Friday, July 25, 2008

The parable of the rich fool

The parable of the rich fool

"And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to my soul, “Soul, you have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“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?’
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:16-21

* This parable is only found in Luke.
* The context and setting of this parable being told is when Jesus was teaching a pretty damn big crowd ("...many thousands...they were trampling each other"...verse 1). Someone in the crowd shouted out and asked Jesus to tell his brother to divide the inheritance with him. Jesus replied by refusing to involve himself in the brothers tiff, and challenged the crowd to beware of becoming greedy because life was about more than money. The parable is Jesus' was of illustrating his point that life is about more than what we have.
* When Jesus says "a certain... man" he is usually referring to something that actually happened. The parable is based on true events.
* In the parable the rich man actually had a wise plan, to save for the future. Unfortunately it was not all-wise but just world-wise. It wasn't the thinking ahead that was the problem it was the focus of money.
* In the parable God calls the rich guy a fool because everything that he worked for was useless to him.
* After telling the parable Jesus says that this is how it will be with anyone who spends more time/energy/focus on storing up things, without the same "rich" desire for God. It problem isn't about having stuff... its about whether or not we have God.

There is no doubt people think a great deal of the rich and their achievements, and it was no different back then. However, for eternity now the man in the parable is a fool. It isn’t only sin to give material things too high a place in your life - it is also very stupid.

The pattern in the guys language tells us a lot about us as people: " crops... my barns... my goods... my soul". Everything is about him, and nothing is about God. Self-focus is dangerous- in the end, it was proved that nothing was his. He didn’t have any crops, any barns, any goods, and his soul was dead.

If you are really interested in this parable Matthew Henry writes beautifully about it. I can't put things better than him. Here is a link to his study of Luke 12.

The rich fool did the right thing in planning for retirement and for the future, retirement and future are not just on earth- we need to plan for eternal future. It is wise to save and put money away, but is we refuse to help others and do good with the money and possessions we end up going to eternity empty-handed. My grandfather said that "your final shirt has no pockets" meaning you can't take what you "get" on earth to Heaven with you.

We need to decide to use what we have with an eternal perspective. We don't know how long we have on earth left. Lets be people who plan, and even save for the future, but to do it with God and others in mind.

Lets never money or stuff get in the way of us being "rich towards God".

God I don't know how much time I have left on earth. One day I will die or You will return. I don't know when but You do. Help me to always consult you and to live with a perspective that utilises what I have to glorify You and to help people.

I'm sorry for the times I have been greedy or hungry for the wrong things. Help me to want You more than I want money/stuff/comfort.
In Jesus' name, Amen

Questions for comment/discussion
* What is your take on this parable?
* What was it that wrong about the rich man's attitude?
* When you have extra time, money, or stuff, what do you tend to use it for?
* What does it mean to be rich toward God?

Friday, July 11, 2008

The parable of the two debtors

The parable of the two debtors


"...Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said..."

Luke 7:40-43


* This parable is only found in Luke.
* The context and setting of this parable being told is when Jesus is reclining at the table of Simon the Pharisee, and he was approached by a "sinful woman" who wet his feet with her tears and then wiped them with her hair and poured perfume on them. Simon was disgusted by this and questioned the legitimacy of Christ as a prophet because he allowed a prostitute to touch Him. The parable is Jesus' response to Simons disgust.
* Jesus has used the reaction and thoughts of someone as an opportunity to teach through illustration. It is interesting to read verse 39 and then 40 because Jesus responds directly to Simons thoughts which demonstrate that He was indeed a prophet.
* In the parable the creditor was within His rights to take the advantage of the law against them. He chose not to.
* The parable is about forgiveness, and the way that us sinners respond to having our sins forgiven.
* As He often does, Jesus uses the illustration of debt to tell about our sinfulness. As with all of Jesus' parables about debt (sin) the person owing is unable to pay back the debt and the debt is cancelled for free.
* In this parable both people had their debts cancelled, but one responded with more love than the other.
* The one with the big debt and the one with the smaller debt both needed the debtor to cancel the debt because they were unable to do it themselves.
* A denarii was about a days wages: the people in the parable owed 50 days wages or 500 days wages. Calculating by average Aussie wages it is $AUD6250 or $AUD62,500. In other words they both owed a crap-load of money.
* The response to forgiveness in the parable and in the context setting is to love the one doing the forgiving.

