Luke 16

Introduction

‘Jesus told his disciples: ‘There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So, he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ ‘The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ ‘So, he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. ‘The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ ‘Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. ‘He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ ‘The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. ‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So, if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?  ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.’ Luke 16:1-13

The Parable Of The Shrewd Manager

In the audience listening to the Lord Jesus were very religious Pharisees and Scribes, Luke 15:1-2. When some ‘tax collectors’ and ‘sinners’ joined the crowd, they criticised Him for having anything to do with them.

They regarded such people as beyond reach, beyond the reach of salvation, not worth bothering with, to be kept at more than arm’s length. So, following on in Luke 15, the Lord told the crowd the parables of ‘the lost sheep’ and ‘the prodigal son’.

Note how in this second parable, ‘the prodigal son’, Luke 15:28 ‘The older brother became angry and refused to go in.’ The other brother was angry at how excitedly the father had welcomed back his long-absent brother. A more suitable title for this parable might be ‘the unforgiving brother’.

The Lord Jesus then told them ‘the parable of the shrewd manager’,. This parable was targeted at the self-righteous ones who were in the crowd. He was reasoning with them at their level of understanding.

Like Solomon said, ‘Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.’ Proverbs 26:5.

In this parable He targets another hypocritical trait they had, they coveted riches whilst claiming to be spiritually minded, Luke 16:14-15.

They were obsessed with acquiring riches whilst at the same putting on a show of being very religious. The energy which should have been directed to God was directed to acquiring wealth. Almost as though wealth was a god.

That is why in this parable the Lord Jesus personifies wealth saying, ‘you cannot serve both God and money.’ Luke 16:13.

They claimed they were devoted servants of God whilst really, they were devoted to the god of wealth. Yet they alienated those whom they regarded as worldly-wise, the basest of folk, only fit for hell, whom they disparagingly called ‘tax collectors and sinners’, Luke 15:1-2. They were quick to criticise their failings whilst ignoring their own.

So, the Lord likens them to a manager who squanders his employer’s property. He was probably pocketing his manager’s wealth to his own advantage.

His employer threatens to sack him, he was worried about what he could do to secure his future. So, he craftily sweetens the favour of those whose friendship he would need when he became unemployed.

The Lord’s critics were far from whiter than white. They saw themselves as ‘the people of the light’, Luke 16:8. Yet it was they who had abused the privilege they enjoyed as servants of the Lord God. So, when called to account on the day of judgement they would be cast out, James 5:1-5 / Matthew 25:41-43.

They would finish up spending eternity with many of those they had alienated. So, he advises them they would be wiser using their ill-gotten gains to make friends of them. Then when they finished up in hell along with them, they would be welcomed by them.

The Lord Jesus isn’t recommending that the children of God should copy the corrupt manager’s tactics, Luke 16:9. He was answering the self-righteous folk present according to their own hypocrisy.

I see this as being one of those occasions when the Lord Jesus answered blatant hypocrites with irony so as to try and bring them to their senses. They regarded the outcasts as the type of people who would stoop as low as the corrupt manager did.

They couldn’t see that fault in themselves. But since they were at risk of spending eternity with them they needed to sweeten their favour so that they would be welcomed by them into eternity, Luke 16:8-13.

These self-styled ‘people of the light’ anticipated the coming of the Messiah to restore the kingdom to Israel and expected to have prominent roles in that kingdom.

Since they were incapable of handling their dubiously acquired wealth wisely, so as to make friends of those with whom they would spend eternity, how could they expect to be entrusted with the spiritual wealth to be had in that anticipated kingdom? Luke 16:11.

The self-styled ‘people of the light’ are expected to inherit wealth and privilege in the Messiah’s kingdom as theirs by Divine right. If they couldn’t be trusted with the property they have extorted from others how could they expect to be given wealth and privilege in the Messiah’s kingdom? Luke 16:12.

The manager is a symbol for the Pharisees, in this parable, Jesus is telling the Pharisees how they should behave, rather than just commenting on their behaviour. The Pharisees refused to have anything to do with sinners.

In the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus is simply saying this.

The debt that sinners hold is their sin against God, God is the creditor, and you are just the manager. If God can forgive their debt, you should be able to. It would be better for you to forgive their sin on this earth and welcome them to God now than it would be for you to hold them accountable for a debt that isn’t even yours to collect. It costs you nothing and shows the love that God expects.

