Jesus’ sermon illustrations
Story of a calculating business manager1 Jesus told this story to his disciples. “A rich man got word that his business manager had been mismanaging the money. 2 So he called in the manager and said, ‘What do you think you’re doing? I’ve heard about it. Wrap up your work and turn in your books. You’re done being my business manager.’
3 The manager said to himself, ‘What am I going to do? My boss demoted me; I’m not in management anymore. But I’m not strong enough to do backbreaking work, like digging. And I’d be too ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I’ll do before I wrap up this job. I’m going to buy some insurance. I’m going to make sure if I get tossed out on the street that people will welcome me into their homes.’
5 One at a time he called in the people who owed something to his boss. He asked the first man, ‘What do you owe my boss?' 6 The man said, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ The manager said, ‘Tell you what I’m gonna do. Let’s take that bill and cut it in half. Write down 400 gallons on the bill. And do it fast before I change my mind.’ 7 Then along came another. The manager asked him the same question, ‘What do you owe?’ The man answered, ‘I owe him 1000 bushels of wheat.’ The manager said, ‘I’m going to cut you a deal. Take your bill and write 800 bushels.’
8 When the boss found out about it, he complimented the conniving manager’s strategy. People of the world are great at working the angles to get what they want—the people of God aren’t nearly as cunning.
9 Let me tell you something, get more cunning. Work the angles by using whatever resources you have to make friends with people. When everything falls apart, relax. You have an eternal home waiting for you. 10 People who can handle the smallest details can take on the biggest challenges. And people who cheat in little ways will cheat in big ways, too, when they get the chance.
11 Here’s the thing, if you can’t be trusted with something as unholy as this world’s wealth, who’s going to trust you with heaven’s wealth? 12 And if you can’t be trusted with something that belongs to someone else, who’s going to give you anything of your own?
You can't work for two bosses without hating one13 No worker can be loyal to two bosses. You’re going to love one and hate the other. That’s the way it is. You’ll devote yourself to one and you’ll despise the other. You can’t work for God if you’re going to work for money.” 14 Pharisees loved money. They heard what Jesus said, so they started to make fun of him.
15 Jesus told them, “You make excuses for yourself when you talk to people, so they’ll think highly of you. But God knows what you’re really like. Sometimes, what people respect most in this world is what God hates with a passion. 16 People taught the Law and the Prophets up until the time of John the Baptist. But since John, this has been the time to teach the good news about the Kingdom of God. Now, everyone is trying hard to get into that kingdom. 17 I want you to know something about the Law. Heaven will fall and earth will disappear before anyone erases even the tiniest curl on the tip of a letter in the Law. 18 Anyone who gets a divorce from his wife and then up and marries another woman, he’s committing adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband is committing adultery, too.
Rich man meets Lazarus in the Dead Zone19 There was a rich man who dressed in stylish, fine linen that had been dyed in the most expensive color on the market: purple. He made every day a party day, as he wallowed in luxury. 20 There was a poor man named Lazarus, covered in sores. He was put by the city gate.
21 He would have loved to have eaten the rich man’s leftovers, or even pieces of food that accidentally fell off the table. Instead, he served himself as food for the dogs that came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died. Angels carried him away to be with Abraham. The rich man died, and was buried. 23 He found himself in Hades, tortured. He looked up, and off in the distance he saw Abraham, with Lazarus beside him.
24 The rich man yelled, ‘Father Abraham, please help me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in some water and come over here to cool my tongue. I’m suffering incredible pain in all this fire.’
25 Abraham answered, ‘Son, you remember that you enjoyed a lot of comfort and pleasure in your lifetime. Lazarus did not. But he does now. He’s finally in a comfortable place, though you are suffering. 26 Besides, there’s a huge canyon between the two of us. No one can possibly get across it. No one from this side can get over there. And no one from that side can get over here.’
27 The rich man said, ‘In that case, father, please send Lazarus to my family. 28 I have five brothers. Ask Lazarus to warn them so they don’t end up here in this zone of torture.’
29 Abraham said, ‘They already have Moses as well as the Prophets. They have every opportunity to listen to them and do the right thing.’ 30 The rich man answered, ‘No, no, no, father Abraham. They won’t listen. But if someone comes back from the dead to warn them, they’ll quit sinning and straighten out their lives.’
31 Abraham said, ‘If they don’t listen to the likes of Moses and the Prophets, they’re not going to get convinced by someone who rises from the dead.’”
The Greek measurement is 100 baths, which is 3028 dry liters.
The Greek measurement is 100 korous, which is 35,239 dry liters.
One of the most sought-after and expensive colors for fabric came from a distinctive indigo dye extracted from a sea snail: Hexaplex trunculus.
The city gate was one of the busiest places in town, since it was the entrance into the city. City officials often had meetings and held trials there. It was also where beggars hoped to find compassion.
See the notes for 10:15 and 12:5. Many people in ancient times came to think of Hades as an incredibly inhospitable waiting room for the inevitable judgment that was coming.
Many scholars say this sounds like Jesus is predicting what is going to happen after he is crucified and resurrected.
It’s the opposite story we would expect to hear from Jesus, this parable about a calculating business manager who cheats his boss (16:1-15). Jesus, who said we should put others ahead of ourselves, actually seems to praise this business manager who puts himself ahead of his boss. Why do you think Jesus would do something like that?
The lesson Jesus says he intends people to get from the parable of the calculating business manager is a tough one to translate. Bible translators take the words in different directions. Read it from a couple of translations, and then try to put the lesson in your own words. Here’s how it reads from the New Living Translation. “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home” (16:9).
Jesus seems to be encouraging his followers to use their heads and be smart about how they deal with other people. In what ways do you think Christians have done a good job of that?
Jesus is sometimes poetic to the point that he can be a bit difficult to translate. What do you make of the following sentence: “If you can’t be trusted with something as unholy as this world’s riches, who’s going to trust you with heaven’s wealth?” (16:11)?
Jesus seems to say that if we divorce someone and then we remarry, we are committing adultery (16:18). How you react to that? Pick one of the following or had one of your own.
- Sounds like something a single guy would say.
- He is probably using exaggeration to help defend women against the fact that men could divorce their wife by simply giving them a note confirming that they are divorced.
- Take it literally. He means what he said. Marriage is until death.
- Jesus didn’t intend this as a once-and-for-all rule. In Matthew, he seems to say sex sins are grounds for divorce (Matthew 5:32). Paul allowed for abandonment as grounds, too (1 Corinthians 7:15).
- Would Jesus really want a young woman to live the rest of her life like a monk if she made the mistake of marrying a jerk right out of high school?
Some students of the Bible see in the story of the rich man and Lazarus a description of the afterlife (16:19-31). They take the description pretty literally. What do you think might be some of the arguments for doing that, and some of the arguments against doing that?
What point do you think Jesus was trying to make when he told the story of the rich man and Lazarus?
LIFE APPLICATION. The conniving business manager did himself a favor at the expense of his boss. How do people do that today? And does it seem to be the kind of thing a Christian should do?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus said that “people who cheat in little ways will cheat in big ways, too” (16:10). There seems to be a big difference between pushing the limits a little when it comes to filing a tax return and committing fraud by stealing a big hunk of money from our employer or one of our relatives. How do people nibble their way out of a safe pasture and into the badlands where the wolves are waiting?
LIFE APPLICATION. What do you think about this quote from Jesus: “You can’t work for God if you’re going to work for money” (16:13).
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus said, “Sometimes, what people respect most in this world is what God hates with a passion” (16:15). What would you guess might be some examples?