Friday, March 3, 2017

March 3 - 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 a follow-up 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). 
  • The story about the rich man and Lazarus illustrates the importance of living for the next (eternal) life, not for this (short) life.
  • 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? Money is a powerful tool. Are you spending your money on leisure and pleasure, or do you focus on the impact you can make for God with your resources? It's ok to make money, even to be rich. But it's 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 the richest nation in the history of the world, but most Americans give little to nothing away. 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 question you need to wrestle with is: What are you really holding onto?