'Last Judgment' (5th century), mosaic, Church of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy
'Last Judgment' (5th century), mosaic, Church of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy

In many Christian circles it is not fashionable to talk about hell and judgment. We'd rather be positive than negative, we say. We want to draw people to Christ by love, rather than by fear.

I get that. But the truth is that Jesus our Master taught at some length about judgment. And to be his true disciples, we need to study this area of his teachings. It is part of the gospel. And, like it or not, fear is a powerful motivator to find safety and salvation.

4.1 Role Reversal at Judgment

4.2 Separation of the Righteous and Wicked

4.3 Grace Triumphs over Judgment

Many of Jesus' parables touch on final judgment -- I can think of at least 13 parables beyond those we'll cover in this lesson.1 But let us consider the parables that display Jesus' teaching on judgment with clarity.

4.1 Role Reversal at Judgment

A continuing theme in Jesus' teaching is that in the Kingdom, roles will be reversed.

"The last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matthew 20 :16)

The saying occurs in three instances in the Synoptic Gospels, each time summarizing Jesus' teaching on those occasions:

Those who seem to be a "success" in this life, will not necessarily succeed in the life to come, and vice versa. We see it again capsulized in one of the most intriguing of Jesus' parables on judgment -- the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31, §177)

(Also known as the Parable of Dives and Lazarus)
Fedor Andreevich Bronnikov, detail, 'Parable of Lazarus' (1886)
Fedor Andreevich Bronnikov, detail, 'Parable of Lazarus' (1886), oil on canvas, original dimensions 127 z 84.5 cm.

Where the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus appears in Luke, Jesus has been teaching about materialism and money. His audience includes his disciples (verse 1) as well as "the Pharisees who loved money." He tells a story that contrasts one who is extremely rich with one who is extremely poor.

Portrayal or Parable?

Before we get into the parable however, we need to ask ourselves: Is this a portrayal of an actual situation or a parable, a story for the sake of comparison? Is the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus a divinely inspired portrayal of heaven? It seems different, for example, from the lush word pictures in the Book of Revelation.2

In a parable, the story doesn't have to be about real people or even real situations. But to achieve its teaching goal, a parable must be striking and memorable, so that as the story or comparison is retold and remembered. The hearers must be able to imagine the situation. The story doesn't have to be true in all its particulars, but the popular mind needs to be able to relate to its stereotyped characters, in this case, the rich man, the poor man, and Father Abraham.

In America, we have our own fables of heaven -- a whole series of jokes that have St. Peter at the pearly gates deciding who should enter heaven and who should go to hell. Lawyers, especially, don't do well in this genre of jokes. You don't stop the joke teller because his portrayal is inadequate, or leaves out the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11). You accept the semi-mythical props of the story and listen for the punch-line.

Jesus is not trying to make a joke here -- the subject is deadly serious. Nor do I think Jesus is trying to teach his disciples the details of the after-life in this parable. I believe he is using a popular story genre to make a spiritual point. As Snodgrass puts it:

"We must remember that parables are vignettes, not systems, and certainly not systematic theologies."3

Contrasting the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-21)

Eugene Burnard, 'Rich Man' in The Parables (1908), Conté crayon and charcoal.
Eugene Burnard, 'Rich Man' in The Parables (1908), Conté  crayon and charcoal.

In this parable, Jesus begins by painting a quick portrait of the rich man -- a very, very rich man.

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day." (Luke 16:19)

A purple wool mantle was costly, since purple dye was extremely expensive, extracted from murex sea or rock snails. A finely-woven linen tunic was considered the height of luxury. "Feasted sumptuously" (ESV) suggests that no expense was spared at his banquets.4 The rich man is not named, though he is sometimes called Dives, the Latin word for "rich man."

Next, Jesus swiftly sketches a portrait of an extremely poor man lying at the rich man's impressive gate.5

"20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores." (Luke 16:20-21)

Lazarus (short for Eleazar, which means "He whom God helps") is a miserable beggar, covered with numerous ulcerated sores licked by dogs. In Jesus' culture dogs were not pets, but were considered unclean. The wild street dogs that scavenge the garbage are licking Lazarus's open wounds. The picture of Lazarus is one of abject misery. Lazarus is lying at a suitable place for begging, next to the rich man's gate, hoping that the food scraps will be thrown his way at the end of the meal. He isn't hoping for crumbs, but "pieces of bread which the guests dipped in the dish, wiped their hands with, and then threw under the table."6

The scene is set in three short verses. The very rich man and the sick, miserable poor man.

Abraham's Bosom (Luke 16:22)

Now the story Jesus begins to get interesting. Ears perk up.

"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side." (Luke 16:22)

Jesus pictures angels carrying Lazarus to Abraham. "Side" (NIV, ESV), "bosom" (KJV) is Greek kolpos, "bosom, breast, chest." The ancient banqueting practice of reclining at the table would have one's head on someone's breast. So this puts Lazarus in the place of honor at the right hand of Abraham at the banquet in the next world.7

Jesus is drawing on a common Jewish belief of the time known as the Bosom of Abraham, the place where the righteous, especially Jewish martyrs, would go in the after-life, comforted by Abraham and the other patriarchs. The idea is found in Jewish papyri and apocryphal literature in the intertestamental period.8 (See Appendix 5. The Great Messianic Banquet).

Again, I don't think Jesus is teaching us the nature of heaven or hades in this parable. But all Jesus' hearers know the images and are ready for the story.

