a prettier woman, or she puts too much salt on my food? Is that good enough?" And Jesus talks about not divorcing your wife for any reason except for---except for sexual immorality. "Whoever divorces his wife for any reason, except for sexual immorality, it's a---it's wrong. He will commit adultery."
Then they say, "Well, why then did Moses command us"---"Command us"? They turned a permission slip into a command---"to divorce our wives?" Da-da-da, and they're referring back to Deuteronomy 24. He said, "He didn't give you a commandment. Because of the hardness of your heart he permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." And he quoted Genesis, " 'God made them male and female,' and 'for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, join unto his wife. The two shall become one flesh.' Therefore, they are no longer two but one. And what God has joined together, let not man separate."
So there is an acceptance clause for a believer, for a committed Christian, for somebody who is connected to Christ. The only reason that a person is permitted to leave a marriage situation is if the other person has been unfaithful and committed adultery. Otherwise, it's like, "Well, we don't get along," and you get a divorce and you remarry somebody else. You're just perpetuating adultery, because it's unlawful divorce, therefore unlawful remarriage. So, any other grounds leads to that kind of perpetuating sin. Okay, as we close this, here's the deal: What Jesus just told them was more than they believed you ought to do. It was more than they required.
It was much stiffer, more conservative than what they required. Okay, but listen to this: What Jesus just said was more than they required, but it was not more than Moses required. You get that? He is simply following what has always been interpreted from the book of Genesis through Moses all the way down through the law of Deuteronomy 24 and others. He was requiring more than they were, because they had broadened it out to anything, but it was not more than Moses required. Now, in the story that is coming up next---that I fully intended to get through, but because we drill a little bit deeper we were unable to---we have the story of the rich man and Lazarus, a fascinating story or parable.
Some think it's a story, a literal actual story, because it's the only---if it's a parable, the only one where a name is given, Lazarus. And because the name is given, we think---some think it's a story, others still think it's a parable. We'll talk about that next time. But it's a story of two lives, two deaths, and two judgments, two hereafters that occur. Wow, well I'm sorry I didn't make through chapter 16, but important ground to cover. Father, we thank you that the Jesus we read about is so refreshing and so different from the run-of-the-mill, religious elite who would become just sort of comfortable in their position and their jobs.
And they had a convenient theology that allowed them to see that God blesses those who are rich, but those who are poor must be under God's curse. Therefore, they love money, and allowed them to even misinterpret the plain laws of Scripture, so they could do whatever they wanted to in their personal relationships at home. We're so thankful for the kind of Savior who brought it back to reality, who brought it back to the Scripture and what the Bible taught. And brought the measuring line back, the ruler back into a crooked world, and drew a straight line and said, "What I am saying is more than you require, but not more than what God, through Moses, required."
And so Father, in our relationships with people, with husbands and wives, and our relationships with finances, with stuff that we might own, or stuff that we might manage, may we be wise. May we be shrewd, and may we plan ahead, thinking of our future kingdom, the habitations where we are going to dwell. And may we have a light touch with the things of this world, knowing that what we have, in terms of our bank account, none of it, none of it, not a penny belongs to us. It's all yours. We are managers. We are stewards. May we be faithful, in Jesus' name, amen.
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