I think the last point of pleasing ‘the master’ is when the manager repents and changes, and rectifies his cheating ways, Luke 16:5-8.

Additional Teachings

‘The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.’ Luke 16:16-17

The prophets and the law both told the Jews that John would come, Malachi 4:4-6.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The type of violence with which men sought to force the kingdom is illustrated by the multitude’s action in trying to make him king by force; and the Pharisees, particularly, thought the kingdom would be a secular restoration of the old Solomonic throne and they were at that very moment trying to force Jesus to conform to their secular and materialistic views of the kingdom, all of which is indicated by their scoffing at him, Matthew 11:12.’

Jesus’ meaning here is this, the law of Moses will be in force and nothing will be removed from it, 1. until all is fulfilled or 2. until the world ends, Matthew 5:18.

Jesus refers to the ‘smallest letter’, which corresponds to the English letter ‘i,’ and the least stroke of a pen’, which is the smallest marking to distinguish letters, e.g., the difference between the letters ‘c’ and ‘e’.

For Jesus to say that not even the smallest detail of the law would be removed until all is fulfilled is to indicate His belief in word-for-word inspiration, it is to say that every letter contained in the Old Testament was there because God wanted it there. Nothing was written that didn’t belong, and none of it would be taken away until all was fulfilled.

“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’ Luke 16:18

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He briefly mentioned the subject of divorce and remarriage, Matthew 5:31-32. However, He had much more to say about this important topic in Matthew 19:3-12. We are not going to look into that but we are going to look at Jesus’ comments on this subject as found in Matthew 5.

A few translations have led to a total misunderstanding of what Jesus means in these verses, hence I’ve written the Greek word for ‘send away’, which is ‘apoluo’ and the Greek word for ‘certificate of divorce’, that is ‘apostasion’.

There is a huge difference between sending away and divorce. Notice how this text should read, Matthew 5:31-32.

‘It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces ‘apoluo’ his wife must give her a certificate of divorce ‘apostasion.’ ‘But I tell you that anyone who divorces ‘apoluo’ his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced ‘apoluo’ woman commits adultery.’

Jesus said when the man who marries the woman who was ‘put away’ and the woman who is ‘put away’ remarries, they commit adultery, why? because they aren’t in a legal, official situation where they are free to contract new relationships, they are still legally married.

They thought they could just go ahead and ‘put away’ their wives for any old reason, but Jesus says, if they’re going to ‘put away’ their wives, they better make it legal, they better give her a ‘certificate of divorce,’ Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

Otherwise, whenever any of them marry again, they will be committing adultery and they know what the penalty is for that, stoning to death, Leviticus 20:10 / Deuteronomy 22:22-25. Hence a certificate of divorce isn’t required when someone’s partner is dead, 1 Corinthians 7:39.

If a man ever gave his wife the ‘certificate of divorce’, then he had some obligations to their wife, he had to return the dowry, he had to provide for his wife if they ‘sent them away’. This was the Jews’ loophole, they ‘put them away’ without the official ‘divorce’.

When we read the original Greek word and we replace the word ‘divorce,’ in these verses, with the proper word which should be used, ‘apoluo’ that is ‘send away’ we discover that Jesus wasn’t emphasising divorce as we understand it.

He was emphasising the way the Jews were just sending their wives away, without making it legal, without giving them the ‘certificate of divorce’, the ‘apostasion’, Deuteronomy 24:1-4, because without this certificate of divorce the women couldn’t get married again.

The Rich Man And Lazarus

So much is said about life after death that is bewildering and misleading and absolutely false. Philosophers, wise men and scholars have speculated for ages about life after death, but our Lord does not speculate, He knows. And He is equally at home in the realms of the seen and or the realms of the unseen.

And for this reason, we have great confidence in coming to this wonderful, chilling and disturbing story, in Luke 16:19-31. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Christ all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form”.

When Jesus spoke to His disciples before He faced the cross, He said something wonderful to them, He said in John 14:1-2, “Do not let your heart be troubled, trust in God, trust also in me, in my Father’s house there are many rooms if it were not so I would have told you, I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

I love this phrase, “If it were not so, I would have told you, I would not allow you to believe this if it were false, no matter how comforting or reassuring it would be, I wouldn’t let you believe it if it were not the truth.”