The Rich Man in Hell (Luke 16:22b-26)

In contrast to Lazarus's bliss in the Bosom of Abraham, Dives is in torment in hell.

"22b The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'" (Luke 16:22b-24)

The rich man is in "hell." The Greek word used here is Hades, the place of the dead, and in Jewish thought, the intermediate place of the dead prior to the final judgment.9 He is in torment,10 parched with thirst, suffering. "I am in agony11 in this fire" (verse 24). He still views Lazarus as a slave who can be ordered around at his whim.

"25 But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted12 here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm13 has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'" (Luke 16:25-26)

The die has been cast; the outcome is irreversible.

God's Word Is Sufficient Warning (Luke 16:27-31)

But Dives doesn't quit. He has another appeal.

"27 He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house,
28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
29 Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
30 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
31 He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" (Luke 16:27-31)

In the context, the rich man proposes that Lazarus should rise from the dead to warn his brothers. But Luke's post-resurrection readers will immediately think of Jesus, and how even his manifest resurrection was not enough to sway the Pharisees from their hardened opposition to the truth that was clearly before them. Marshall notes, "The rich man knows from personal experience that his family do not take seriously what the law and the prophets say. Something more is needed."14

What's the Point?

Of course, Jesus is saying that riches don't count for anything after we die, but that isn't the thrust of this parable. I think he is making several points.

  1. In the Kingdom, the worldly wealthy and the poor in spirit reverse places.
  2. If we close our eyes to the truth we are given, then we are doomed.
  3. Wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness.

As you may recall, this parable follows Jesus' teaching on money and materialism -- the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Lesson 10.1), and the Parable of the Two Masters (Lesson 10.2).

Jesus condemns the Pharisees for their love of money combined with their lack of mercy for the poor. Remember his comment about their scrupulous tithing?

"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone." (Luke 11:42)

It isn't their piety that he is condemning here, but what they are not doing -- showing mercy to the poor, seeking justice for the downtrodden. It is ironic that the Pharisees who prided themselves on being such Bible scholars missed the spirit of the Old Testament -- mercy and justice.

What Are We Doing for the Poor?

In a sense, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus teaches a similar lesson to that of the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-9, Lesson 10.1). We can use our money in a way that secures for us secure eternal damnation or in a way that secures us friends in eternal habitations who will welcome us. But there's more.

William Barclay titles this passage, "The Punishment of the Man Who Never Noticed."15 Lazarus was at his door and he didn't notice. Who is at our door that we don't notice?

  • Needy emigrants who avoid the social welfare system for fear of being deported?
  • Divorced moms with kids who are living below the poverty level, but are too ashamed to ask for help?
  • Families where the breadwinner is sick or shiftless or missing?
  • The homeless in our streets who can't afford the increasing cost of housing?
  • The poor in third world countries who are out of sight and out of mind?

The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) teaches a similar lesson about neglecting mercy, as we'll see below (See Lesson 4.2).

Wealth in itself is not bad. After all, Abraham was wealthy. But wealth brings with it responsibilities, a certain stewardship.

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48b, Lesson 5.3)

We will give an accounting for how we handle the wealth God has given us. Hunter concludes:

"If a man (says Jesus) cannot be humane with the Old Testament in his hand and Lazarus on his doorstep, nothing -- neither a visitant from the other world nor a revelation of the horrors of Hell -- will teach him otherwise. Such requests for signs are pure evasions."16

Q15. (Luke 16:19-31). What was the Rich Man's sin that landed him in hell? Since it isn't stated explicitly, what must it be? In hell, what is the Rich Man's attitude towards Lazarus? What is the main point of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus? What are you and your church doing to aid the very poor in your area? In the world?

4.2 Separation of the Righteous and Wicked

Jesus tells three parables that illustrate the separation of the righteous from the wicked at the End Time -- the Parables of the Sheep and the Goats, the Weeds or Tares, and the Net. We'll look at them each in turn.

Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46, §229)

(Also known as the Parable of the Judgment of the Nations.)

This parable found only in Matthew appears in the context of several other parables about the End Time. It follows the Parable of the Talents.

Jesus begins by setting the scene with himself -- the Son of Man -- seated on a throne of judgment.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory." (Matthew 25:31)

Son of Man is the title Jesus used for himself, a reference to the "son of man" in Daniel's messianic prophecy that unfolds in Yahweh's throne room (Daniel 7:13-14)

Of course, this glorified Son of Man is Jesus himself! In our parable he is called "King" in verses 34, 40. The phrase, "comes in glory," of course, refers to Christ's Second Coming.17 This will be a manifestation of God's Shekinah glory as seen in Exodus and in Revelation.18

"32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." (Matthew 25:32-33)

Let's look at the elements of these verses one by one.

"All the nations" uses the noun ethnē (from which we get our word "ethnic"), "a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions, 'nation, people.'"19 In other words, this judgment is not just of Israel or believers, but of all peoples, those about whom the Great Commission was given -- "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19).20

"As a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" (verse 32b). The King on his throne puts the sheep on his right and the goats on his left (verse 33). The place of honor, of course, is at a person's right hand.21

The Israelites were a shepherd people who raised both sheep and goats. In their culture, one wasn't considered "good" and the other "bad." Both were eligible to be used for sacrifices (Leviticus 3:7, 12). Even the Passover sacrifice could be a lamb or a kid.22 Sheep and goats were pastured together and cared for by the same shepherd. Both sheep and goats were milked. Both could be slaughtered for food. The sheep's wool and goat's hair were used for various kinds of textiles. Goat skins were used as containers -- wineskins, for example. The only difference I can see is that Israel was often referred to in the Old Testament as "sheep," but never "goats."

