Gustave Doré, 'Little Red Riding Hood' (1862), oil on canvas, 65x81 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
Gustave Doré, 'Little Red Riding Hood' (1862), oil on canvas, 65x81 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

We've considered parables that talk about the character traits of Jesus' disciples -- righteousness, humility, abiding in Christ. Now we'll examine parables about what a disciple's values should look like when he or she begins to seriously follow the Master.

10.1 Careful Discernment

10.2 Trust and Money

10.3 Faithful Prayer

These parables clarify what disciple values look like in action.

10.1 Careful Discernment

To begin, we'll look at parables that Jesus uses to teach his disciples to have careful discernment about money and false prophets. He is training them to be leaders who can protect the flock from false prophets and others who would cause harm. He also seeks to keep them from becoming disillusioned and cynical when deceived by people they thought to be genuine believers. In addition to these, we have already seen other parables Jesus told about discernment of our own sins in the Parable of the Speck and the Beam (Lesson 3.4) and the Parable of the Good Eye (Lesson 3.4).

Analogy of the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (Matthew 7:15-16a, §41)

The Analogy of the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing appears in the Sermon on the Mount and is found only in Matthew. It follows Jesus' warning that most take the wide path on the way to destruction.

"15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious1 wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:15-16a)

The command in this passage is to "watch out for" false prophets, with the verb prosechō, "be in a state of alert, be concerned about, care for, take care," here "beware of" something.2

When you think about it, Jesus' comparison, is kind of bizarre and funny if the subject weren't so serious -- wolves dressed up as sheep. The sheep, of course, typifies a harmless animal, while the wolf represents a dangerous one.3 I can't help but think of the fairy tale of the Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf dressed up as her grandmother. We're amused at how poor a disguise the wolf has! Jesus tells us to discern by looking at the results or the fruit of the person's life.

Analogy of the Tree and Fruit (Matthew 7:16-20, §41; Luke 6:43-44; §77; Matthew 12:33-35, §86)

Matthew moves immediately from the Analogy of the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing to the Analogy of the Tree and the Fruit. The topic is still being on one's guard for false prophets.

Karpos, "fruit," can refer to physical fruit, but here it is used more generally as "result, outcome, product,"4 that is, actions and results of their lives, as we saw in the Parable of the Vine and the Branches (Lesson 9.3, on John 15:8). Jesus turns from one analogy to another on the word "fruit" (which is used figuratively in verse 16a, but of physical fruit in verses 16b-19). (In Luke, the parable appears in the Sermon on the Plain following Jesus' Parable of the Speck and the Beam, Lesson 3.4).

Let's explore Matthew's version of the parable, still in the context of false prophets.

"16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:16-20)

The twin analogies make the same point. You can tell the good from the bad by tasting its fruit. In the same way that you don't expect one kind of plant to bear the fruit of another kind of tree, Jesus is saying, false prophets will have different fruit than you'd expect. And that will indicate "bad fruit" rather than "good fruit."

Jesus oversimplifies here, using hyperbole to make his point. There are two kinds of trees, he says:

  1. "Good," kalos, "beautiful" ... of quality, in accordance with the purpose of something or someone, "good, useful." In the physical sense, "free from defects, fine, precious ... morally good, noble, praiseworthy, contributing to salvation, etc."5
  2. "Bad," sapros, "rotten, putrid," literally, of such poor quality as to be of little or no value, bad, not good," here, "bad, evil, unwholesome."6

It is in the character of the tree itself, Jesus says. A good tree can be counted on to bear good fruit consistently, year after year. On the other hand, a bad tree tends to bear scarcely edible fruit. It may be a beautifully formed tree with wonderful branches and cool shade. But when fruit-tasting time comes, its true nature is revealed. "By their fruit you shall know them," Jesus says.

Analogy of the Treasure Chest of the Heart (Luke 6:45, §77)

In Luke, Jesus shifts from the Parable of the Tree and Fruit to talking about the inner person, represented by "the heart."

"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45, ESV)

"Treasure" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "stored up" (NIV) is thēsaurus (from which get our word, "thesaurus"). It can mean (1) "a place where something is kept for safekeeping, repository," such as a treasure box or chest, or (2) "that which is stored up, treasure." 7 In our verse, it could bear either definition.8 The New Jerusalem Bible puts it this way:

"Good people draw what is good from the store of goodness in their hearts; bad people draw what is bad from the store of badness. For the words of the mouth flow out of what fills the heart." (Luke 6:45, NJB)

Here, Jesus turns from adjectives describing fruit (beautiful/spoiled), to moral words signifying moral goodness (agathos9) and moral evil (ponēros10). The corruption that is inside a person can't help but manifest itself in a person's words and deeds.11

At the end of verse 45, Jesus gives us a useful guideline for discerning false prophets. (The saying is also found in Matthew 12:34 in the context of good and bad fruit.)

"Out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (NIV)

"Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (ESV, NRSV, KJV)

The key word here is perisseuma, "a condition of great plenty, abundance, fullness."12

In other words, Jesus is saying, listen carefully to what a person says. People (both good and evil) speak out of what they have tucked away or stored in their heart. It can't help but come out. Call it a "Freudian slip" or whatever. If we listen and ask for the Holy Spirit's help, God will enable us to discern what is in a person's heart from his or her words. Yes, people can speak deceptively, but it will slip out if we listen. And when a wise leader senses falsity in an influential person, he or she probes further to see what is actually in them.

To sum up, Jesus teaches his disciples that you can tell a false prophet by carefully examining both that persons':

  1. Actions and outcomes (Analogy of the Tree and Fruit), and
  2. Words (Analogy of the Treasure of the Heart).

Discerning a False Prophet

What do false prophets look like? How can you tell if someone is a false prophet? First, Jesus says that they look like everyone else. They come in "sheep's clothing," that is, they look like other members of the flock -- harmless, innocuous, friendly. But they're also "prophets," that is, they are active in the church, typically opinion leaders, influential, and vocal.

I've met a few of these false prophets in my day. To outward appearances they aren't particularly bad people. But Jesus says that their inward character is as ravenous wolves. They destroy the unity of the flock and pull away the sheep who are at the edges to fulfill their own personal agendas. Their lives may be corrupt, turning people to sin.

The danger of false prophets is one reason that Paul advises Timothy: "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands." (1 Timothy 5:22a). Don't be quick to ordain someone into a church office. "They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons" (1 Timothy 3:10).

The bad fruit Jesus tells us to look for might be:

  • Strange or somewhat perverted teachings.
  • Dominant character flaws.
  • Actions and attitudes that don't conform to what you expect of a Christian leader.

