Lesson 83: The Dishonest Steward / The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16:1-31

A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome to lesson #83. In Luke ch. 15 Jesus was being criticized by the scribes and Pharisees BECAUSE Jesus received publicans and sinners into his presence. Some of those publicans and sinners may have become disciples. The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son were given for the benefit of the scribes and Pharisees trying to get them to examine their own attitudes. But according to v.1 in chapter 16, Jesus gave THIS PARABLE for the benefit of his disciples. Some recent converts, publicans, and others may have been the rascal type before conversion. Let's read Luke 16:1-9. Are you ready? Starting in Luke 16:1, let's read. "And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, Hen; is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, A hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."
The proprietor, i.e. the rich man, used a steward to conduct his business. In dealing with the many clients and tenants of the rich man, this steward was wasting his lord's money, i.e. stealing in one sense or another and living an extravagant life. But, AS usually happens, the proprietor finally caught up with his dishonest steward and called him on the carpet. When the steward found out that he was going to be dismissed he became very distraught and started scheming to provide for himself a living after he was dismissed. He said he couldn't dig, i.e. work as a laborer, probably because he had grown too soft. He said he couldn't beg, that was beneath his scheming dignity. So, he fell on a plan of making partners in crime out his lord's debtors by helping them rig the landlord's account books while he still had his finger in the pie. So, those who participated in his scheme made a lot of easy dishonest money; but, at the same time they became indebted to the steward, you see. That was the STEWARD'S motivation in the scam. He wanted a place to live after he got fired. Now, of course, Jesus did not approve of such scheming dishonesty. And his parable should not be looked upon as an endorsement of doing business that way. The point that Jesus made, is in v.8, "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." What Jesus was saying is this: it's amazing how resourceful and shrewd the people of this old world can be in business, when they really apply themselves. But, when it comes to spiritual things people are less resourceful, in an honest WAY, of course. Why is that? If people were as active and concerned about their soul's salvation; as they are about their material wealth and their bank book the world would have been made Christian many centuries ago. But, it still hasn't been evangelized. Why? It's too complicated! Come off of that! To make the world Christian, really Christian, would save our country more taxes than anything else that could ever happen. .Look at all the prison that would come off the pay rolls at 20 or 25 thousand dollars per prisoner per year. Police forces, detectives, private eyes, lawyers, locks, insurance, doctor bill for crime, AIDS, drunk drivers, on and on. If you consider only the practical side, in this life; it's the most practical thing that could ever happen, i.e. to say nothing of a heavenly home for eternity and serving the living God. It amazes me, parents FORCE their children to go to Monday school; but they let kids decide if they want to go to Sunday school or not. And most usually, it's NOT! Have you seen that? Jesus sure split it down the middle when he said, "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." Some will work for years and spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to get a doctor's degree in the digestive system of the termite; but, ask them to go to worship or do a little Bible study, "I pray thee have me excused...I've bought a lot in Florida and I must go see it..." They'll drive all the way across the state to see a ball game, pay an arm and a leg to get in and sit through three overtimes, and yell their lungs out. But, their too tired to walk one block and sit through a one hour Bible study. If the preacher should preach five minutes too long; that would be terrible!
Now, let's dig a foot or two deeper into the spiritual sand of the N.T. DID YOU KNOW that all of us are stewards? Everything you have belongs to God. God created the earth and everything in it (Gen. ch. 1) including us. In Psalm 50:10 God said, "every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills." You see, we're like that steward; we just get to use God's green earth and His resources for a little time. God gives the increase. You can't make your garden grow any faster. You can't make yourself a foot taller. God give the increase! Now, that dishonest steward tried to use his stewardship and the possessions under his care; to make a future for himself. Do you get it? Let's read v.9. Are you ready? Jesus said, "And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." The KJV doesn't come through in that verse like I would like. The NIV does a little better; it says, "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." Why are we stewards? To live a life of righteousness and get prepared for that everlasting habitation. Your friend of mammon, i.e. friend of money; can't do it then!! So, if you've been wasting your Lord's goods on self-indulgence, alcohol, drugs, and riotous living like the younger son; you're not being a very good steward. We're all going to be called on the carpet of judgment one of these days and told, "give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward." But, if you've been a good steward; the Lord is going to let you use one of his mansions forever. But, are we using our stewardship here to get prepared for an everlasting habitation? Our Master will commend US some day, if we are prudent enough to be prepared for that eternal abode. Surely Christians should use better judgment and be more ingenious in preparing for a heavenly home than crooks and rascals are in dealing with other people of their own kind.