There are occasions when a shepherd would commonly separate the sheep from the goats23 because goats are naturally more aggressive than sheep. Lonnie Oldag, who raises herds of both goats and sheep in Alabama tells me, "When you don't separate them, the goats beat up on the sheep. So I separate them so my sheep don't get beat up."24 That makes sense to me. When the sheep and goats are confined in a sheepfold for protection at the end of the day, the goats would be routinely separated from the sheep as a practical measure in order to protect them and help them settle down better for the night.

Jesus is saying that at the Last Judgment, the saved will be separated from the lost like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. We see this same separation on the Last Day in the Parable of the Net (Lesson 4.2), Parable of the Weeds or Tares (Lesson 4.2), and the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Lesson 5.2).

Characteristics for Separating (Matthew 25:34-46)

Now the King addresses those on each side of him.

34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40 The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41 Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44 They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45 He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25:34-46)

In this parable, the separation is based on how people treated Jesus when they saw him in need. The occasions are:

  • Feeding him when hungry,
  • Inviting him into one's home when he had no place to live,
  • Clothing him when he had no clothes.
  • Visiting him when he was in prison.

Both groups deny seeing Jesus in need. "When did we see you" in need? they ask.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25:40, cf. vs. 45)

In other words, Jesus is saying that the way they treated "these brothers of mine" is the way they treated Jesus himself. In some way, Jesus is present in "these brothers."

Who are "these brothers of mine"?

The key question that determines how you interpret the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats turns on whom you identify as "these brothers of mine."25 There have been primarily four interpretations over the history of the Church.

  1. All needy persons. This is the final judgment of all persons (Universal).
  2. Needy Christians. This is the judgment of Christians (Ecclesiastical).
  3. Jesus' Own Disciples, and, by extension, Christian missionaries. Nations will be judged on how they treat Christian missionaries who spread the faith (Missionary).
  4. Jews. People are judged on how they treat the Jews during the tribulation (Dispensationalist).26

Among these, "all needy persons" and "Jesus' own disciples" seem most likely.

All Needy Persons. In the Old Testament especially, God is also closely identified with the needy in general.

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow,
and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing." (Deuteronomy 10:18)

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling." (Psalm 68:5)

"He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord. (Proverbs 19:17a)

One objection to the "least brothers" being all needy persons might be that the parable might be seen to teach salvation by works. However, you could argue that people showed mercy because they had been saved, not in order to be saved.

Jesus' Own Disciples. On the other hand, there are good reasons to see "least brothers" as Jesus' own disciples (which is an extension of the "missionary" interpretation above). Jesus' disciples might well be imprisoned for their faith (Luke 21:12). Indeed, Jesus uses the term "brothers" to refer to his disciples (Matthew 12:50; 28:10). And Jesus also uses the term "little ones" to refer to disciples (Matthew 10:40-42; 11:25). Moreover, Jesus is closely identified with his disciples:

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)

This seems to parallel "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).

So which is it? Who are the "the least of these my brothers"? Are the righteous those who show mercy to Jesus' disciples? Or those who show mercy to any in need? Scholars argue both sides.27

However, in the final analysis, it may not make a great deal of practical difference whether the "least brothers" are needy people in general or Jesus' disciples in particular. Those who are given eternal life are those who do the will of God from the heart (Matthew 7:21; 12:50) towards the needy, whoever they are. That is the point of Jesus' parable.

What does the parable teach us? That we will be judged by how love and compassion show up in our behavior, motivated by the Holy Spirit who has come to live inside us when we receive Christ. Jesus said, "By their fruits you shall know them" (Matthew 7:16, Lesson 10.1).

Q16. (Matthew 25:31-46) What are the "sheep" complimented for? What are the "goats" condemned for? Is this salvation by works? If no, why not? How does Jesus identify himself with "the least of these my brothers"? Why did Jesus tell this parable to his disciples? What do modern-day disciples need to learn from it? How should this parable motivate missions to aid immigrants, the poor, and the homeless?

Parable of the Weeds or Tares (Matthew 13:24-30, §96; 36-43, §100)

(Also known as the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.)

Another parable about separation at the Last Judgment is the Parable of the Weeds or Tares, found only in Mathew's "parables chapter."28 It follows the Parable of the Sower (Lesson 8.1) and draws on some of the same images of sowing seed and reaping a harvest.

Farmers in Jesus' day would be quite familiar with a common weed we know as Bearded Darnel (Lolium temulentum). So Jesus uses it in a teaching parable.

"24 The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared." (Matthew 13:24-26)

Bearded Darnel (Lolium temulentum)
Bearded Darnel (olium temulentum)
Common Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Common Wheat (Triticum aestivum)

"Weeds" (NIV, NRSV, ESV) or "tares" (KJV, NASB), "darnel" (NJB) is the plural of Greek zizanion, "a troublesome weed in grainfields, darnel, cheat."29 Bearded darnel is a vigorous grass closely resembling wheat or rye, a serious weed of cultivation until modern sorting machinery enabled darnel seeds to be separated efficiently from seed wheat.30

If darnel seeds are not separated from the wheat grain, the flour can be infected with the mold ergot, producing vomiting, malaise, and even death.31 Darnel still grows today as a hated weed in grain fields, waste places, moist farm fields, and along roadsides.32

In Jesus' parable, the wheat field has been planted and growing for a number of weeks before the seed-head emerges. Some sharp-eyed servant sees that many of the plants are actually darnel, not wheat.