We have an example from the Church at Thyatira in the Book of Revelation:

"You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling." (Revelation 2:20-21)

Jezebel is an influential woman in a congregation of Asia Minor who encourages members not to be worried about illicit sex and idol worship, and, as a result, many have entered into sin. She could have repented and been forgiven by the Lord, but she isn't willing. Scary!

False prophets ravage the flock and destroy sheep. I've seen pastors who teach one thing and then live another way. But when their lifestyle is exposed, it devastates the congregation who had been taken in by their hypocrisy. I've seen treasurers with the sin of greed who can control and turn a congregation away from God's will. I've seen power-hungry trustees who take godly pastors, chew them up and spit them out because the godly pastors tried to actually lead the congregation in God's ways.

I have also learned that a person, who at one point in time may be of strong character and healthy doctrine, can at a later time become compromised by sin or false doctrine (Hebrews 12:15). We are also to take heed to ourselves (Galatians 6:1; Luke 21:34).

I've tried very hard to learn from my experiences and not be bitter. There are some wrong lessons, such as: Never trust people again. Or: Hold all the power yourself.

But the lessons Jesus wants us to learn are: Watch out for false prophets and observe their fruits. Listen carefully to their words. Don't ignore or quickly pass over things that strike you as wrong. Jesus teaches us that there will be false prophets, that our congregations will not be immune from them.

False Prophets vs. Imperfect Leaders

Having said that, we shouldn't expect perfection in our leaders. None of us is perfect. We all have weaknesses and flaws. We must be gracious towards one another and bear with each other's weaknesses. Though we do expect Christian leaders to quickly repent of sin.

We aren't to go on a crusade that condemns innocent people like the Salem witch trials by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692. (Look that up and study it for lessons to learn.) Don't let your corrupt heart take a person's minor flaw turn it into them being a false prophet!

Nevertheless, when you find a person in the congregation who is setting himself or herself up as a competing leader and pulling people's allegiance away to him or her, go to the leaders. They must be called on to expose the person formally (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Of course it is messy! Very messy! People take sides. Confrontation can harm the body. But the congregation is harmed much more, if it allows false prophets to ruin Christ's flock.

Paul solemnly warns the Ephesian elders:

"29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! " (Acts 20:29-31a)

We've spent quite a bit of time on these very short analogies, but Jesus' teaching is so important for us today! Spotting false prophets, false leaders, requires careful discernment from disciples, but also great courage!

Q46. (Matthew 7:15-20; Luke 6:43-45) From Jesus' images of wolves in sheep's clothing, good and bad fruit, and the treasure chest of the heart, how does he teach us to discern false leaders? Why is this so important in our churches? Why must we distinguish flawed Christian leaders from dangerous false prophets?

Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13; §174)

(Also known as the Parable of the Dishonest Manager or Penitent Steward)

Now we consider another of Jesus' parables about discernment. It will be confusing, especially since we've just been talking about false prophets. It is a notoriously difficult parable to interpret. The problem is because that Jesus uses dishonest deeds to teach a spiritual truth and we find that troubling. The overall theme of the parable, however, is the need for careful discernment by disciples, but this one has its own twist. Let's look at it in some detail.

Wasting the Master's Possessions (Luke 16:1)

The Parable of the Unjust Steward, found only in Luke, follows the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lesson 1.1). Luke seems to include it here because it is another parable Jesus told, not because it has a similar theme to the preceding parables.

"There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions."13 (Luke 16:1)

The main character in the story is an estate manager.14 He has been accused of "wasting" or "squandering"15 his master's possessions. It is the same verb that described how the Prodigal Son, "squandered his wealth in wild living" (Luke 15:13).

Someone has warned16 the master that his estate manager is wasteful. The man has been a trusted employee (not a slave, since he would soon be unemployed), but the administrator has betrayed the trust he has been given. His job has been to work for his master's best interests, but instead he has been sloppy and his master's fortune is being scattered, squandered on frivolous pursuits. We aren't told that he was embezzling money from his employer, but his subsequent actions indicate that he isn't beyond that kind of behavior.

Turn in Your Accounting Books (Luke 16:2)

"So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.'" (Luke 16:2)

The rich man calls the steward in for a meeting. "Give an account of your management," means to give a final report of where things stand and then turn over the accounting books to the master.17 The same verb "account" is also used of each person having to appear before God's throne to give an account of their lives.18

The steward is being fired. But until he actually turns in the accounting books he is still officially the steward, and thus can still act in an official and legal capacity on behalf of his master. No wonder the modern practice is to have a fired employee clear out his desk immediately, turn in his keys, and leave the building under the watchful eye of a security guard.

Ingratiating Himself to the Debtors (Luke 16:3-4)

The man's time as manager is short.

"The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg -- I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job19 here, people will welcome me into their houses.'" (Luke 16:3-4)

He is desperate -- and unscrupulous. The key phrase to remember is, "people will welcome20 me into their houses," since Jesus repeats this phrase later in the parable and it relates to the point he is making.

"So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'
'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied.
The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.'
Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?'
'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied.
He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.'" (Luke 16:5-8)

The master's debtors are obviously well-to-do farmers in their own right. Those who deal in 800 gallons of olive oil and 1,000 bushels of wheat own much more than a small family farm.

The dishonest steward, in the waning hours of his employment, brings in his master's debtors one-by-one, and instructs them to change the records from the full amount owed to a lower amount -- to replace or alter the bills or IOUs that they had previously written in their own hand. This has several implications:

  1. The steward has the legal power to act for his master, and thus what he has done -- though dishonest -- is yet perhaps legal.
  2. The steward is now seen as a friend and patron by the wealthy debtors. Not as a trusted friend, but a friend.
  3. It seems to me possible that the steward could now blackmail the debtors concerning the changed bill.

In some ways, it is the perfect crime. The debtors that have made the changes in their own hand -- the manager hasn't falsified the records personally. The debtors have profited from the change; he hasn't profited directly. There is nothing to prove any wrongdoing on his part; it is his word against theirs, and they had the most to gain from it. If the steward were to claim that this had been done without his authorization, at the very least the debtors' reputations might be ruined and perhaps they could be prosecuted under law for fraud. The debtors, therefore, may be inviting the ex-steward into their homes out of goodwill -- and fear.21

Jesus refers to the steward as "dishonest," Greek adikia, "unrighteousness, wickedness, injustice."22 Jesus doesn't justify his action, but calls it what it is -- wickedness (verse 8).23

Commended for Acting Shrewdly (Luke 16:8)

When the master recovered the accounting books and receipts he could see what his ex-steward had done. Suddenly his accounts receivable were 30% lower than the previous week. But he couldn't take either his steward or his debtors to court.

