Vision

In Paul's second letter to Timothy he writes, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) My prayer for this ministry is that by rightly dividing the Scriptures, I might be able to facilitate all those aspects of the Scriptures to the benefit of all those who visit this website.

Mission

The mission of this ministry is to be consistent with Jesus' original command to his disciples: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28:18-20

Personal Disclosure

I am a fellow traveler who doesn't have all the answers and still makes many mistakes. However, I am desperately in love with Jesus Christ, the one and only King of kings, and I am so amazed that he knows exactly who I am and yet still died on the cross for me, then rose from the dead and called me to be His follower!

God's Message To You

"Dear Child,

I wanted you to know just how much I loved you so I sent my only Son, Jesus, to tell you and show you. If you make the decision to believe in Him, then you and I will be able to spend eternity together! I Love You!" (John 3:16 paraphrase)

Method

“Here there is no unanchored liberalism—freedom to think without commitment.

Here there is no encrusted dogmatism—commitment without freedom to think.

Here is vibrant evangelicalism—freedom to think within the bounds laid down by Scripture.”

Dr. Vernon Grounds

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Dishonest Manager


About Pastor Scott

            This week’s lesson is provided by Pastor Mark Scott. Mark is currently the Exposition and Leadership Pastor at Mountainview Community Christian Church. Before that he was the Academic Dean at Ozark Christian College (“OCC”). Mark taught New Testament and Preaching at OCC for 28 years. Prior to his many years at OCC, Mark was the preaching pastor at various churches for many years. Mark received his Bachelor of Theology from OCC; his Master of Divinity from Lincoln Christian Seminary; and his Doctor of Ministry from Denver Seminary. Mark has authored or co-authored numerous books and scholarly articles such as: “Reflections” in The Christian Standard, Lamp Devotionals from Acts and Nehemiah, “Biblical Preaching” (chapter) in The Mind of Christ (College Press), “Christian Love” (chapter) in Essentials of Christian Practice (College Press), a book entitled, Sermons On the Gospels (Standard Publishing), and many more. Mark has ministered internationally in Barbados, Scotland, Canada, Chile, Israel, Germany, Venezuela, Turkey, Greece, Rome, and Ukraine. Mark has been married to his beautiful wife Carla for almost 41 years. They have four children and ten grand-children.

Introduction

            We have a grandson named, Kasen. He is four years old and was born on the fourth of July. His parents call him, “Boom.” He’s pretty health compromised—i.e. lots of allergies and asthma. So recently, on a family trip, our son Corey gave Kasen a drink of Mountain Dew [that’s a soda/soft drink/fountain drink] for the first time. Kasen said, “Dad, what is this stuff?” Corey said, “It’s Mountain Dew, Bud.” Kasen said, “This stuff makes me vibrate.”

            Well, what makes you vibrate? I’ll tell what makes me vibrate—our Subject Text. This lesson is devoted to one of Jesus’ primary teaching methods, i.e. parables. And when I thought of what most amazing parable I could choose, I ran to Luke 16:1-13. My ESV [English Standard Version] label for it is, “The Parable of the Dishonest Manager.” It’s often been called the “Parable of the Unjust or Unrighteous Steward.”

            I don’t want to scare you off, but Dr. Craig Blomberg, a world renown biblical scholar from Denver Seminary, says that this parable is the hardest parable of all to understand. Dr. Klyne Snodgras, probably the finest scholar on parables says that this parable is notoriously difficult and that we have to fill in the blanks. Maybe that’s why Kenneth Bailey, Middle Eastern expert on parables said, “Preachers, writers, interpreters, and teachers of the Bible often avoid it like the plague.” I want us to read this strange story and then I want to ask a series of questions.

Subject Text


Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2So 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.’ 3“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—4I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ 5“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6“‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ 7“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.’ 8“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. 9I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 10“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. 11So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? 13“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.”

Context

            Who is the parable audience? Well, the disciples (v. 1) but evidently, also the Pharisees (v. 14). Keep in mind we are in the travel narrative and this is a section huge in parables (this is the 15th) the most famous of all having just been given, i.e., prodigal son.