I am sure that a small amount of seed grain was mixed inadvertently with darnel seed as a matter of course. Darnel was a pesky weed. It was something that farmers just had to deal with, often by repeated weeding while the crop was growing.33 But as the servant sees so much darnel among the wheat, he panics. Something is seriously wrong. He runs to his master.

"27 The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

28 'An enemy did this,' he replied.

The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

29 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'" (Matthew 13:27-30)

While the darnel can be identified by careful observation once the seed heads appear, normal weeding wouldn't suffice in this case. To pull up the darnel sewed maliciously in the entire field would be so pervasive that pulling it all up will disturb the wheat roots and ruin the whole crop. Waiting and separating the wheat from the weeds at the end of the growing season is the best course of action in this case. Then they would burn all the collected darnel plants so its seeds wouldn't escape and contaminate future crops.

Explanation of the Parable

By the time Jesus comes to this parable in Matthew 13, he has told several parables -- the Parable of the Weeds here, as well as the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Yeast (both in Lesson 7.1). Only now do the disciples have a chance to question him privately.

"36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, 'Explain34 to us the parable of the weeds in the field.'

37 He answered, 'The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.'" (Matthew 13:36-39)

While a typical parable will have only a single point of comparison, or perhaps two, the Parable of the Weeds seems to be a sort of allegory. Jesus identifies seven points of comparison.

Sower Son of Man, Jesus' exalted title
Field The world
Good seed The "sons of the kingdom," that is, the genuine believers.
Weeds The "sons of the evil one,"
Enemy The devil
Harvest The End of the Age
Harvesters The angels

Jesus has identified the characters in the drama. Now he puts the plot into action.

"40 As the weeds are pulled up35 and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.'" (Matthew 13:36-43)

Evil continues on up to the Last Judgment. Only then are true believers separated from the false, and reward and punishment executed.

Fiery Punishment and Gnashing of Teeth

This parable uses a couple of concepts about hell that are common to Jewish teaching of the period as well as to the New Testament -- weeping and gnashing of teeth and the fiery nature of eternal punishment.

"Weeping and gnashing of teeth" is a stock phrase describing the terror and eternal regret of those who are being punished.36 Gnashing of teeth would be a response to extreme pain, found in a number of parables.37 The fiery nature of the punishment is also common both in New Testament parables38 and Jewish apocalyptic literature of the time.

A final judgment and assignment of the wicked to hell are not popular topics in our secular world. They are jeered at as remnants of a medieval understanding of God. Much more popular is a forever-forgiving God who is completely non-judgmental. Of course, the Bible's teaching of the forgiveness and grace of God must be understood along with its teaching of sure punishment for those who don't repent of their sins. Disciples of Jesus need to adopt Jesus' world view of a final judgment and punishment of the unbelievers.

The Parable of the Weeds is sung every Thanksgiving in many American churches in the hymn "Come, Ye Thankful People Come" (1844) by Henry Alford. You can see the parable clearly, especially in verses 2 and 3:

"All the world is God's own field, fruit as praise to God we yield;
Wheat and tares together sown are to joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take the harvest home;
From the field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in the garner evermore."

Applying the Parable of the Weeds or Tares

The Parable of the Weeds or Tares is a fearful parable and easy to misinterpret. Historically, the parable has been interpreted in terms of how to deal with sin in the Church -- specifically rooting out heretics. The problem with this interpretation, however, is that Jesus specifies that "the field is the world" (Matthew 13:38a).

Jesus seems to have given the parable to answer the question: If the Kingdom is already present in the world, how can we explain the presence of evil. Isn't the Messiah supposed to bring an end to evil and usher in the Kingdom of God? Judgment will come, but it will be a delayed judgment that will take place "at the end of the age" (verse 40).39

The parable also teaches that all evil in the world cannot be attributed to God -- that there is an enemy.

Parable of the Net (Matthew 13:47-50, §102)

(Also known as that Parable of Drawing in the Net or of the Dragnet)
Harold Copping (1863-1932), 'The Drag Net' (1907-1925)
Harold Copping (1863-1932), 'The Drag Net' (1907-1925), from The Copping Bible pictures: scripture pictures (Abingdon Press/Westminster Press, 1907-1925). Larger image.

A third parable about separation of the righteous and wicked at the Last Judgment is Jesus' Parable of the Net. It is found towards the end of Mathew's "parables chapter" (Matthew 13), following the Parables of the Weeds (Lesson 4.7), the Hidden Treasure (Lesson 8.5), and the Pearl of Great Price (Lesson 8.5).

"47 Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away." (Matthew 13:47-48)

No doubt, Jesus told this parable on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where entire village economies were based on catching fish with large nets. In addition to Capernaum, there were Bethsaida ("house of fishing") and Magdala (Migdal Nunaya, "bulwark of the fishes") or Tarichaea ("salting installation for fish," the Greek name of Magdala). Fishermen would sell their fish fresh in the local markets. The rest they would salt and dry for export as far as Spain.40

Fishing Nets

Fishermen have fished the waters of Galilee for thousands of years. Occasionally people would fish with a hook and line (Matthew 17:24-27), but commercial fishing took place with nets and teams of fishermen to handle them. They primarily used two types of nets:

Casting net. Poorer fishermen who didn't own boats could use casting nets along the shore. The casting net was thrown out over the water. Weights at the edge would pull the net to the bottom, catching any fish that might be under it. The net opening was 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters) in diameter. The fisherman would wade out to the net, and gather it in, bringing any fish to shore.41

Towns of Galilee
Towns of Galilee. Larger map.

