Two parables and three distinct teachings make up this chapter. The parables take on a different tone, especially the later one (vv. 19-31). Likewise, the three sayings that appear in the center of the chapter are delivered with a tone that is direct and unequivocal. Jesus is engaged in direct and serious teaching (vv. 14-18).
Lets look at some specifics.
The first parable is about the dishonest steward (vv. 1-8). The parable tells the story of a steward who was placed in charge of his master’s supplies. The steward squanders these supplies and is then called to account by his master. Fearful of his fate, the dishonest steward produces dishonest promissory notes and is later commended by his master for his prudence. Now, at first glance, it may be tough to find the value/virtue in this parable. Jesus, probably aware of that, explains the parable in vv. 8-13. The lesson of the parable is not so much about the prudence of the steward but is instead about where one decides to keep his/her value. The lesson of the parable is given at the end of Jesus’s explanation (i.e. v. 13).
Following this parables, there are three ‘sayings’ by Jesus. There’s a saying against the Pharisees, one about the Law, and a third against divorce. In short order Jesus delivers these quick teachings in one or two sentences. It’s important to remember that while look offers these sayings in short order, the other Synoptic Gospels, offer longer explanations and further words from Jesus. Suffice it here to say that Jesus is prepping the crowd for the next parable. Look at the sayings- all three are about the old Law that the Pharisees have held onto, together with their hypocrisy. Jesus will use the following parable to once again demonstrate the New Covenant that he brings, the New Law that will fulfill and transcend the Old.
The parable is about a rich man and Lazarus (a different Lazarus than the one Jesus raises from the dead in John’s Gospel). There’s a two-fold interaction here: there is Jesus teaching the parable to the crowd, with particular attention to the Pharisees gathered; and there is the interaction between the rich man and Lazarus. Both of them are archetypes for the crowd gathered, again, with particular attention to the Pharisees.
Notice the way the parable ends: it ends badly for the rich man. This parable is a clear indictment of the Pharisees. But what can the parable teach us? I think there are numerous nuggets here: the need for compassion; a warning against hypocrisy; a lesson about Trust in Jesus and the commitment of Faith and Discipleship. There’s a lot going on here. And at this point, Jesus is about to step it up a notch…
Point for Prayer
“Dear Jesus, imaginative and merciful, you open me to see how much creativity I need to be your disciple and how much mercy I must show to act as a disciple. Urge me to be more imaginative in growing spiritually than worldly people are in their quest for materialistic triumphs. Invite me more urgently to learn your basic guideline about giving mercy in order to receive it. Make me a just and merciful person” (150). Amen.