Luke has left on record two intriguing parables, which are difficult to understand. Recalling yesterday’s chapter 15 we saw that as the “tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him … the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’” (verses 1,2). Jesus then tells five parables, the last two we read today. There is a common thread – the need to be genuine in seeking to serve God and God’s willingness to forgive when people are repentant.
Today we have a parable about a “dishonest manager” (verses 1-13) and, as with all parables, its climax makes its application clear. The religious leaders are focused in looking after their own interests, they are “faithful” to themselves. As a result they are dishonest managers of God’s vineyard, corrupt spiritual leaders serving their own interests before serving God’s. Jesus ridicules their self-interest, their “eternal dwellings” will be their grave – and archaeologists have discovered the elaborate tomb of the high priest’s family, made as a miniature replica of the Temple.
We understand that the High Priest had “five brothers”(verse 28). Jesus, in the parable of the ‘rich man and Lazarus’ ridicules their Greek influenced belief in the afterlife, this final parable is being told against the Sadducees, with its closing punch line that “if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent”. Abraham says, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (verses 30,31). How true this proves to be. Is it possible that Jesus would say to you or me, “you are those who justify yourselves before men” (verse 15)? We live in a world that abounds with self-justification! It is before God, in prayer, that we should seek to justify our actions – and ask forgiveness wherever it is necessary. The Master’s next words are, “but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God”. May we, in true humility, be “exalted … in the sight of God” because He knows our hearts. Whether this is truly the case will be evident when the kingdom is here.