Seine net or drag net.42 These were large vertical wall-like nets that could be attached to the shore or to another boat. A boat could drag the other end out into the water in a semicircular arc and then back to the shore again, pulling in as many fish as it could. Then a team of fishermen on both ends of the net would pull it into the boat or onto the shore. One might dive in the center of the net to disentangle it from any rocks or obstructions on the bottom as the net dragged across.43 This is the net described in the parable.

You can imagine the need for mending the nets. Disentangling fish from the nets sometimes broke the fibers, as did debris from the lake bottom, or the strain of too many fish. The hours were rugged. The best deepwater fishing was at night, then the mornings would be given to mending the nets, sorting fish, and perhaps using casting nets along the shore if their night's labors hadn't netted enough fish (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16).

Sorting the Fish

With that background, let's examine the parable again.

"47 Once again,44 the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets,45 but threw the bad away."46 (Matthew 13:47-48)

The dragnet brings in all kinds of fish -- both marketable fish and fish nobody would buy. The "good fish" would include tilapia (especially Saint Peter's Fish, Tilapia galilea), three species of carp (especially Barbus longiceps and B. canis), and Kinneret sardine (Acanthobrama terraesanctae).47 The "bad fish" would have been catfish (Clarias lazera). Since catfish don't have scales, they aren't Kosher for Jews (Leviticus 11:9),48 and thus would have been thrown away.49 The fresh "good" fish would go to market in buckets or baskets.

Fiery Judgment

Using the illustration of sorting good fish from bad, Jesus explains judgment at the End of the Age.

"49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:49-50)

The point of comparison here is the sorting into good and bad categories. In the parable, the fishermen do the sorting; in the application God's angels do the sorting. While I doubt that the bad fish were burned along the shores of Galilee, Jesus makes a point that the wicked will be thrown into a fiery furnace, such as we just saw in the Parable of the Weeds (Lesson 4.2).


The meaning of the Parable of the Net seems pretty straightforward. There will be a final judgment at the End of the Age where the righteous are recognized and the wicked are punished. Like the Parable of the Weeds (Lesson 4.2), judgment is not immediate, but it is sure. The disciples, who were hoping that Jesus Messiah would destroy evil and set up the ancient Kingdom of God in their lifetime, were wrong. Judgment will be delayed, but will surely come at the End of the Age.

Q17. (Matthew 13:47-50) What is similar about the Parable of the Weeds and the Parable of the Net? What belief are these two parables meant to counter? How does a belief in the ultimate triumph of righteousness encourage Christians?

4.3 Grace Triumphs over Judgment

Judgment is a pretty heavy topic for us. Fortunately, Jesus told one parable about judgment that is lighter, and a bit humorous when you think about it. We'll end this lesson with the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.

Parable of the Laborers in Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16, §190)

(Also known as the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, or Vineyard Workers)
'Laborers in the Vineyard,' Codex Aureus of Echternach (1030-1040 AD), illuminated gospel book, Germanic National Museum, Munich
'Laborers in the Vineyard,' Codex Aureus of Echternach (1030-1040 AD), illuminated gospel book, Germanic National Museum, Munich. Larger image.

Jesus' Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard follows immediately after the encounter with the Rich Young Ruler and Jesus' radical teaching that salvation is impossible to man, but requires an act of God (Matthew 19:16-30, Lesson 6.2). Jesus turns the world's wisdom upside down. He concludes the teaching in Matthew with words we just looked at:

"Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." (Matthew 19:30)

Then he proceeds to tell another parable that shows just how radical the Kingdom of God really is, just how much it breaks all human rules and expectations -- the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.

Bringing in the Grape Harvest (Matthew 20:1-7)

"1 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner50 who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard." (Matthew 20:1-2)

Jesus paints a picture of a landowner at the end-of-summer grape harvest, just before the cold sets in. When the grapes are ripe, they must be harvested immediately while they are at their peak. In a large vineyard, this requires a lot of men working at the same time to cut the grapes. The custom was for day laborers to stand in the village marketplace waiting for someone to hire them. You may have observed the parking lot at Home Depot (a large building products store chain in the US), where each morning you might see many day laborers waiting to be picked up by a contractor for a job.

The landowner in our story goes to the marketplace early in the morning to hire workers. He agrees to pay them the going wage for a day's labor -- one denarius. It's fair. They accept. And off they go for a day's work cutting grapes.

There is lots of work to be done. The landowner comes back to the market several times to get more workers.

"3 About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5 So they went.

He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'

7 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.

He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'" (Matthew 21:3-7)

The first group hired at dawn is promised one denarius, what was considered a fair day's wages. The others assume he will pay a fair wage, but it isn't stated.