"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly." (Luke 16:8a)

Instead, as one shrewd man to a shrewder24 one, the master grudgingly commends the dishonest steward.

Using Worldly Wealth to Gain Friends (Luke 16:8b-9)

Now to the application of the parable. Jesus doesn't applaud dishonesty, but he notes that "the people of the light" aren't as smart as worldly people when it comes to securing their future.

"For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth25 to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:8b-9)

This is a hard verse to understand: How can you create eternal friends with money?

Rewards in Heaven

Many Christians minimize the idea of rewards in heaven given in return for faithful service here on earth. For many it probably it smacks too much of "works righteousness" that Luther so strongly and rightly opposed during the Reformation. But the Jews believed -- and Jesus seems to endorse -- that giving alms to the poor is rewarded by God, and is a way of laying up treasure in heaven.26 There is also the idea in the Old Testament that you should give to the poor or the poor will curse you and God will give heed to the poor person's protest.27

Thus, Jesus is saying that Christians ought to help the poor, realizing that God will bless them for it. Not only will the poor in heaven remember their kindness, but so will God. See, for example, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31, Lesson 4.1) that follows closely after this parable in Luke and explores a similar theme. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Lesson 4.2) also indicates that Jesus rewards those who care for "the lease of these."

There is a wonderful verse in Proverbs:

"He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will reward him for what he has done." (Proverbs 19:17)28

What is it like to have God as a "debtor"? It is an oxymoron. But it gives credence to the popular saying, "You can't out-give God."

We are not saved by giving to the poor (though a saved person will certainly have compassion on the poor), but we are rewarded on earth and in heaven for it. Jesus wonders in this parable, however, why most believers aren't smart enough to figure this out.

Honest with Little, Honest with Much (Luke 16:10)

Now Jesus shifts from telling this story to reflecting on being a manager of someone else's money.

"Whoever can be trusted29 with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest30 with very little will also be dishonest with much." (Luke 16:10)

First, Jesus makes the observation that those who are honest in the little details of inconsequential things can be trusted to be honest with large responsibilities and large amounts of money. It raises an important question for you and me: Can we be trusted with the trivial? With small amounts?

Are you honest with the small responsibilities God gives you? With the small income or the small tithe you owe? If you are, God knows he can trust you with really large responsibilities and considerable wealth. If you are seeking to find who in your church you can trust with an important ministry to, watch carefully to see who has fulfilled the tiny responsibilities given them. If a people are sloppy with a small responsibility, they won't be any more careful with the big responsibility. It is a matter of character. Paul advises such a method for selecting deacons for the church (1 Timothy 3:10).

The True Riches (Luke 16:11-12)

"So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?" (Luke 16:11-12)

Jesus contrasts worldly wealth with the true spiritual riches. If you can't be trusted to handle materialistic wealth, how much less will God trust you with the true spiritual wealth.

Of course, there is a very real sense in which everything we own is God's -- not just 10%, but everything. The phrase "someone else's property"31 in verse 12 suggests that how we handle God's money relates directly to what he will entrust us with.

Here we are taught that we are stewards of God's property, managers of God's resources -- our finances, our time, our talents and abilities, our position in society, all of it.

Q47. (Luke 6:1-13) In what way is the dishonest steward supposed to be a positive example to disciples? How does one "lay up treasures in heaven"? Why is the quality of our work of very small things so important to God? What is he waiting to see in us? What happens to people in the church who are promoted beyond their spiritual growth?

10.2 Trust and Money

Since money has such a potential to corrupt, disciples must not wiggle out of facing the next principle that Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Rich Fool.

Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21, §156)

Eugene Burnand, 'The Rich Fool' (1909), in The Parables (France, 1909), Conté crayon and charcoal.
Eugene Burnand, 'The Rich Fool' (1909), in The Parables (France, 1909), Conté crayon and charcoal.

Greed has been an ongoing theme in Jesus' training of his disciples. Sometimes it is implied, other times it is out in the open.32 The Parable of the Rich Fool is a longer parable, found only in Luke focuses directly on the sin of greed, as Jesus teaches his disciples about this hard-to-discern spiritual killer, a sin that tempted Judas to betray Jesus.33

The parable is given on the occasion of someone asking Jesus to adjudicate an inheritance dispute between brothers (Luke 12:13-14). Jesus refuses to get into it; rather he warns them about greed. Jesus uses the occasion as a "teachable moment."

"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15)

"Greed" (NIV, NRSV), "covetousness" (ESV, KJV) is plēonexia, "the state of desiring to have more than one's due, greediness, insatiableness, avarice, covetousness," literally, "a desire to have more."34 Our English word "greed" is defined as "excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness, avarice."35 Notice that Jesus warns not just against greed, but against "all kinds of greed," greed in all its hidden forms. The temptation to greed requires vigilance since it is often subtle. "Watch out!" and "be on your guard,"36 he says. The Tenth Commandment warns against coveting (Exodus 20:17). Covetousness is the desire for something that one doesn't have a legitimate right to, something that belongs to someone else.

Jesus gives the reason for his warning: "because a man's life does not consist in the abundance37 of his possessions" (Luke 12:15), similar to, "Man does not live by bread alone" (Luke 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3).

The Rich Man's Good Crop (Luke 12:16 -21)

Jesus tells a parable to illustrate his teaching on greed.

"16 The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

18 Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns38 and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'

20 But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

21 This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:16-21)

The generous harvest has created a problem -- lack of storage.39 The most common type of above-ground granary unearthed in Palestine is circular, with openings below the almost flat roof so that air could circulate. Stairs on the outside formed a kind of ramp to carry the sacks of grain and then pour the grain in at the top.40

In the parable, the farmer's abundance is far greater than what he needs for his own household. So instead of dumping his grain onto the market during a good harvest year, he plans to hold the grain for the future, when he can get higher prices. He is a shrewd agribusinessman. Jesus doesn't fault him for his business acumen, but for his self-centered attitude. The rich man says to himself:

"You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." (Luke 12:19)

The man actually believes that his riches will now insulate his life from hardship. God isn't in the equation at all. The man's focus is squarely on goods rather than God.

"20 But God said to him, 'You fool!41 This very night your life will be demanded42 from you. Then who will get what you have prepared43 for yourself?'" (Luke 12:20)

Our life is not ours to control, but God's. He is in charge and can call due the loan of our lives at any moment he chooses. A radio commentator used to talk about "talent on loan from God." Yes, God will hold us accountable for how we used our lives and the gifts are God's. And we cannot take credit for what is God's.