This story is compelling, chilling and disturbing and it is a drama in 3 scenes. And when the curtain rises in the 1st scene, we have

A Typical Day In The Lives Of Two Men

“There was a rich man who had been dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and lick his sores.” Luke 16:19-21

Jesus compels us to look at these two men, that’s all. No words of comment on the character of either man, just a typical day. And here is the 1st scene.

One of these men has got a lot going for them, he lives in a great house. Rooms possibly hung with the finest tapestries. He’s possibly got rugs on the floor and the choicest products scattered throughout the house, we know he’s got loads of money.

He had the kind of house that people on the street would admire when they walked past and think for a moment that maybe they lived there and they were their things.

And you would walk by one day and you think to yourself, “I would like to live in a house like that, I would like to have his resources. I would like to get into that guy’s shoes.”

And these people are coming up and he’s having a party or something and these people are coming up in their chariots. Some have horse chariots, some two-horse chariots, others have got six-horse chariots.

And when these people are coming up they almost stumble at these rags, these dirty rags at the gate. They walk by on the path and realise there is somebody living out here, there is a man out here.

He’s just a mess and looks awful and these wild street dogs are hanging around him and licking his sores. They too are starving, just exactly like that poor miserable beggar.

Now, remember the Jews used to wipe their hands with any leftover bread and throw it on the ground. That’s why Jesus says, ‘he longed to eat what fell from the rich man’s table’. So the rich man didn’t even offer Lazarus the scraps from his table.

Notice that Jesus has no word of condemnation for the rich man, just because he’s got something, or is there any attempt to put a halo on the beggar’s head just because of his poverty and rags.

There is a rich man here and that stands for power, the ability to serve. He’s got the ability to do something good. And there is a beggar at his gate and that stands for need, the beggar is the rich man’s opportunity.

And this story is a tragedy because the two men never come together. Here is a chance for an able man to make a deposit for an eternity and he doesn’t get it done at all.

We don’t even know if this rich man ever sees this beggar at all, it doesn’t say anything about whether he noticed him or took note of him or had anything to do with him.

Now maybe he’s busy with his affairs; he’s got a lot of things to sort out. He’s not unkind to the guy, he doesn’t have him stoned or have him thrown into prison. He just leaves him alone; he never does anything; he doesn’t take any notice of him whatsoever.

And then the first scene is over, and when the second scene begins, we are into a familiar scene.

It Is A Scene Of Death

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.” Luke 16:22

And we know about death, especially those of you who have lived a while. We never get used to death; we never get used to funeral services and that’s because we are of life, not of death and it is hard for us to endure it. The beggar dies and notice it doesn’t say anything about his body being buried.

You see in New Testament times there would be a group of people who were employed to walk around the streets of Jerusalem at night to pick up anyone who had died on the streets. They would basically place the body on a cart and take them to a place called Gehenna just outside the city walls.

But imagine the people that used to walk by, they would be asking each other, “What happened to that old beggar that used to be out here?” And someone would answer, “I don’t know, I guess he is out of his misery, I guess he died.” The beggar is gone and everybody says, “Well it is a blessing, he’s out of his misery, he doesn’t have to suffer anymore.”

Nobody gets very upset about it; nobody is very disturbed about it but then they pick up the newspaper the next morning and there it is. This guy, this guy who had it all, this big community leader, this guy with all the money and everything, he died. And people begin to think, “Well he was pretty young” and they try to figure out just how old he was.

But he dies and it startles them because they remember just a few days ago, they went by his house and said, “I wish I lived there, I wish I were in his shoes.” But now they are saying, “Lord don’t hear my prayers, just ignore that prayer for that.” “I’ve changed my mind on that one Lord, I don’t want to be in his shoes.”

And for one rare moment, they face the realisation that you can’t live, not really live through materialism, because it has no power in our lives. Rich people die just like poor people do.

And this guy who they were envying and wishing they were in his shoes is dead this morning. Despite his beautiful home, despite all his money. One day, he’s gone and everybody in town is concerned about it. It is a death scene.

And then we enter the third scene, this is the world unseen. This is someplace we don’t know much about because we haven’t been there before.

But notice how naturally Christ passes from the seen to the unseen. And now we begin to walk in a world where we have never walked before, never been there ourselves. And we begin to learn some things, very important things about life after death.