Hiring Time Promised wages
Early morning (about 6 am) 1 denarius, a normal day's wages
Third hour (about 9 am) "Whatever is right"
Sixth hour (about noon) No mention of wages
Ninth hour (about 3 pm) Same
Eleventh hour (about 5 pm) Same

Paying Outrageous Wages (Matthew 20:8-15)

So far, the story is intriguing, but normal. Now it takes a radical turn. A regular employee might be paid less often, but according to the Torah, day laborers must be paid daily, at the time they finish their shift. (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). The men line up and the foreman pays them in cash, starting with the men most recently hired.

"8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,51 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'

9 The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius." (Matthew 20:8-10)

When the day-long workers see the men who had worked only an hour or two receive a full day's pay, they perk up. The landowner is paying big bonuses! But when it comes to them, they receive only full day's wages like everyone else. They are angry!

"11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'" (Matthew 20:11-12)

The angry workers sound like children. "It isn't fair!" But the landowner doesn't accept that accusation.

"13 He answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'" (Matthew 20:13-15)

The landowner diagnoses their anger with precision. His response is variously translated:

"Are you envious because I am generous?" (NIV, NRSV)

"Do you begrudge my generosity? (ESV)

"Is thine eye evil, because I am good?" (KJV)

In many cultures the term "evil eye" denotes a magical influence or curse, but not in the Bible.52 Rather, here an "evil eye" is descriptive of envy, jealousy, and lack of generosity.53 The full-day workers envy those who worked one hour for full pay. They are greedy. They want more! The landowner's generosity54 is scorned.

The First Will Be Last (Matthew 20:16)

Jesus concludes this parable with the same words that ended Matthew chapter 19:

"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matthew 20:16)

Affairs in God's Kingdom operate on different rules than earthly kingdoms.

This isn't an easy parable. Snodgrass designates this as one of the three most difficult parables to interpret.55 Some see the early morning workers as the Jews who have been faithful, worked hard, and -- compared to the Gentiles -- deserve salvation, but I think that misses the point. Rather, Jesus is teaching that God, represented by the landowner, operates on the basis of generosity, not fairness. This is grace -- unearned and undeserved -- even though that offends people who demand absolute fairness, a fair wage for a day's work. This is a parable of outrageous grace.56

To conclude, if we demand fairness from God, then we are lost, since "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). It doesn't matter that some are better than others. Fairness demands absolute justice and justice requires that sin must be punished.

This parable teaches that God is generous. He doesn't give us salvation based on what we deserve, but out of his own generosity. Praise God!

Q18. (Matthew 20:1-16) What does the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard teach us about God's generosity? About grace? What in our heart rises up to demand recognition and fairness when we feel we are overlooked and taken for granted? How much of this is a godly sense of fairness and how much is pride?

Jesus' Parables for Disciples, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Available in paperback, PDF, and Kindle formats

Judgment is a subject that Christians often avoid talking about, perhaps in reaction to the fire and brimstone preaching of a former era. Nevertheless, salvation from terrible judgment is an important backdrop to understand and appreciate Christ's amazing salvation.


Lord Jesus, you have saved us from the awesome judgment and punishment that we deserve for our sins. You have cleansed and forgiven us and set us on your Way. Thank you. Help us to both be humbly appreciative and to help other lost souls to find your Way. In your holy name, we pray. Amen.


References and Abbreviations

[1] Other parables that touch on judgment include Parables of the Unmerciful Servant (Lesson 1.2), Barren Fig Tree (Lesson 2.1), Marriage Feast (Lesson 2.2), Great Banquet (Lesson 2.2), Wicked Tenants (Lesson 2.3), Guilty Defendant (Lesson 3.2), Wide and Narrow Gates (Lesson 3.2), Wise and Faithful Steward (Lesson 5.3), Talents (Lesson 11.2), Minas or Pounds (Lesson 11.2), Narrow Door (Lesson 8.2), Vine and the Branches (Lesson 9.3), and Rich Fool (Lesson 10.2).

[2] Many scholars believe that Jesus is drawing upon a popular Jewish folk-tale that had roots in Egypt about a rich man and poor man whose lots after death are completely reversed (Marshall, Luke, pp. 633-634; Jeremias, Parables, p. 183).

[3] Snodgrass, Stories, p. 429.

[4] "Lived in luxury" (NIV), "feasted sumptuously" (ESV, NRSV), "fared sumptuously" (KJV) is two words: euphrainō, "be glad or delighted, enjoy oneself, rejoice, celebrate" (BDAG 415, 2; used of celebrations in the parables of the lost sheep, coin, and son; and the parable of the rich fool); and the adverb lamprōs, "splendidly, sumptuously" (BDAG 585), "magnificently" (Thayer 371).

[5] Pylōn, "gateway, entrance, gate," especially of the large, impressive gateways at the entrance of temples and places (BDAG 897, 1).

[6] Jeremias, Parables, p. 184.

[7] Kolpos, BDAG 556-557.

[8]For example, "For if we so die, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will welcome us, and all the fathers will praise us" (4 Maccabees 13:17). Wikipedia article, "Bosom of Abraham"; Kaufmann Kohler, "Abraham's Bosom," Jewish Encyclopedia (1906).

[9] Hades, BDAG 19; Jeremias, Parables, p. 185. Though Greek gehenna is usually used to refer to the place of final punishment, in Jewish literature torment can be a feature of the intermediate state as well as of the final state of the wicked (Marshall, Luke, p. 637, cites 1 Enoch 22; Wisdom 3:1; 4 Maccabees 13:15; 2 Clement 17:7; 10:4).

[10] Basanos, "severe pain occasioned by punitive torture, torture, torment" (BDAG 168).