Unfortunately, the rich man's focus is on himself -- "what you have prepared for yourself" -- not on God. And so God chooses to take back that night what belonged to God in the first place.

Not Rich toward God (Luke 12:21)

Jesus concludes the parable with these words:

"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up44 things for himself but is not rich45 toward God." (Luke 12:21)

What does it mean to "be rich toward God?" A few verses after this, Jesus tells his followers to hold material things lightly. Rather,

"Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12:32-34; cf. Matthew 6:1-18; 1 Timothy 6:17-19)

As you may recall, we explored "treasures in heaven" in the Parable of the Unjust Steward above (Lesson 10.1). We lay up treasures for heaven by humbly living for him now -- giving to the needy, praying, fasting, doing good deeds. Such humble deeds contrast with selfish actions that accrue to our earthly wealth. Greed will not get us to heaven, but it may well hinder us from ever arriving there.

We're not so immune from greed ourselves. As I write, the news is that the Mega Millions jackpot is up to $1.35 billion USD. Such news will drive ticket sales even higher. What is behind it? Greed. Greed is not just a rich man's sin; you also see it among the very poor of the world also. The writer of Proverbs recognizes its dangers as he prays,

"Give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much
and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God." (Proverbs 30:8-9)

Q48. (Luke 12:16-21) Is being wealthy a sin for a Christian? What was the rich man's actual sin or sinful attitude? How do you sometimes see greed in the people in your neighborhood or social circle? Christians aren't immune. In what ways might greed influence a Christian's behaviors and values?

Parable of the Two Masters (Luke 16:13, §174; Matthew 6:24, §34)

(Also known as the Parable of the Wicked Mammon)
Evelyn de Morgan (Pre-Raphaelite painter), 'The Worship of Mammon' (1909), oil on canvas
Evelyn de Morgan (Pre-Raphaelite painter), 'The Worship of Mammon' (1909), oil on canvas, 24 x 21 inches, De Morgan Galleries at Cannon Hall, Barnsley, UK.

Jesus finishes teaching his disciples about money in Luke's account with the Parable of the Two Masters. In Matthew, this saying appears in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:24) where Jesus is teaching his disciples not to worry about clothing and food in the Parable of the Birds and the Lilies (that we'll consider next). In Luke, the Parable of the Two Masters follows the Parable of the Rich Fool that we just looked at.

"No servant can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money." (Luke 16:13)

Jesus' short parable in Luke introduces the characters. First, a slave, specifically (in Luke) a house slave.46 The translation "servant" may blunt the affront of slavery, but these are slaves, not domestic employees. The second character is a master (kyrios), one who is in charge by virtue of possession, owner."47 The word can be used of "one who is in a position of authority, lord, master," but the context in Luke requires this to be a slave owner.48 For more on this see Appendix 6. Slavery in Jesus' Day.

Probably only a few in Jesus' audience were actual slaves, but many of his hearers had the experience in a business of trying to please two bosses who had contrary ideas. Unless these bosses were always of the same mind and temperament, it would be impossible not to prefer one over the other.

"Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Luke 16:13b = Matthew 6:24)

Jesus states the contrast twice in characteristic Hebrew parallelism:

Hate Love
Devoted Despised

Now that Jesus has set the stage, he makes his comparison.

"You cannot serve both God and Money." (Luke 16:13c = Matthew 6:24)

The NIV capitalizes Money to indicate that Jesus personifies Money/Mammon as a competing god. "Money" (NIV, ESV), "wealth" (NRSV), "mammon" (KJV) is mamōnas, "wealth, property."49 Jesus' point is that a man cannot render the exclusive loyalty and service inherent in the concept of slave to more than one master.

Oh, I don't serve Money, says the social climbing church board member or tight-fisted church treasurer. I don't serve Money, says the churchgoer who spends more on recreation and "toys" each month than he would ever consider giving to God's work.

The truth is that many, many would-be disciples are trying to serve both God and Money, and one or the other will come out on top. Look at how a person/church/company spends money, says one consultant, and I'll tell you what their values are. How we spend or allocate our money tells the story.

The question a disciple must ask is: God, how would You have us spend our money. That places Him in the position as the Lord of our life decisions, not we ourselves. Money decisions are either spiritual decisions or self-serving decisions. Making a contract has spiritual implications. Taking out a loan has spiritual implications. Buying on credit has spiritual implications. Writing a will has spiritual implications.

How we relate the Lordship of Jesus to our use of money is one of the core issues Jesus seeks to teach us disciples. Failure to make Jesus Lord of your money is to allow by default the money itself to influence your decisions.

Turning Worldly Values Upside Down (Luke 16:14-15)

Luke concludes the teaching with an observation about a portion of his audience.

"14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.
15 He said to them, 'You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.'" (Luke 16:14-15)

The wealth that impresses people doesn't impress God at all. The Apostle John, who had internalized Jesus' teaching, wrote these words to his own disciples near the end of his life:

"For everything in the world -- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does -- comes not from the Father but from the world" (1 John 2:16).

At the root of discipleship is adopting the values of the One we are following and learning from. His values will either displace that which is evil and selfish within us, or we will resist His values to the end.

Q49. (Luke 16:13) What are the very subtle ways that we can begin to serve Money rather than God? How can we detect these temptations in our hearts? Why did Jesus tell his disciples the Parable of the Two Masters?

Parable of the Birds and the Lilies (Matthew 6:25-34, §35; Luke 12:22-31, §157)

'Field of Lilies' (1910), stained glass window by Tiffany Studio, in Tiffany Gallery at the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, Navy Pier, Chicago.
'Field of Lilies' (1910), stained glass window by Tiffany Studio, in Tiffany Gallery at the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, Navy Pier, Chicago.

I won't spend much time on this familiar parable, except to point out that Jesus uses analogies of birds and lilies to teach his disciples about worry over material things. As you read this, remember from the Parable of the Sower (Lesson 8.1) that "the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth" (Matthew 13:22) are specific "thorns" that choke out the fruitfulness of the Word.

"25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and

the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." (Matthew 6:25-32)

Jesus has pointed his disciples away from worry about material things. Instead, he points them to what is most important:

"33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:33-34)

For an exposition of this passage, see The Jesus Manifesto: Sermon on the Mount (JesusWalk Publications, 2011), Lesson 10.

Q50. (Matthew 6:25-34) How does the Parable of the Birds and the Lilies teach us not to worry? What does Jesus teach about worrying about the future? Rather than worrying, what does Jesus instruct his disciples to do? What does obeying verse 33 look like in your life?

10.3 Faithful Prayer

Jesus tells several parables to teach his disciples about the power of prayer -- and the nature of God.