The World Unseen

“In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’” Luke 16:23-24

There are 5 principles I would like to share with you.

1. The dead are still alive.

I realise sometimes we speak and the Bible speaks about going to sleep in the Lord and that’s true and the physical body is sleeping but the dead are consciously and vividly alive.

They are not asleep, they are not unconscious, but they are consciously alive. This was true of Lazarus and it was true of the rich man.

Notice the text says that the rich man was in torment and agony, he looked and saw Abraham and Lazarus, he spoke to Abraham and he was thirsty.

The both of them were very much alive. And remember speaking of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Mark 12, saints that have passed into the unseen, Jesus did not count them as dead.

Do you remember that? In fact, He clearly declares in Mark 12:27 that, “God is not the God of the dead but of the living”. And when Jesus is hanging on that cross, one of the men by His side prayed in Luke 23:42, “Lord, remember me when you come in your kingdom”.

Remember the thief by Him? And Jesus replied by giving this dying man a promise in Luke 23:43, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” What does this promise mean?

It means that Jesus and the dying robber are going to meet in the paradise of God, that very day. Not some distant time in the future but that very day they are going to be consciously alive, they are both going to be conscious of each other.

Just as a side note, we don’t have to wonder or speculate where Jesus went when he died, or where he was when He was in the grave, the text clearly tells us where he was going. The soul does exist after death, Revelation 6:9.

So death is not just an unconscious sleep for so many hundreds or thousands of years. We are consciously alive beyond the grave, that’s what Jesus teaches here and in other passages, we are still alive after death.

2. The dead are conscious of being themselves.

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ ” Luke 16:25-26

Just as Abraham was still Abraham, the rich man and Lazarus were still the rich man and Lazarus. And both the rich man and Lazarus were very much conscious of still being themselves. Now you might think, “well that’s no big deal” Well, yes, it is a big deal.

You see at death we are going to lose some things; we are going to lose the physical. We are going to lose these bodies of ours and the possessions we have. Death can rob me of the material things and the physical things but it can’t take anything else away from us.

It cannot rob us of ourselves, it cannot do that. Yesterday I was myself; I will be myself tomorrow, I will continue to be myself as long as heaven is heaven and as long as God is God. I’m myself from now on but I’ve got to give up this body someday.

You see these bodies of ours are here today and gone tomorrow. And there is something you’ve got to know about your body, your body is in the process of change.

You’re getting older and your body over a period of 7 years replaces every cell that it has got. It has been going on from the day you were born and will continue until the day you die. I have had six new bodies and I get another new one in two years.

And I know that some people in here have had a lot more than I have. But it didn’t work any change in us at all, did it? It changed every single cell in our bodies but we are still the same person.

Death is not going to work any moral change in us. Oh no! Because you hear these stories all the time where people just live any way they like and all of a sudden they sprout wings and get a halo and float around in heaven and all those things. As though death has some kind of hocus-pocus power to cleanse us and empower us to do something for us.

Don’t expect the undertaker to do something for you, which you won’t allow Christ to do for you here and now because it is not going to happen, the undertaker hasn’t got any power.

Death cannot and will not work any kind of moral change in us, it just doesn’t happen. Now that is a little frightening to me because sometimes, I don’t like myself very much. Do you know what I mean?

Sometimes there are things in my life that I’m not very pleased about but I’m going to have to live with me from now on. And we are all going to have to do that, we are all going to have to remain the same.

If I learn anything from these words of Jesus, I learned that sometimes we have to live with ourselves, and sometimes it’s not a very pleasant thing to have to live with ourselves.

God wants to change us through His Son, but we’re going to be ourselves from now on and death isn’t going to change who we are.

3. The dead remember, Luke 16:25.

We may forget things in old age but we won’t forget anything in the afterlife. Abraham asks the rich man to remember, his life and all the good things he had.

“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’” Luke 16:27-28

The rich man remembers the life he used to live, he remembers his selfishness, his sin. He remembers his lost opportunity and his brother’s back there.

Memory is either going to help intensify the joys of heaven or it will embitter the pains of hell. It’s got to be that way because it can’t be any other way, Matthew 12:36.

And if you think about it, how can God judge anyone if they don’t know why they are being judged? How can God judge anyone if they can’t remember anything that they’ve said or done whilst they were still alive?