            Who do the characters represent? Blomberg calls this a complex three-point parable because there are three characters: The rich man—also identified as the master (Lord), the manager/steward, and the debtors. Should we allegorize them? Is the rich man/master, God? Is the manger a disciple? A bad disciple? And who are the debtors? Are they the same as the “sons of this age” [NIV—“People of this world.”] mentioned later? Not sure. Snodgrass says that the parable is an analogy but not an allegory. I’m comfortable with that. I do want to say that the manager is a key in the story. He is in each scene (vv. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8). A form of this man’s label or word appears some 10 times in the story. The role is like one who manages capital for another. He’s a farm financial planner.

            What is the nature of the manager’s error(s)? Well, we are told that he “wasted” the master’s possessions (same word in Lk. 15:13 describing the actions of the prodigal son—squandered). But he also designed a plan to endear himself to his master’s debtors. Was how he designed that plan ethically acceptable? Were the reductions legal or illegal? Maybe he took off his commission. Maybe he took off the unjust interest that the master was charging. Several commentaries discuss the “usury” in the text—consider the OT teaching on lending practices (Deut 23:20). It looks like he is being a bit shifty, but he is sure scoring points with the debtors.

            What does shrewdness mean? The word is only used as an adverb once in the NT, and it is here. The word appears as a noun 14 times in the NT (cf. Matt. 7:24; 10:16; and even 1 Kings 3:12). It means wisely, prudently, or cleverly. This leads us to the next question.

            Is this an endorsement of shady practices? Julian the Apostate in the 4th century AD said that Jesus taught his followers to be liars and thieves. Well, if so, it would seem to go against the rest of the Bible. But so many times we are thinking in moral terms, and that might not be Jesus’ point here. The master might have commended/praised him simply because the manager did something pro-active about his situation. Maybe it’s more like, “Well, aren’t you a tricky rabbit?” I think that Eugene Peterson hit the nail on the head when he paraphrased it this way, “Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”

            Where does the story end and how do verses 9-13 function? It’s possible that the story ends in v. 8a or 8b. But it looks to me that verses 9-13 help put the tag lines to the story.

            Are Christians often na├»ve and gullible? Yes! Ha! The sons of light (v. 8b) often lag behind the sons of this age (v. 8a). We are called to think on another level, but we so often don’t.

            Does the end justify the means when it comes to making friends with others by tricky means to get something of value later? Well no, but, as mentioned, probably we are thinking in moral terms, and that’s not Jesus’ point. It’s like when Abraham lied about Sarah (Gen 12:10-20). We get all lathered up about his lie. But that lie kept Pharaoh from defiling her, and Abraham left Egypt wealthy. That preserved the promise—that’s the point of the biblical narrator. If you asked Moses, “Is it okay to lie?” He would say, “Well, no, but…”

            What are true riches? Well they are not in this world evidently. True riches are something beyond the use of wealth in this world. Whatever they are they are in a realm of the spiritual, beyond us. Use wealth for kingdom purposes—and before it’s too late.

            How is past performance an indicator of future performance? Well, if you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in big things. You know why I trusted Ken Idleman to be a faithful president of Ozark Christian College? Because when he mailed a personal letter from the college he would remove a stamp from his billfold. He didn’t expect the college to pay for a personal stamp. That’s integrity and faithfulness.

Application

            So, what are we to make of this, and what are some take homes for us? Well, let me illustrate it this way. Our Life Group is studying the Book of Revelation. We are reading a small book on Revelation, and we are watching some videos that go along with the chapters from the book. One of the DVD’s that our group watched was Dr. Randy Harris from Abilene Christian University. He was preaching on Rev. 4-5, and gave this brief outline on Revelation: 1) God’s Team Wins; 2) You Get to Pick a Team; and 3) Don’t be Stupid.