Analogy of Asking a Father for Bread (Matthew 7:9-11, §38; Luke 11:11-13, §148)

Jesus' first parable about prayer is found in Matthew's Sermon on the Mount and in Luke's Sermon on the Plain. Jesus is comparing how human fathers respond to their son's requests to how our Heavenly Father will respond to our requests.

Matthew's version of the parable has the son asking for food: a loaf of bread, a fish. It begins with a rhetorical question.

"9 Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?" (Matthew 7:9-10)

Luke's version -- no doubt given in a different time and context -- adds a third request: for an egg.

"... Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? (Luke 11:12)

The answer to Jesus' questions is obvious. No good father will give his children a cynical or harmful gift. Matthew sums up Jesus' conclusion to this analogy:

"11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11)

Notice that Jesus characterizes us human fathers as "evil" (ponēros). He doesn't assume the basic goodness of man, but the basic evil. But even so, human fathers still try to respond positively to their children's requests when they can. They don't trick them by giving them dangerous things that will hurt them. If human fathers don't return evil for good, Jesus is saying, how much more your heavenly Father. He is not peevish or petulant. He loves you.

Luke's version is similar.

"How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13b)

The Holy Spirit is the best gift God could ever give us!

I've heard people say, "Be careful what you pray for...." with the idea that the Father will give you what you ask for, even if it will hurt you. No! That is the world's cynicism. Jesus' teaching is opposite.

We can trust in our heavenly Father's basic goodness -- even when we might be praying amiss or immaturely or selfishly. Jesus is saying: Don't ever, ever fear to pray to your Father. You can trust him to do you good and not evil, even if you don't know how to pray.

Q51. (Matthew 7:9-11; Luke 11:11-13) Why did Jesus give his disciples the Parable of Asking a Father for Bread? What misconception was he seeking to correct?

Parable of the Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-10, §147)

(Also known as the Parable of the Importunate Neighbor)
William Holman Hunt, detail of 'Importunate Neighbor' (1895), oil on canvas, 36 x 53 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.
William Holman Hunt, detail of 'Importunate Neighbor' (1895), oil on canvas, 36 x 53 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

Our next parable on prayer is found in Luke's Sermon on the Plain, sandwiched between Jesus' teaching on the Lord's Prayer and asking a father for a fish (which we just looked at above).

"5 Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'" (Luke 11:5-6)

The Obligations of Hospitality

Jesus has just set up his hearers for a jolt, a shock. They are expecting him to tell a story about legendary Middle Eastern hospitality, a value that was bred into the very fiber of each son and daughter of Israel.50 In the Middle East, hospitality is more than the courteous thing to do; it is a moral obligation. To neglect hospitality to a guest is unthinkably insulting and rude. Notice that the word "friend" (philos51) occurs four times in as many verses. Hebrews weren't obligated to entertain enemies, but required to entertain friends.

Now the shocker -- the refusal of hospitality.

"Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.'" (Luke 11:7)

The typical poor Israelite family lived in a one-room house. In many poorer homes, the house also served as a part-time stable for the family's few sheep, goats, and chickens. Family members would sleep in the same room, sometimes on a raised platform, perhaps 18 inches (about 46 cm.) higher than the floor of the rest of the house, so the family could eat and sleep without constant intrusions by their animals. Family members usually slept with their clothes on, covering themselves with the cloaks they had worn during the day. They would bed down side-by-side on straw mats rolled out at night.52

Getting a whole family to bed is a considerable undertaking, as all parents know. Once children are asleep, parents work hard to keep them asleep. Once the chickens are settled down, parents don't want to wake them either.

The door is locked for the night.53 The poorest homes would have a bar across the door to prevent the leather-hinged wood door from opening.54 The friend couldn't just let himself in and get the bread. The father would have to get up ever-so-quietly from the sleeping area, find the bread in the food storage area, and cross the area where the animals were near the door, unlock the door, and give the bread to his neighbor. There would be no way to keep the entire household from waking up.

The plot introduces cognitive dissonance, breaking of a social obligation. Jesus' audience is troubled.

Shameless, Persistent Knocking

Verse 8 give us the resolution of the story.

"I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs." (Luke 11:8)

As strong as his friendship with the neighbor is, it isn't strong enough for him to wake up his whole family. But the neighbor's "boldness" (NIV), "impudence" (ESV), "persistence" (NRSV), "importunity" (KJV) motivates the father to take action. The Greek noun is anaideia, "lack of sensitivity to what is proper, carelessness about the good opinion of others, shamelessness, impertinence, impudence, ignoring of convention."55 There is a Yiddish term that describes it: chutzpah -- "supreme self-confidence, nerve, gall, audacity."

The point of the parable, of course, is the importance of persistence, of never giving up. Jesus' word to express this is remarkable: "because of the man's shamelessness." The friend has no sense of decency to wait until morning, of not disturbing his sleeping neighbor. He goes at midnight and knocks! And he shamelessly keeps on knocking until his neighbor gets up and shoves a loaf of bread through the door at him just to shut him up.

Asking, Seeking, Knocking (Luke 11:9-10 = Matthew 7:7-8)

The following verses are found in both Luke's Sermon on the Plain and in Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. We'll follow Luke's version where Jesus follows up the Parable of the Friend at Midnight with a three-fold exhortation.

9 "So I say to you:
Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
10 For everyone who asks receives;
he who seeks finds;
and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Luke 11:9-10)

Ask is aiteō, "ask, ask for, demand."56 In the case of a superior speaking to an inferior it can carry the idea "demand," as in an accounting. But here the idea is "ask for, petition."

Seek is zēteō, "try to find something, seek, look for' in order to find.57 The corresponding result ("you will find") is expressed by Greek euriskō, "find, discover, come upon."58 "Seek and you will find!"

Knock is krouō, expressing the figure of seeking by knocking on a door until it is opened, just like in Jesus' Parable of the Friend at Midnight. "Knock and the door will be opened to you."

Each of these verbs is in the present tense, with the sense of continued action.

Ask -- and keep on asking!
Seek -- and keep on seeking!
Knock -- and keep on knocking!

Of course, God can answer our asking with "No!" or "Later!" -- and sometimes does. The Apostle Paul had a "thorn in the flesh," some kind of affliction from Satan, whether physical or mental or external opposition we do not know. Paul pleads with the Lord three times to take it away, but then receives the answer, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul accepts this answer, and now begins to glory in his weaknesses that Christ's power may rest on him.

Parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8, §185)

(Also known as the Parable of the Importunate Widow, or Persistent Woman)

We've just examined Jesus' Parable of the Friend at Midnight, followed by his teaching to ask, seek, and knock. Luke includes another parable on prayer several chapters later that begins a new block of teaching on faith and the quality of those disciples who please God.