[11] Odynaō, "to undergo physical torment, suffer pain" (BDAG 692, 1).

[12] Parakaleō, "come alongside," here, "comfort, encourage, cheer up" (BDAG 764, 4).

[13] "Chasm" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "gulf" (KJV) is chasma, "chasm" (literally a "yawning"), from chaskō, "yawn, gape" (BDAG 1081).

[14] Marshall, Luke, p. 639.

[15] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Revised Edition; Daily Study Bible Series; Westminster Press, 1975), pp. 212-217.

[16] Hunter, Parables, p. 84.

[17] Mark 8:38, cf. Matthew 16:26-27; Luke 9:26-27; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 10.

[18] Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29; Psalm 18:8; 50:3; Isaiah 29:6; 30:30; Revelation 1:14; 2:18; 19:12.

[19] Ethnē, BDAG 276, 1.

[20] Also Matthew 24:14, 30; Mark 11:17; Luke 24:47.

[21] Hebrews 1:3; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22; Acts 7:55-56.

[22] Exodus 12:4 uses the term śeh for the Passover sacrifice, which could refer to either a sheep or a goat (TWOT #2237; Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, "Passover Sacrifice," Jewish Encyclopedia (1906).

[23] Some academics have suggested a separation on cold nights night, since the goats are more susceptible to the cold than the sheep, though this is disputed (Morris, Matthew, p. 636; Jeremias, Parables, p. 206; Snodgrass, Stories, p. 550; France, Matthew, pp. 961-962, fn. 88).

[24] Lonnie J. Oldag, Rolling "O" Farm, Hackleburg/Phil Campbell, Alabama. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhYiIdl8qis

[25] "One of the least of these brothers of mine" (NIV), "one of the least of these my brothers" (ESV, cf. KJV), "one of the least of these who are members of my family" (NRSV) is several words, including: elachistos, "pertaining to the lowest in status, least" (BDAG 314, 1); the plural of adelphos, "brother." The plural can also mean "brothers and sisters" (BDAG 18, 1 and 2a).

[26] Snodgrass, Stories, pp. 551-552.

[27] Snodgrass weighs the arguments and concludes: "'These least brothers of mine' must be understood generally of those in need" (Stories, p. 557). On the other hand, Morris concludes: "[Jesus' brothers as his disciples] is the probably the way that we should understand the words, but that does not give the follower of Jesus license to do good deeds to fellow Christians, but none to outsiders. Such an attitude is foreign to the teachings of Jesus" (Morris, Matthew, p. 639). France agrees that the description "these my smallest brothers and sisters" probably refers to Jesus' disciples, but observes that both groups did not know that their actions were directed toward Jesus. "They have helped or failed to help not a Jesus recognized in his representatives, but a Jesus incognito. As far as they were concerned it was simply an act of kindness to a fellow human being in need, not an expression of their attitude to Jesus" (Matthew, pp. 958-959).

[28] A brief version of the parable is also found in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas 57.

[29] Zizanion, BDAG 429.

[30] Wikipedia article, "Lolium temunlentum," cites Armand Marie Leroi, The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science (Bloomsbury, 2014). pp. 296--297. Referenced 13 Jan 2022.

[31] R.K. Harrison, "Weeds," ISBE 4:1045.

[32] Only when the seedhead appears can it be easily distinguished, and when ripe, wheat will appear brown, while darnel is black (Wikipedia article, "Lolium temulentum," citing Walter de Gruyter in Heinrich W. Guggenheimer (ed.), The Jerusalem Talmud (2000), vol. 1, part 3, p. 5).

[33] Jeremias, Parables, p. 225.

[34] "Explain" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "declare" (KJV) is diasapheō, "to clarify something that is obscure, explain," literally, "make clear" (BDAG 236, 1). From dia- (distribution) + saphēs, "clear," saphēnizō, "make clear or plain" (Liddell-Scott, p. 1586).

[35] "Pulled up" (NIV), "gathered" (ESV, KJV), "collected" (NRSV) in verse 40 is the present passive indicative of sullegō, "to gather by plucking or picking, collect, gather (in), pick" (BDAG 956). In verse 41 the future active of the same verb is translated "weed out" (NIV), "gather" (ESV, KJV), "collect" (NRSV).

[36] "Weeping" is klauthmos, "weeping, crying." With the article and "gnashing of teeth," "the article indicates the unique and extreme character of the action" (BDAG 546).

[37] "Gnashing of teeth" is two words: the plural of odous/odontos, "teeth"; and the noun brugmos, "gnashing" of teeth striking together." Danker notes that chattering of teeth would be because of cold, grinding of teeth because of pain (BDAG 184). Those who suffer such are: unbelieving Jews excluded from the final feast in the Kingdom (Matthew 8:12), unrighteous in the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:49-50, Lesson 4.2), the servant in the Parable of the Wise and Faithful Steward (Matthew 24:51, Lesson 5.3), evildoers in the Parable of the Narrow Door (Luke 13:27-28, Lesson 8.2), the guest lacking a wedding garment in the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:13, Lesson 2.2); the wicked servant in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:30, Lesson 11.2).

