Luke 15-16

Good morning! We have several shorter passages today in Luke 15-16. Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem continues with reflections on the caustic effect of money and its threat to worship of the one true God. But first, Jesus reflects in three different parables how God considers longtime-righteous versus wretched-but-rescued people in light of divine love.

Luke 15 tells parables about a lost sheep found, a lost coin rediscovered, and a lost son reunited with his father. All three communicate how enthusiastically joyful—unreasonably so—God is at the return of one who “once was lost, but now [is] found”, in the words of “Amazing Grace”. Consider: the shepherd finding a lost sheep throws a huge party when one-percent of the flock isn’t lost. The woman expends precious lamp oil and energy looking for a single little coin, then throws a huge (and expensive) gathering in order to celebrate its rediscovery. Other shepherds and the woman’s friends might well have thought it senseless to celebrate over something that is everyday and to be expected. This is in effect what the older brother says to the generous father: “Why in the world are you celebrating him, when I’ve been right here all along?” The father’s response makes it clear that generosity and mercy to the repentant need not take anything away from those who have worked their whole life to do the right thing. I read in this set of parables that God doesn’t neglect those who follow the path of righteousness, but their reward is of a different character than the party that heaven throws when those who are on the wrong path choose a better course.

Money takes center stage in Luke 16, where Jesus talks about its proper use and abuse. In the first parable of a dishonest manager, it’s hard to tell whether Jesus is commending the fraudulent behavior of the fearful manager or merely using it as an example of how people use money “in the real world”. While the dishonesty with money was wrong, Jesus seems to commend using money as a tool for something greater. The manager shows when to be savvy and make friends with money so as to have friends when money isn’t around. The flip-side of that is that money can easily turn one shrewd, always looking to make a deal, until that point when the power one can exert with money are more important than the money itself or what it can buy. (See “The Wolf of Wall Street” for a contemporary parable of wealth gone sinfully wrong.) While apparently conceding that money has its uses, Jesus also makes plain that money will try to usurp the role of God. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus shows the power of money to turn one callous, leading to numbness against the troubles of other human beings until it is too late. In every such case, Jesus suggests, serve God over wealth. Happy reading!

Read Luke 15-16.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Luke 17-18. Thanks for reading!

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