"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always59 pray60 and not give up." (Luke 18:1)

Jesus is teaching repeated prayer -- praying again and again. When Paul exhorts us to "pray without ceasing"61 (1 Thessalonians 5:17), he means to pray repeatedly, time and again. He's not talking about non-stop prayer, but repeated prayer.

I've heard Bible teachers say that once you've asked God for something, it displays lack of faith to ask for it again, since you ought to believe you already have received it (Mark 11:24). It sounds spiritual. But Jesus clearly teaches us here that we are to continue to pray until we receive the answer. Continued prayer is not a sign of little faith, but of persistent faith.

The danger is that we "give up,"62 get discouraged, and quit praying. Jesus tells the parable to encourage his disciples to pray constantly, without getting discouraged.

The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:2)

Now Jesus tells a story to make his point.

"In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men." (Luke 18:2)

The judge is a law unto himself. He is neither devout nor a man-pleaser.63 He is basically selfish. He doesn't respect the special needs of the poor and oppressed. He isn't overly concerned about public opinion. He is independent or imagines himself to be, concerned with himself -- his own opinions, his own comfort, his own income, his own reputation.

In verse 6, Jesus calls him "unjust."64 Though Jesus doesn't spell it out, there may have been a reason why the judge doesn't give the widow justice. The judge is either taking bribes to fatten his purse or has an "arrangement" with a wealthy citizen who stands to lose if the widow wins her case. We don't know.

The Persistent Widow (Luke 18:3)

"And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice65 against my adversary.'" (Luke 18:3)

Widows had a difficult place in Palestine -- indeed, around the world to this day! In Israel, the wife of a deceased husband would normally have no legal right to inherit her husband's estate, so when her husband died, she couldn't take for granted living in his house or on his land. If her deceased husband had no children, the estate would revert to her husband's male relatives on his father's side -- his brothers, his father's brothers, and then the nearest family kinsman. If she had grown children, things might be easier; they would take care of their mother. But a widow with small children might just as well have to contend for property rights with her in-laws, and if they didn't happen to like her, things could be difficult.66

We don't know how the widow is being cheated, but the judge is on her opponent's side. She doesn't have money for lawyers -- or bribes. She is probably just keeping her head above water financially. But there is one thing we know about her -- she is persistent.

The phrase "kept coming" reflects the imperfect tense of erchomai, "come." The imperfect tense indicates repeated or continued action in the past. She hasn't come just once, but time after time.

She doesn't take "no" for an answer. Instead, every time court is in session, here comes the widow, asking for -- no, demanding -- the justice to which she is entitled. Everyone in town knows about her case. If she had kept quiet, things would have died down. But since she keeps on demanding justice -- vocally, publicly, time after time -- the inevitable questions begin to circulate. "Maybe she is being cheated." "Maybe she does have a case." The judge's credibility is being called into question. She is a squeaky wheel demanding oil.

The Value of Persistence (Luke 18:4-5)

"4 For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering67 me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out68 with her coming!'" (Luke 18:4-5)

This weak little widow is starting to make the powerful judge uncomfortable. Her constant appeals are eroding his reputation. Whatever bribe he had been paid isn't worth the hassle she is causing. He decides to grant her justice solely to get rid of her.

Jesus' hearers had met widows like her and had experience with judges like him. The story is true-to-life.

Now that Jesus has his audience with him, he brings the application:

"6 Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:6-8)

For the unjust judge and the widow, Jesus substitutes God and his elect (eklektos, "chosen ones"). Wait a minute, you say. God isn't unjust! No, and that's just the point. Jesus' argument is from the lesser to the greater: If an unjust, selfish judge will see that justice is done in response to persistent requests, how much more will the just God bring justice to his own beloved people who pray constantly for relief.

Sometimes we cry, "How long, Lord?" (Revelation 6:10). Sometimes it seems that God will never answer, that he delays69 answering. Jesus' answer is firm: "He will see that they get justice, and quickly"70 (Luke 18:8).

Will He Find Faith on the Earth? (Luke 18:8b)

"However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8b)

Jesus has told a parable of persistence, of a widow -- weak in the world's estimation -- who has won a real victory because she doesn't give up hope, doesn't give up her plea, and finally wins the day. But what about you and me? We sometimes become so worn down and discouraged that we stop praying, stop hoping, stop expecting God to intervene. Jesus wonders.

"When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8b)

We must continue our persistent faith and faithful prayers up to his Coming!

Jesus told this story to us disciples so that we might be encouraged to continue in prayer. None of you is weaker than the widow. But because of her persistence and faith, even the unjust judge gave her what was hers by right. We must not quit. We must not give up praying.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58, RSV)

Q52. (Luke 11:5-10; 18:1-8) What is the similarity between Jesus' Parables of the Friend at Midnight and the Unjust Judge? What does this persistence look like in your life? What will persistence in prayer do to develop you as a disciple?

Analogy of the Faith of a Mustard Seed (Matthew 17:19, §127; Luke 17:6, §180)

Finally, Jesus taught his disciples the power of faith in prayer with a simple analogy -- a grain of mustard seed vs. a mountain. In Matthew, Jesus is away on the mountain of transfiguration with Peter, James, and John. A man brings his demon-possessed boy to the disciples to cast it out. They fail. When Jesus returns, he casts out the spirit quickly. Jesus attributes their failure to lack of faith.71

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)

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

In Luke, the saying is somewhat different, given when Jesus is telling his disciples they must keep forgiving someone who sins and then repents -- and does it again and again. The disciples are beyond themselves, and say, "Increase our faith." Jesus responds:

"If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." (Luke 17:6)

The point of these parables is that even a tiny bit of genuine faith is extremely powerful.

Through these parables, Jesus challenges us to discern carefully, to not be deceived by the lures of money, and to pray faithfully and persistently. Let us do so!


Father, you know our weakness and fears. But Jesus came to redeem us, to teach us, and to make us fully his disciples. Please refocus our faith and strengthen it. Where our knees are weak, strengthen us that we might serve you well all our days as your faithful servants. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.


References and Abbreviations

[1] "Ferocious" (NIV), "ravenous" (ESV, NRSV, cf. KJV) is the adjective harpax, "rapacious, ravenous." It is also used as a substantive for "robber" (BDAG 134, 1), from the verb harpaxō, "snatch, seize, that is, take suddenly and vehemently" (BDAG 134).

[2] Prosechō, BDAG 879-880, 1.