Notice in the first eight verses we have the parable of the dishonest steward. Then beginning in v.9, Jesus gave or added to that several applicable thoughts down through v.18. Let's read v. 10-18. Are you ready? Beginning in v.10. "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery."

O.K. v.10, if you can trust'em with a little, you can trust'em with a lot. Jesus said it works that way. In v.11, Jesus is saying that if you can't be trusted with worldly money; you can't be trusted with true wealth, which of course is heaven. The principle in v.13 is almost a verbatim repeat of Matt. 6:24 in the sermon on the mount. When the Pharisees heard these things, v.14 says they derided Jesus, i.e. they openly ridiculed him. Luke says it was because they were covetous. Jesus told them in v.15 that they might justify themselves before men; but, they couldn't do it before God. V.16 may seem a little out of place at first; but, you see, it has to do with discerning the time. The O.T. was until the time of John the Baptist, i.e. since the days of John the old dispensation was gradually merging into the time of the kingdom era. The O.T. was still in force; but, a transition was in progress. We spent a good bit of time on Matt. 5:17 and Luke 16:17 here is the same thought. V.18 may seem out of place too; but, again it was a point that was being grossly violated and thus was included in stewardship. We going to catch back up to Matthew and Mark on this thought, i.e. the subject of marriage; so, we'll wait to discuss this and more at that time.
Right now, let's read v.19-31. Beginning in v.19. "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's tale: more over the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou are tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

Another great parable. Go back and re-read v.15, where the Pharisees derided Jesus. There Jesus told them "that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." Jesus built this parable on the idea of stewardship. Incidentally, THIS IS a parable. Some think otherwise; but it starts with the same words as the parable of the dishonest steward in up v.1. This parable is the direct approach to explaining the results of stewardship. The rich man was the steward of much worldly goods; the best of clothing, the best of food, he fared sumptuously EVERY DAY. Lazarus was the other extreme, no food, no clothing, and his-plight was to beg and live with the dogs. Then both Lazarus and the rich man died. Now go back to v.9. Re-read that part about everlasting habitations. You see, the rich man had been a very poor steward. He had literally wasted his substance living in extravagance. Lazarus had been that steward of practically nothing from a material point of view; but he used his goods to the best of his ability and kept his stewardship honorably. He did not WASTE HIS GOODS, look at the last phrase in v.1, up above. You see, God does not base his evaluation of our stewardship upon the quantity of goods that we control upon the earth. The Pharisees were going to be disappointed in this respect, v.15. Now, does this teach that it is wrong to be a steward of much goods? Certainly not! The rich man could have won Lazarus as a friend very easily upon the earth. They both could have lived righteously and well. The rich man was probably buried in a fancy coffin with a lot of flowers and a lot of pageantry going on. Lazarus was probably buried without even a pine box. That unrighteous mammon or money in v.9 won't put one into a desirable everlasting habitation or mansion on the other side, you see. In hell the rich man lifted up his eyes, being in torments and Lazarus was in Abraham's bosom (v.23). Conditions were reversed. The word "hell" here simply means the other side of the grave. Abraham's bosom is a very appropriate figurative expression in that Abraham was the father of the Jewish race. It brought to mind a little child coddling in the lap of faithful Abraham. But, please don't assume that to be literal. It's a metaphorical expression to help us grasp an idea. And the IDEA IS that there is clearly a great set of conditions that exist beyond the grave for those that have been faithful stewards of God. "I am tormented in this flame" v.24, does not literally mean a blowtorch focused on human flesh. We are taught that we will have a different body on the other side of the grave: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." (I Cor. 15:44). However, this metaphorical language helps us transcend our lack of technical understanding in this respect. But, because it's figurative or metaphorical don't let it cancel out the main idea in your mind; it very adequately describes the circumstances THERE under the conditions of that realm. AND, don't EVER forget that! The parable teaches that the rich man was TORMENTED, don't forget it! And, notice that the expression "I am tormented in this flame" is the rich man's description who was experiencing this. It's not my description. Let me give you a GREAT sermon title to think about in v.25. Abraham said, "Son, remember..." Wouldn't that make a great sermon title, "Son, remember..." The rich man showed compassion for his five brothers back on the earth; no doubt, carrying out the same kind of life style and stewardship this man had enjoyed. He said that if one would raise from the dead and explain the conditions beyond the grave THEY WOULD LISTEN. But, Abraham said they have the O.T. If that won't persuade them, nothing will. You see, the plan is that when we cross the threshold of death; then we must give account of our stewardship (v.2) "for thou mayest be no longer steward." It can be taken away. Until our next session, have a good day!

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