In other words, those souls in heaven will know exactly why they are in heaven and those souls who end up in hell will know exactly why they are in hell. Everyone will remember who they are and they will remember what they did or didn’t do whilst they were alive here on Earth.

4. All men do not have the same destiny, Luke 16:26.

These two men didn’t have the same destiny, the text tells us they are separated by a great gulf. But who separated them? God! No way.

I believe these men separated themselves by the deliberate choices they made in this life, they separated themselves, so don’t blame this on God. They become morally separated by a gulf that is as wide as right is from wrong, as night is from the day and it’s a separation that continues from beyond the grave.

Remember Luke 16:22 says, “Lazarus was carried by the angels into Abraham’s side.” Not because in this life he was unfortunate or sick or neglected. He was carried into paradise because, despite all these calamities, he made a deliberate choice of God, his name signifies, “God is my help”.

And it was this right choice that made him a right character and the right character that made for a glorious spiritual destiny. And the rich man is not lost because he’s rich, because he had good clothes, because he ate good food, and he was ruined by wrong choices. He made a deliberate choice of things that were seen and he turned his back on God.

Now you might say, “Wait a minute it doesn’t say a word in there about the rich man turning his back on God”. Well, how do I know he did that?

I know he turned his back on God because he turned his back on Lazarus and Lazarus was his opportunity right there, Matthew 25:40.

He didn’t do anything for Lazarus and Lazarus was his chance. God has only one way of reaching men and it is through His Son. By believing in Him, responding to God’s grace and love through His Son Jesus Christ. And if we do not hear Him and if we do not receive Him, we will not be saved, it’s as simple as that.

So Lazarus found himself lying against Abraham’s side, which is the Hebrew way of saying that he was in the paradise of God. And while Lazarus was comforted, the rich man was tormented. But why? Why this heaven or hell?

Well, it’s certainly not because God loved one of them and didn’t love the other one. Their different destinies were the inedible outcome of their different character. Their different lifestyle, who they were, who they believed in, who they placed their confidence and hope in, their different choices, 2 Corinthians 5:10.

The truth of the matter is that God doesn’t have a way of getting anybody into heaven if they have hell in their hearts. And that’s the whole point Jesus is getting at.

If we go back to Luke 15:1-2 we find a religious group of people called Pharisees and Scribes listening to what Jesus was saying.

And when some tax collectors and sinners joined the crowd the Pharisees and Scribes criticised Him for having anything to do with them.

They regarded such people as the lowest of the low, beyond the reach of salvation, not worth bothering with, to be kept at more than arm’s length.

Many of the Jews believed that if they had accumulated enough wealth and upped their social status and got into prominent positions in the religious community, then that proved that they were under the blessing of God.

They also thought, according to their logic, that those who were poor were under the curse of God. And so Jesus is using an everyday event to make His point.

There were rich people in their houses and there were poor people, even beggars walking around the streets every day. And Jesus is telling them that just because you guys are well off and have high positions in the Jewish religion doesn’t necessarily mean you are right with God.

5. The living can’t mix with the dead.

Now you also need to realise that you cannot mix the living with the dead. You can’t mix them and you can’t do it in this life. When the rich man wanted Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his family and his brothers.

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:29-31

That’s why I find it very disturbing when you get all these so-called mediums and spiritualists who claim they can speak to the dead. You never hear of any dead person telling their loved ones, “hey you better believe there is a God because where I am right now, you don’t want to come here.”

You see, when we lose a loved one in death, we know we can’t keep them, we have to put them in the place of the dead; you have to go to the cemetery. You can’t do it physically, you can’t mix the living and the dead. And it’s the same with eternity, you can’t mix the living with the dead.

Now I want to tell you one thing about hell, I don’t know much about it, but I will tell you this. Whatever hell may be, it is a burying ground of dead souls, souls that are dead in trespass and sin. And forever you are going to live, you are created into the image of God and indwelt with a soul that lives forever.

And so there is something really special about you. Forever you are going to be yourself, and you are going to have to keep house with yourself for all eternity.

And forever we are going to have to enjoy or suffer the destiny that we have created in this life. Whether it is through the grace of God to love and embrace His son, our saviour, and live with Him and be created anew by His Spirit.

Or whether we are going to go on our own and turn our back on God and His son and live for the day, live for the material things, live for how much we can store up and stash away. But remember this, even though some are lost, no one has to be lost, John 6:37.

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