[3] A fable attributed to Aesop (sixth century BC) of the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (Perry Index #451) may have been familiar around the Mediterranean at this time (France, Matthew, p. 290, fn. 20), though we don't know that. In this fable, a wolf found a sheep's pelt and wore it to blend in with the flock. It worked for a while until the shepherd noticed, then killed the wolf.

[4] Karpos, BDAG 510, 1b.

[5] Kalos, BDAG 504.

[6] Sapros, BDAG 913, 2.

[7] Thesaurus, BDAG 456, 1b.

[8] We also see this word in the Parable of the Scribes of the Kingdom (Lesson 12.4).

[9] Agathos, "pertaining to a high standard of worth and merit, good" (BDAG 3, 2aα).

[10] Ponēros, "pertaining to being morally or socially worthless, wicked, evil, bad, base, worthless, vicious, degenerate" (BDAG 851, 1aα).

[11] Jesus uses an interesting word translated "stored up" (NIV) or "treasure" (ESV, NRSV, KJV). It is Greek thesauros, from which we get our English words "thesaurus" and "treasure." It means "a place where something is kept for safekeeping, repository" such as "a treasure box or chest" or "storehouse, storeroom" (BDAG 456, 1b).

[12] Perisseuma, BDAG 850, 1.

[13] "Possessions" (NIV), "property" (ESV, NRSV), "goods" (KJV) is hyparchō, "be present, be at one's disposal," here a substantive, "what belongs to someone, someone's property, possessions, means" (BDAG 1029, 1).

[14] "Manager" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "steward" (KJV) is oikonomos, "manager of a household or estate, (house) steward, manager" (BDAG 698, 1).

[15] "Wasting" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "squandering" (NRSV) is diaskorpizō, "scatter, disperse," of a flock or seeds. Here it means, figuratively, "waste, squander" (BDAG 236, 2).

[16] "Accused" (NIV, KJV), "charges were brought" (ESV, NRSV) is diaballō, "to make a complaint about a person to a third party, bring charges, inform," either justly or falsely (BDAG 226).

[17] "Give an account" (NIV, NRSV, KJV), "turn in the account" is two words: apodidōmi, "give, give up", here, "to meet a contractual or other obligation, pay, pay out, fulfill" (BDAG 109, 2c). "Account" is the common Greek word logos, "word." Here it means "computation, reckoning." This is a formal accounting, especially of one's actions, and frequently with figurative extension of commercial terminology, "account, accounts, reckoning" BDAG 600, 2a).

[18] Matthew 12:36; Acts 19:40; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 4:5.

[19] "Lose my job" (NIV, "removed" (ESV), "dismissed" (NRSV), "put out of" (KJV) uses the verb methistēmi, "remove, depose" (BDAG 625, 1b).

[20] "Welcome" (NIV, NRSV), "receive" (ESV, KJV) is dechomai, "take, receive," here, "to be receptive of someone, receive, welcome," especially of hospitality (BDAG 221, 3).

[21] There are many interpretations of the steward's actions. One is that the steward only reduced the amount of the bill by the excessive and illegal interest (usury) -- making him in fact righteous compared to his blood-sucking master. But that doesn't fit the story as Jesus told it, nor would it be obvious to the hearers of the story.

[22] Adikia, BDAG 20, 2.

[23] Marshall (Luke, pp. 614-617) cites J.D.M. Derrett ("The Parable of the Unjust Steward," New Testament Studies 7, 1961, pp. 198-219), concluding that "Derrett's interpretation has the most to be said for it." So Morris, Luke, pp. 245-249. I think they're wrong for the reasons stated above. Green, Luke, pp. 591-592, fn. 272, also disputes Derrett's interpretation.

[24] "Shrewdly" (NIV, NRSV), "shrewdness" (ESV), or "wisely" (KJV) in verse 8 translate the Greek adverb and adjectives phronimōs, "prudently, shrewdly," from the root phronis, "prudence."

[25] "Worldly wealth" (NIV), "unrighteous wealth" (ESV), "dishonest wealth" (NRSV), "the mammon of unrighteousness" (KJV) is two words: adikia, "the quality of injustice, unrighteousness, wickedness, injustice" (BDAG 20, 2); and mamōnos, "wealth, property" (BDAG 614), the same word for Mammon used in the Analogy of the Two Masters that we'll see later in this Lesson 10.2. The noun, mamōnas, is a transliteration of an Aramaic word which means "wealth, property." and most likely derives from the root aman, "that in which one trusts." Though the word mamōnas carried the negative connotation of tainted wealth or dishonest gain, the rabbis did make a distinction between tainted mammon and property or wealth which is free from ethical objection (Mamōnas, BDAG 614-615. Hauck, mamōnas, TDNT 4:388-400).

[26] Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 12:33; 18:22.

[27] Psalm 140:12; Proverbs 19:17; 21:13; 22:22-23; 28:27.

[28] See also Proverbs 11:24-25; 28:27a.

[29] "Trusted/trustworthy" (NIV), "faithful" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) is the adjective pistos, "pertaining to being worthy of belief or trust, trustworthy, faithful, dependable, inspiring trust/faith" (BDAG 820-21, 1aα).

[30] "Dishonest" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "unjust" the adjective adikos, "unjust, pertaining to acting in a way contrary to what is right, unjust, crooked," here, "dishonest, untrustworthy" (BDAG 21, 1).

[31] "Someone else's property" (NIV), "that which is another's" (ESV), "what belongs to another" (NRSV), "that which is another man's" (KJV) is allotrios, "pertaining to what belongs to another" (BDAG 47).

[32] Greed as a common theme in Jesus' teaching: calling Levi the tax collector (Luke 5:27-32); the Parable of the Sower, about thorns of riches that choke spiritual life (Lesson 8.1); Pharisees who inside are full of greed (Lesson 3.1); giving a party in order to be reciprocated by one's "rich friends" (Luke 14:12); the Parable of the Prodigal Son who squanders his wealth on wild living (Lesson 1.1); the Parable of the Unjust Servant (Lesson 10.1); the Parable of the Two Masters (Lesson 10.2); the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lesson 4.1); the incident of the Rich Young Ruler; the saying about the impossibility of a rich person to enter the Kingdom in the Analogy of the Camel and the Needle (Lesson 6.1); and the story of wealthy Zacchaeus' generosity (Luke 19:1-10).

[33] John 12:6; Matthew 26:15.

[34] Plēonexia, BDAG 824. This is a different word from harpagē, "robbery, plunder, greediness," used to describe the Pharisees' heart in Luke 11:39. In that context greed involved taking away what belonged to others; here it is a desire for more.

