Friday, January 24, 2014

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday January 26, 2014

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JESUS TEACHES COMPASSION FOR THE POOR
(Being shrewd managers while having compassion for those in need)
(Luke 16)

Our Christianity will only become real and effective for us when and if, we begin to put as much time, effort, and money into it, as we put into achieving pleasure from our own worldly activities and desires. Time and time again we tend to expend, perhaps, forty to fifty times more energy, time, and money on our fleshly desires and leisure, than we do on the things of GOD, and on learning about the things of GOD.
In the biblical Greek, the word used for “steward”, or, “manager” is “oikonomos” (oy-kon-om-os), and it is “an employee who works in the capacity of an overseer”. In Luke chapter 16, taking up at verse 1, we find a very difficult parable to interpret and understand. It is the story of “a bad man’s good example”, that JESUS is relating to HIS disciples.
Here in this passage, JESUS tells the story of a rich landowner who hired a manager to oversee his financial affairs, as was the case with many “absentee landlords” in biblical times. They would often be away transacting or drumming up other business, vacationing, or may even actually reside in another place altogether. No doubt, in this parable, the debtors paid rent on the land that they used to grow various crops, to the landlord in the form of a percentage of their harvest.
Over time the landowner started receiving rumors that his manager had gained a reputation of being a thoroughly dishonest character. He decided to call the manager in to see if he had been stealing from him, and apparently, he had been (Vs.1-2). The guilty man began to contemplate to himself, what he should do. “I’m certainly finished here”, he reasoned, “and I don’t have the strength to do manual labor, and, I’m too proud to beg”. “I know what I can do”, he decided, “and maybe this will also bring me plenty of friends to take care of me when I leave this job”.
And so the man invited everyone who owed his employer to come and discuss their debt with him. He asked the first man, “How much do you owe my employer?” And the man answered, “I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil”. The manager told him to tear up that bill and make another for half that amount, and so he gladly did as the manager suggested. He did likewise to the second man in this parable, cutting his wheat bill down from 1000 bushels, to 800 bushels instead.
This dastardly move achieved two things for this dishonest manager, who was about to lose his job;
·         First, it made the debtors feel very grateful and owing to him.
·         Secondly, if worse came to worse, it would put him in a position to blackmail the debtors later on, if he had to, which was something I’m sure he was not above doing.
As it turned out, however, even the business manager’s boss, apparently a crooked dealer himself, was impressed. Instead of being angry at him, the rich landowner admired his manager for his savvy and shrewdness, rather than just firing him for his further dishonesty.
There are several lessons that JESUS is trying to teach here in this passage. The first of which is this;
·         If a Christian was as eager to attain goodness, as a worldly person is in his attempt to attain money and security, he would be a much better person, and would be even more valuable to the Kingdom of GOD (v.8).
·         Secondly, JESUS is also saying here that “material things” can best be used for cementing friendships and relations. A person’s true wealth consists, not of what they keep for themselves, but rather, it consists of what he or she is willing to give to others. A person can use their wealth selfishly to make only their life easier and better, or, they can use some of it to make someone else’s life better (v.9).
·         The third lesson is that, a person’s way of handling a small task, is the best way to determine how they might handle a greater task. Not many people are elevated to a higher position of service, until they have first, proved their honesty and ability to perform smaller duties (Vs.10-11).
·         The final lesson is that, no one can serve two masters. A servant of GOD must be a servant of GOD, full-time. GOD’s servant must be available to HIM every minute of every day. No one who wishes to serve GOD can ever be just a part-time worker. Once we choose to serve GOD, every moment of our time, and every ounce of our energy has been dedicated to doing HIS will. GOD is an “exclusive master”, we either belong to HIM totally, or not belong to HIM at all (v.13).

THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS

In verses 19-31 JESUS relates the parable of an unnamed rich man, and a poor man named Lazarus. Because JESUS does not normally use personal names in HIS parables, many scholars tend to believe that this story relates to an actual event. The New Testament tells us of many people who were forced to result to begging due to being indigent because of a debilitating sickness or physical condition.
Most Christians wholeheartedly agree that giving of their time, money, and skills to those who are destitute and in need is a good and meritorious thing to do, in the eyes of GOD, and man. The rich man in this parable refuses to render help to the needy Lazarus, and as a result of his treatment of those in need, he died and woke up and found himself in Hell.
Here, the rich man is portrayed as being fully conscious and aware of his surroundings. We see that he is able to see, hear, feel, and remember. However, there is no biblical basis to support the notion that death is an unconscious state anyway. In fact, this parable clearly suggests that human personally, fully conscious and aware, does persist, even after physical death has occurred.  
JESUS tells us that the rich man, who was in much torment, could see Lazarus, the man he denied help to in life, at a distance in Heaven, in the company of Abraham, the great Jewish patriarch. The rich man, who was now anguishing in the flames of Hell, shouted to Abraham, begging him for mercy. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus over with just a drop of water so that he could cool his tongue.
Abraham said to the man, “Son, remember that during your lifetime, you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. Anyone who wanted to cross over to you from here is stopped at its edge, and no one there can cross over to us”.
Then the man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s home to warn his five brothers about Hell so that they won’t have to go there when they die. However, Abraham responded, “Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read their writings anytime they want to”. The man then said, “No father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins”. Abraham replied, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead”.
Just think of how many people, who could have gone to Heaven, who have actually read or heard the word of GOD, since the time when JESUS was raised from the dead that have chosen instead, to go to Hell. In the Gospels of Matthew (7:24-29) and Luke (6:46-49) JESUS concludes HIS, now famous, “Sermon on the Mount” with this warning for us to build our foundations on the “Most High Faith” (Christianity). There we see JESUS demanding two things. First HE demands that we “listen”, and then HE demands that we “do”. Knowledge does not become relevant until it is put into action.
In Matthew 25, verses 31-46, JESUS gives us the answers to how we as human beings can be “successful” under GOD. There we see that it is very different from the world’s view of what “success” is. There JESUS tells us that when HE returns to judge us, HE will base HIS decision upon “how we reacted to human need in our lifetime”. So remember, while we do need to be shrewd managers of what GOD has blessed us with, we must also strive to balance that shrewdness, with the compassion demonstrated to us by CHRIST, when it comes to “how we react to human need” all around us.

A Sunday school by,
Larry D. Alexander   





                                 
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