            That’s really what I think this strange story teaches—Don’t be stupid about the stewardship of your life and future. And maybe the significant (and greatly expanded) tag lines help us.  Jesus even says, “And I tell you.” It’s like, lesson time. Let me develop three applications:

            1) Think eternity (v. 9). As strange as the language sounds, the contrast is between earth and heaven. As strange as the behavior of the manager seems, he got busy today because he was looking to his future. So, how about you? Do you think eternity? How does eternity impact your present? Remember the poem? “Only one life, will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”

            Some of you know that Miss Carla and I just got back from a cruise (our first ever). After the Preaching & Teaching Convention in Missouri, we headed to the Western Caribbean. It was wonderful—and I don’t want to be a joy robber but I did a little math and if the 3600 people on board spent what we did—and I know that many spent far more—that one boat ride grossed for Princess Cruises $3,600,000. Three million six hundred thousand dollars! That’s more than I make in a whole year. I saw several other cruise ships in the Gulf that week. I’m not going to give that excess the back of my hand and say, “Wow, what a waste.” Maybe that surprises you. I didn’t regret one dime that I spent on Miss Carla because I was investing in her eternity. See, she has put up with me for 41 years. I am just ornery enough to make her put up with me for eternity. Here’s my call, whatever you do, think eternity.

            2) Use your resources, that are on loan from God, faithfully (vv. 10-12). Our lives are on loan from God as are the resources that he has given us. People that are faithful in the little things will be faithful in the big things. Klyne Snodgrass used a phrase that I liked as he discussed this parable. It was the phrase, kingdom economics. Listen, Jesus is coming back. According to the Bible, there will be a judgment. Are you using the resources that God has given you faithfully? And we are to be industrious about this. The word, “do,” appears 4 times in this text (vv. 3, 4, 8, and 9). This parable is a call to action.

            My Dad gets this I think. He is generous now. But he also lives with great frugality, like using wood for his heat, shutting the breaker switch off at night for the hot water heater (why do we need hot water when we are sleeping?), and using a rubber band on his belt to make the belt last longer. Some of it seems silly to us. But he is trying to posture himself so that when he dies we five boys will get a little inheritance, but more importantly the River‘s Edge Christian Church in Waterloo, Iowa, CEM [Christian Evangelistic Missions], and OCC [Ozark Christian College] will benefit from his use of worldly wealth.

            3) Do away with duplicity (v. 13).  This is really a statement—not a command. But there seems to be an implicit call here to admit. This is the same teaching Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:24). People try to contradict this teaching all the time. That’s why they are miserable. They have one foot in the kingdom of God and one foot planted in the kingdom of this world. It never works. Material possessions can be quite a good. But let’s not be possessed by our possessions. Let’s declare our loyalty to God first and most.

            A recent gift from my wife was a new pair of binoculars. They are pretty fancy. She bought them at Cabela’s due to all the hunting I do {read sarcasm}. I’m old school and not too intuitive so I read the instructions first before trying them out. Glad I did. Because the instructions say that you have to adjust them until you see one round picture. Focus makes all the difference. During our cruise, I didn’t see any whales. I saw only two dolphins—and they were in captivity. But I can tell you what every oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico looks like. Here’s the thing about binoculars. When you are looking at one thing, you are, of necessity, not looking at something else. In view of eternity, use your possessions wisely.

            Don’t be stupid about the stewardship of your life and future. Do you remember the story of Robin Hood? Robin Hood (which is a nickname) was a heroic figure in English Folklore. He was an outstanding archer and swordsman. He lived in the Sherwood Forest and fought with the wicked oppressor Sheriff of Nottingham. He, along with his Merry Men, did what? They robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. Now any mom would probably discipline her child if that child robbed from people. We’re not endorsing thievery. But Robin Hood thought that oppression of the poor was wrong, and he got busy to do something about it.

            Maybe that is like this manager. His methods are suspect, but his moxie, his street smarts, and cleverness are to be commended. Since we are headed to the land of eternal dwellings and true riches, may we be that wise in the use of our lives and resources.