This parable is a very brief illustration for the benefit of at least two people- the pharisee and the woman. The pharisee learned that love is an appropriate response to forgiveness and that the more someone is forgiven the more they love. The prostitute learned of the amazing and limitless love and forgiveness of sin that she was able to recieve from God through Jesus.

There are sooooo many parables that teach us that sin is a debt, and us sinners owe God big time. For the debt of disobedience to God's ways and law, we become liable to the penalty. The parable seems to teach us that some people are deeper in debt to God, through sin, than others are: The parable says it- "...One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty..."

Whether we are a so-called upright citizen (like the pharisee) or a known slut (like the prostitute), if we sin a little or a lot, we still owe a debt we cannot pay. The parable says it "...Neither of them had the money to pay him back..." Money can't pay our debt, nor will doing rad things from here on in.

" he canceled the debts of both..." God is willing to forgive us sinners, on His terms, no matter how much we have sinned. If we repent, and believe in Christ, our sin will not be held against us anymore.

The more we realise how much God has forgiven us, the more we will love Him.

Not one of us is debt-free, we all owe God a price we can never pay ourselves. If we try to pay the debt ourselves, we will fail and find ourselves still owing God when we stand before Him on Judgement day. If we have our debts cancelled by Him (through trusting in Jesus Christ for our salvation and repenting) we will not only be debt-free on judgement day but we will be creditted with Christs righteousness.

We all are in debt to God, and if we realise how much God has cancelled that debt we will love Him. Love is obedience from here on in.

God I know I unable to pay for the debt that I have accumalated through my sin. Please forgive me my debt, I trust Jesus for my salvation. Help me to always remember how much I have been forgiven and what it cost you to forgive, so that I never lack reverence, obedience, repentance and love.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The parable of the children in the marketplace

The parable of the children in the marketplace

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge
and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.””

Matthew 11:16-18 (Luke 7:31-32)


* "To what can I compare this generation?" This question (as pointed out by Matthew Henry in Henry commentary) seems to show Jesus finding it difficult to find an example that fits, which is another way of pointing out the extreme absurdity of the situation.
* In both Matthew and Luke this little parable is found wedged between Jesus talking about John the Baptist and him expressing frustration at the Pharisees fault-finding paradigm and impossible-to-pleasyness.
* This is really tough to understand.
* Jesus' use of the word "generation" seems to be referring to the people within that time period thirty years, particularly the Pharisees (see context in Luke chapter seven verse thirty).
* The parable has a harsh tone... Pharisees would have been insulted to have been compared to children. Jesus is frustrated and actually downright ticked.
* The thing that the children in the parable are chanting is relating to two very diffrent things- dancing and mourning. Jesus was saying that the Pharisees were behaving childishly and would not be pleased not matter what approach John or Jesus took.
* Jesus gives a little bit of an explanation of the parable in verses 18-19. He tells us that "...we sang a dirge and you did not mourn..." refers to Johns harsher style of turn of burn repentence preaching and that "...we played the flute for you and you did not dance..." refers to Jesus' hopeful, celebratory message (eating and drinking and healing... not to mention salvation).
* Critical people always have something to criticize. Some people wouldn’t be pleased with either John or Jesus, and Jesus found this to be frustrating.

This parable is a bit of a tough one for me so I am keen to read other peoples comments and hear what you have to add to it. It is one of those verses where I have often read the passage of Scripture and skipped over it because it was too hard.

At the end of the preceding passage about John the Baptist, Jesus seems to vent a frustration at the way that the Pharisees responded to Himself and John the Baptist. He particularly makes mention in the Luke telling of this parable by observing "All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John."
that is verses 29-30.

The hard-heartedness of religious people frustrated the crap out of Jesus and He often spoke about it. In this parable He kind of says that no matter what form that Heaven delivers the message (whether hard or soft) some people will not submit to God. It seems that today religious people still are hard to please. Christ is using a parable to illustrate the way that some people would rather ignore God's messengers than change the way they live.

We have to be careful to allow ourselves to be open to what God wants to say ("positive" or "negative"). He speaks through His Word, His people and His Spirit to our hearts. We need to avoid being like those the parable calls childish by being open to recieve Gods message of justice and repentance, and His message of love, grace and mercy.

God help me to hear your voice clearly, and to not assume we know all about You. Let us lay our assumptions aside and invade our personal paradigms and preconcieved ideas. Help us to be fertile soil that celebrates when the occasion calls for it and mourns when the occasion calls for it. Soften our hard hearts and help us to hate our own sinfulness. Help us to be in amongst the humble You give grace to, and not the proud that You resist.