Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March 4 - Luke 16

Today's reading in our daily plan is Luke 16. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • Jesus begins this chapter with a strange parable about a man who finds himself in a difficult situation and acts shrewdly and does everything he can to benefit himself. The lesson seems to be that, in a similar way, followers of Jesus should use every opportunity to benefit the Kingdom of God.
  • Jesus goes on to state that possessions are a responsibility. How we handle money is a litmus test for other areas of responsibility. If we have not been trustworthy with our finances, how can God trust us with kingdom work?
  • Jesus states in verse 13 that we cannot love both God and money. The love of money is dangerous because it is the pursuit of money which makes people selfish and take advantage of one another. 
  • Verse 16 is an allusion to Jesus fulfilling the law. The kingdom of God was here, and therefore, the law, culminating in Jesus, will not pass away. 
  • Jesus' words in verse 18 regarding marriage may sound harsh and out of place. But the lesson is two-fold:
    1. Marriage is a symbol of our relationship with Christ. What comes first in our lives? This is simply a carry-over from the conversation on money. Whether it's relationships or money, God should come first.
    2. Marriage is a commitment that requires integrity and faithfulness. It is a vow before God. So, to break the marriage, is to break a promise made to God.  Therefore, in God's eyes, once you are married, you are always married.  Jesus gives a similar teaching in the book of Matthew as well (Matthew 19:1-12). 
  • It is unclear whether the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable or a true story. Regardless, a rich man is seen living in luxury, whereas Lazarus is a poor beggar living outside his mansion gate. They both die. Lazarus goes to heaven to be with God, but the rich man is sent to hell to be tortured. The reason the rich man goes to hell is not because he is rich; the issue is what he did with those riches. The story tells us he lived in the lap of luxury. This would assume self-indulgence. We do not see any evidence that he was ever generous with money. He does not even seem to show compassion for human desperation, such as the plight of Lazarus. This is ultimately what doomed his life, and why Abraham (an important figure from the Old Testament) tells him he cannot be helped, because he received his good things while on earth.
  • The story closes with the rich man begging Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers of their potential fate. Abraham tells him no because they were given God's Word through Moses and the Prophets. He also alludes to the coming death and resurrection of Jesus. If they won't accept that, they won't accept anything.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • We should be generous with what we have. When Jesus says in verse 9 that we will gain friends from wealth, he means that we should use our money to do good and, in doing so, we will gain the right kind of friends and be welcomed into heaven.
  • Marriage is not just a commitment between 2 people. It is a sacred relationship in which God should be the center. Both partners should be focused on God to make the commitment last.
  • We must understand the role of money in our lives. Money is not something we should pursue. It should be seen as a tool. How we use our money is an indication of the roots of our heart. It is a conclusion about our values. This was the downfall of both the shrewd manager and the rich man.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Do you ever stop and think about the financial resources that God has given you? Do you ever stop and think about the power of your finances? Money is a powerful tool. Are you spending your money on leisure and pleasure, or do you ever stop and notice the desperate needs in our world that generosity can change? It is okay to make money. It is okay to be rich. It is not okay to self-indulge while others go hungry and homeless. This is why Jesus says the love of money is a master. We live in a country that uses a majority of the earth's resources, yet current statistics state we only give 4.7% of it away. And even sadder, statistics say the more we make, the less we give (see How America Gives)! To love God is to be generous. To be stingy with God is to lack concern for God's people and the suffering of the human condition. If you are holding onto money, maybe the bigger question is, what are you really holding onto?