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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Luke 16

Verses 1-17

103. The shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-17)

This story was told not to the Pharisees but to the disciples of Jesus. It concerned a shrewd businessman whom the owner of a business appointed as manager. In this business, dealings were made by exchange of goods rather than payment of money, a practice that enabled the manager to cheat the owner. When the owner found out, he decided to dismiss him (Luke 16:1-2).

The manager then thought of a plan to ensure help from his business friends after his dismissal, as he did not want to become a beggar or a labourer. He therefore reduced the amounts that his business friends owed, so that they could pay their debts quickly. More importantly, they would feel obliged to return some favour to the manager after he had lost his job. The owner, being something of a scoundrel himself, appreciated such cunning (Luke 16:3-8).

Such, said Jesus, is the way of the world. If Christians had the diligence and foresight in spiritual matters that others have in worldly matters, they would be better people and enjoy a more lasting reward. If they used their material possessions to help others, they would gain true friends now and lasting prosperity in the life to come (Luke 16:9).

God’s people should realize that they are answerable to him for the way they use their goods and money. In God’s sight they are not owners of these things but managers. If they are generous in using what God has entrusted to them, God will reward them with permanent riches. If they are selfish, there will be no reward (Luke 16:10-12). They have become slaves to money and therefore they are disloyal to God (Luke 16:13).

The Pharisees considered wealth to be a reward for keeping the law, and they sneered at Jesus’ teaching. Jesus replied that God was not impressed with their show of righteousness, for he saw their pride-filled hearts. They did not realize that the old era of the law had passed and the kingdom announced by John had arrived. The only ones who understand the real meaning of the law are those in the kingdom. The godly are therefore zealous to enter it (Luke 16:14-17).

Verse 18

108. Questions about divorce (Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18)

Again the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus into saying something that would give them grounds to accuse him of error. This time they chose the subject of divorce, where different viewpoints among Jewish teachers often caused arguments. Jesus referred them back to God’s original standard, which was that a man and a woman live together, independent of parents, in a permanent union (Matthew 19:1-6). Moses set out laws to limit divorce and introduce some order into a very disorderly community. He permitted divorce not because he approved of it, but because people had created problems through their disobedience. Under normal circumstances divorce should not be allowed at all, though there may be an exception in the case of adultery (Matthew 19:7-9; cf. 5:31-32).

The disciples thought that if a man had to be bound to his wife in such a way, maybe it would be safer not to marry. Jesus replied that marriage was the normal pattern for adult life, though not necessarily the pattern for everyone. Some may choose not to marry, possibly because of physical defects or possibly because they want to serve God without the hindrances that may be created by family responsibilities (Matthew 19:10-12).

Verses 19-31

104. The rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)

To illustrate the truth he had just been teaching, Jesus told the story of an unnamed rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. The rich man pictured those who lived to please themselves and felt no need of God; the beggar pictured those who were helpless and depended entirely upon God’s mercy. In their existence after death, the beggar sat beside Abraham in the heavenly feast, resting his body, as it were, against Abraham, but the rich man was in great pain in hades, awaiting final punishment (Luke 16:19-24).

The rich man had been so concerned with building his wealth and enjoying it that he had forgotten God and no longer noticed the needs of others. After death he saw where his selfishness had led him, but by then it was too late to change. His determination to live for himself was his own decision, and that decision excluded him from heaven (Luke 16:25-26).

Being concerned about his brothers who were still alive, the rich man wanted Lazarus to go and warn them. But even the miracle of someone rising from death would not cause such people to give up their selfish ways. They had the message of salvation in the Scriptures, but if they rejected that, nothing else could save them (Luke 16:27-31).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Luke 16". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.