July 16 - Message Update

Dear San Lo Community, an update for the week of July 16, 2017…

Thank you Chris Wu for the message from Luke 16:1-15, “You Cannot Serve God and Money.” This is part of a series of parables and teachings that Jesus provides while in the presence of His disciples, some sinners and tax collectors, and the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees are bent out of shape about Jesus befriending, eating with, and generally hanging out with those outcast, unclean, sinners. Jesus responds to their disgust and judgment with several parables. Luke tells us that Jesus turns to His disciples and tells this next story…

(vv.1-2) First, the rich man, we might think of this person as representative of God. Secondly, we have the manager who is charged with mismanaging his master's possessions. The management of his master's fortune is being taken away from him, because of his actions. (vv.3-7) Now we have a third kind of character: the master's debtors. These are tax collectors and sinners/Gentiles in the room. This manager figure, (the Pharisees and scribes of Israel), comes to the realization that he must accept that the management of his master's wealth is being taken away from him. Both the manager of our story, and the prodigal son from the previous story, are guilty of scattering the wealth given to them. They both come to realize their dire circumstance - the consequences of their actions. The manager's plan was to exchange wealth for relationships. In fact, his plan was forgiveness. When the manager called in his master's debtors, one by one, he reviewed their debts and then granted instant forgiveness for large portions of what they owed. The manager reversed the way he had been handling things and found himself in the good graces of those who were in debt to his master. What does the master (and Jesus) think of this? (vv.8-9) The master does not commend the manager for being unrighteous, he commends him for being shrewd. The manager was keen to recognize his predicament, see the writing on the wall, anticipate what was to come, and then act wisely. Jesus says, “The sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” That is, if we take eternity out of the picture, you all know how to be shrewd with earthly people and earthly matters. So learn from the parable of this manager, anticipate the age to come. Pay attention to where things are going. Don't be the Israel from the prodigal son parable, who "was angry and refused to go in [to the house]" despite his father's words, who was indignant that a sinner (his brother) was celebrated for returning, and who instead wanted to know where his celebration was. Rather, be like this fired manager, whose plan was…to forgive debts and make friends.

Jesus abruptly ended one parable to tell another one that is in many ways the inverse of the first. This time around, the person in trouble who comes to their senses is the Israel character, and this time, the Israel/Pharisee/scribe character reacts by valuing relationships at the expense of riches. Instead of shunning sinners/debtors and proudly holding on to his entitlement, he accurately evaluates his situation and decides to give up wealth in favor of people. Here is a parable that paints a picture of an Israel that is humble, that knows it is currently on the outs because of faithlessness, but reacts by choosing to give up earthly wealth in order to forgive and welcome sinners. This is the opposite of the Pharisees and scribes Luke described, who were grumbling at Jesus' relationship with sinners. They were acting like the older brother of the prodigal son, who did not even realize how sad and perilous his situation was, by staying on the outside of his father's house. This is why Jesus goes on to push the need to be faithful stewards of God's grace.

(vv.10-12) In the beginning, the manager loved money, not people. In the end he loved people, not money. He knew what money was for. He made it into an excellent tool, a helpful servant. He built kinship relationships with debtors. The older brother from the prodigal son definitely did not love people; and he forfeited kingdom joys. This was a hard-hitting truth that Jesus wanted to convey. (v.13) No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”  The Pharisees were convinced they loved God AND money. But Jesus will not allow for that. His parable and His statement here put God and money on opposite ends - only one could be picked. To trust and love God inherently requires releasing trust in all other alternatives. This statement and this parable, forced the Pharisees to show their hand. (vv.14-15) Here’s the final, confirming blow. The Pharisees were angry – their fundamental attitude and what they’d built their lives upon was challenged and torn down by Jesus. They felt justified in their anger, their indignant sneering at sinners; they were so self-assured of their righteousness – and their personal wealth confirmed to them they were doing the right things. But God knew their hearts. They had put themselves outside of the house, refused to participate in welcoming sinners, and had even congratulated each other for judging themselves right and these sinners as outcasts. But being like the older brother is an abomination to God, Jesus says. They had long ago stopped serving God and started serving money and status.

The Lord is trying to show us about His desires and His cares. Our singular focus is to listen to and see God. Instead of rushing to do something, let's pause to gaze at Jesus and see what He's like, what He's doing, what He cares about - knowing that the more we fix our eyes on Him, the more we will become like Him. We want this singular focus because we’re mainly after intimacy with God, not instructions to follow.

Choose to serve God,

Stan, for SLZJCC