[35] Merriam-Webster, p. 511. "Avarice" means "excessive or insatiable desire for wealth or gain; greediness, cupidity," from the word "avid" (Latin avidus), "desirous to the point of greed; urgently eager; greedy" (Merriam-Webster, pp. 79, 30).

[36] Phylassō, "watch, guard," here, "to be on one's guard against, look out for, avoid" (BDAG 1068, 3).

[37] "Abundance" is the present active infinitive of perisseuō, "to be in abundance, abound" (BDAG 805, 1a).

[38] Apothēkē, BDAG 110. The word translated "barn" is Greek apothēkē, "storehouse, barn," a place in which anything is laid by or up, from which we get our English word "apothecary."

[39] "Store" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "bestow" (KJV) synagō, "to cause to come together, gather (in)" It can be used broadly, of fish, crops, people, etc. (BDAG 962, 1a).

[40] Avraham Negev (Luke ed.), The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (Revised Edition; Thomas Nelson, 1986), p. 357; Edward M. Blaiklock, "Storehouses," The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (Edward M. Blaiklock and R.K. Harrison, general editors; Zondervan, 1983), p. 424.

[41] "Fool" is aphron, "pertaining to lack of prudence or good judgment, foolish, ignorant" (BDAG 159).

[42] "Demanded" (NIV, NRSV), "required" (ESV, KJV) is apaiteō, "to demand something back or as due, ask for, demand" (BDAG 96, 1).

[43] "Prepared" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "provided" (KJV) is hetoimazō, to cause to be ready, put/keep in readiness, prepare" (BDAG 400, a).

[44] "Stores up" (NIV, NRSV), "lays up" (ESV, KJV) is thēsaurizō (from which we get our word "thesaurus"), "to keep some material thing safe by storing it, lay up, store up, gather, save" (BDAG 456, 1).

[45] "Is rich" is the present active participle of plouteō, "to be plentifully supplied with something, be rich" (BDAG 831, 2).

[46] The word "servant" here is oiketēs, literally, "member of the household," then specifically, "house slave, domestic," and "slave" generally (BDAG 694).

[47] Kyrios, BDAG 577, 1b.

[48] In Jesus' day a slave might work for two or more persons in partnership (Acts 16:16, 19) or for two different masters (Pesachim 8:1). A slave might even have been freed by one master, while still a slave to another (Marshall, Luke, p. 624, citing Strack and Billerbeck I, 433f.).

[49] Mamōnas, BDAG 614.

[50] For example, Abraham prepares a meal for his three (angel) visitors (Genesis 18:3-8). Lot perceives his obligation towards his (angel) guests was even greater than his responsibility for the welfare of his own daughters (Genesis 19:2-8). You can also find examples in the stories of Laban, Jethro, Manoah, Gideon, Samuel, David, Barzillai, the Shunamite woman, and others all offered hospitality to guests, even to strangers.

[51] Philos, "one who is on intimate terms or in close association with another, friend" (BDAG 1059, 2aα).

[52] Madeleine S. and J. Lane Miller, Harper's Encyclopedia of Bible Life (Third Revised Edition; Harper & Row, 1978), pp. 35-37.

[53] The Greek verb is kleiō, "shut, lock, bar" (BDAG 547, 1a).

[54] Wealthier homes might have been equipped with a primitive wooden lock using two- or three-pegged keys that would allow a bar to be lifted from its socket from the outside (William Sanford LaSor, "Locks and Keys," ISBE 3:149; Harper's Encyclopedia of Bible Life, p. 34).

[55] Anaideuomai, "be unabashed, bold," literally "shameless" (BDAG 63).

[56] Aiteō, BDAG 30.

[57] Zēteō, BDAG 428, 1b.

[58] Euriskō, BDAG 411, 1a.

[59] "Always" is the adverb pantote, "always, at all times" (BDAG 755).

[60] "Pray" is the common Greek word proscheuomai, "to petition deity, pray" (BDAG 879).

[61] 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:13; and 5:17 use the adverb adialeiptōs, "constantly, unceasingly" (BDAG 20). 2 Timothy 1:3 uses the related adjective adialeiptos, "unceasing, constant" (BDAG 20).

[62] "Give up" (NIV), "lose heart" (ESV, NRSV), "faint" (KJV) is enkakeō, "to lose one's motivation in continuing a desirable pattern of conduct or activity, lose enthusiasm, be discouraged" (BDAG 272, 1).

[63] The phrase "feared God" refers to piety, faith in God, and recognition that God will judge humans. The judge had no regard for God's justice. The phrase "cared about" (NIV) or "respected" (KJV, ESV, NRSV) is entrepō, "to show deference to a person in recognition of special status, 'turn toward something/someone, have regard for, respect,'" in this context, "who showed deference to no human" (BDAG 341).

[64] Adikia, BDAG 20-21.

[65] The word translated "grant me justice" (NIV, ESV, NRSV) or "avenge me" (KJV), here and in verse 5, is ekdikeō, "to procure justice for someone, grant justice" (BDAG 300, 1).

[66] Gerhard F. Hasel, "Heir," ISBE 2:673-676. In some cases, she might manage to have the estate inherited by her young children as a trustee, but that was by no means a sure thing.

[67] The phrase "keeps bothering" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "troubleth" (KJV) translates two Greek words. Parechō, "to cause to happen or be brought about, cause, make happen" (BDAG 776, 3a) is in the present tense, which here indicates continued action in the present. The second word is noun kopos, "a state of discomfort or distress, trouble, difficulty," originally "a beating". The idea here is "cause trouble for someone, bother someone" (BDAG 558, 1).

[68] The phrase "wear me out" (NIV, NRSV, KJV) "beat me down" (ESV) is hypopiazō, literally, "give a black eye to, strike in the face." The judge may have been speaking in hyperbole or exaggeration -- she wasn't threatening him with bodily harm. But a figurative meaning of the word is "to bring someone to submission by constant annoyance, wear down, browbeat," or perhaps "slander, besmirch" (BDAG 1043, 2).

[69] In the sentence, "Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly" (Luke 18:7), the phrase "keep putting them off" (NIV), "delay long" (ESV, NRSV), "bear long" (KJV) is Greek makrothumeō, "delay." This is the only place in the New Testament where this meaning occurs. Usually it is translated "have patience" or "be patient" (BDAG 612, 3).

[70] "Quickly" (NIV, NRSV), "speedily" (ESV, KJV) is Greek tachos, "speed, quickness, swiftness, haste." With the preposition en as an adverbial unit, "soon, in a short time" (BDAG 994, 2). Our word "tachometer" (measuring speed of rotation) comes from this Greek word.

[71] Mark 9:29 attributes their failure to lack of prayer, and, in some texts, fasting.


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