[38] The fiery image of punishment may have sprung from Daniel's companions Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego punished by being thrown into "a blazing furnace" (Daniel 3:6, 11, 15, 17, 19-23, 26), probably a smelting furnace. Chaff is burned "with unquenchable fire" in John the Baptist's vision of the punishment of the wicked (Matthew 3:12). The "goats" (in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Lesson 4.2) are assigned "the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). In his teaching of one's hand causing a person to sin, Jesus describes hell as "where the fire never goes out" ... "where 'their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched'" (Mark 9:43, 48). In Jesus' Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lesson 4.1), the rich man is in hell, "in torment," and asks that Lazarus "cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire" (Luke 16:23-24). In the Book of Revelation: Those who worship the beast and bear his mark "will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever" (Revelation 14:10-11). The beast (Antichrist) and the false prophet are "thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur" (Revelation 19:20). Those condemned before the Great White Throne Judgment are "thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death" (Revelation 20:13-14). On the Last Day, the unrighteous "will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death" (Revelation 21:7-8).

[39] Snodgrass, Stories, pp. 212-213.

[40] Great People of the Bible and How They Lived (Reader's Digest Association, 1974), p. 439.

[41]The Greek word diktyon, a generic term "net," but in the New Testament only of "fishnet" (BDAG 250. Carl G. Rasmussen, "Net," ISBE 3:524). When used with Greek amphiblēstron ("throwing"), it indicated "a circular casting-net used in fishing, casting-net," with the verb ballō, "throw out a casting-net" (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16) (BGAD 55). The verb is amphiballō, "cast," a technical term for the throwing out of the circular casting-net (Mark 1:16).

[42] This net is sometimes indicated by the Greek word diktyon and in our passage by sagēnē, "seine, dragnet" (BDAG 910).

[43] Another way to use this kind of net was to take it into deep water, often at night and sometimes with another boat, and lay out the floats at the top of the net in a long line across the water. Fish might be driven into the net by the splashes of the fisherman. Then the ends would be pulled together surrounding a school of fish, and they would be pulled on board the boat (Gary M. Burge, "Fishers of Men: The Maritime Headquarters of Jesus' Headquarters in Galilee," Christian History, Summer 1998, p. 36). Burge calls this a "trammel net," though I would guess that the sophisticated kind of net he describes hadn't been developed in the first century.

[44] "Once again" indicates that this parable also explained the nature of the Kingdom as had previous parables.

[45] "Collected" (NIV), "sorted" (ESV), "put" (NRSV), "gathered" (KJV) is sullegō, "to gather by plucking or picking, collect, gather (in), pick" something (BDAG 956). "Baskets" (NIV, NRSV), "containers" (ESV), "vessels" (KJV) is angos "a container primarily for liquids or wet objects, vessel, container" (BDAG 9). "Vessel, receptacle" to hold liquids, such as wine, milk. "Vat," "pitcher," "bucket, pail," "wine-bowl," "cinerary urn," "sarcophagus" (Liddell-Scott, p. 7).

[46] "Threw away" (NIV, ESV), "threw out" (NRSV), "cast away" (KJV) is two words: the verb ballō, "throw" (BDAG 163, 1b), and the adverb exō, "outside, out" (BDAG 354, 2a). Also used of bad salt (Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:35) and dead branches (John 15:6).

[47] Mendel Nun, The Sea of Galilee and Its Fishermen in the New Testament (Israel: Kinnereth Sailing Co., 1989); Mendel Nun, "Cast Your Net upon the Waters: Fish and Fishermen in Jesus' Time," Biblical Archaeology Review (19:6, Nov/Dec 1993); R. K. Harrison, "Fish," ISBE 2:309.

[48] An archaeological study of fish bones in 30 sites from around Judea found catfish and shark bones in villages and cities from the late Bronze Age through the Hellenistic period (first century BC). However, by the second century AD, most Jews were avoiding catfish. (Yonatan Adlera and Omri Lernau, "The Pentateuchal Dietary Proscription against Finless and Scaleless Aquatic Species in Light of Ancient Fish Remains," Tel Aviv, Vol. 48, 2021, Issue 1, pp. 5-26).

[49] Mendel Nun, "The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Seine," Jerusalem Perspective, 1 Nov 1989.

[50] "Landowner" (NIV, NRSV), "householder" (KJV), "master of a house" (ESV) is oikodespotēs, "master of the house, householder" (BDAG 695). The word occurs in several parables (Matthew 13:27, 52; 20:1-2; 21:33; 24:43; Luke 12:39; 13:25; 14:21).

[51] "Foreman" (NIV, ESV), "manager" (NRSV), "steward" (KJV) is epitropos, "manager, foreman, steward" (BDAG 385, 1).

[52] France, Matthew, p. 262, fn. 25, citing F.C. Fensham, Neot 1 (1967), 51-58.

[53] The Greek text refers to the "evil eye" (ponēros, "evil" and opthalmos, "eye,"), that is "one that looks with envy or jealousy upon other people" (opthalmos, BDAG 744, 1). Used in Sirach 14:10; Matthew 6:23; Mark 7:22; Proverbs 28:22; 22:9; see Snodgrass, Stories, p. 376.

[54] "Generous" (NIV, NRSV), "generosity" (ESV), "good" (KJV) is agathos, "good," here, pertaining to meeting a high standard of worth and merit, "good," in context, "kind, generous" (BDAG 3, 2aα).

[55] Snodgrass, Stories, p. 362. He places it alongside other difficult parables: the Unjust Steward and Matthew's account of the Wedding Banquet.

[56] While salvation is by grace -- free of charge or any goodness on our part -- rewards for service are different. We'll discuss this with the Parables of the Talents and Minas in Lesson 11.2.

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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