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.
Notes to the Leader: Most people who participate in this Bible study will be, by worldly standards, considered wealthy. This study will not teach that wealth is bad. It is not. However, wealth is to be treated as temporarily ours, eternally belonging to God. In your group, you will discuss the uses of wealth and how to be good stewards. You will be reading the parable of the shrewd manager for this study.
Plan on writing down the ideas that your group gives you. Accept everything, don’t don’t accept the pat answers, but let the group give you a worldly definition.
How you define wealth?
- Put your own definition onto the whiteboard or easel when others are done.
- Read Webster’s definition: A great store of valuable possessions, property, or riches; A rich abundance or profusion of anything.
Section One: Wealth
Now have someone in your group read Luke 16:1-13
Do you think that God’s view of wealth differs much from your definitions that were listed on your whiteboard or easel?
- People tend to limit wealth to tangible, physical things. While God and man typically define wealth in the same way, God views wealth much like Webster, an abundance of anything.
What other types of intangible wealth might be included into this broader definition?
- Talent, special skills, intellect, education, creativity, physical appearances, etc.
Have someone in your group read Luke 16:8-9
If, then, God and mankind share mostly comparable definitions of wealth, then what was Jesus trying to tell us in the parable of the shrewd manager?
Before you receive any answers, ask: Was Jesus really saying it was OK to be dishonest?
- Yes, we are called to be creative and to use our wealth to gain favor with others when we are in need but, no, we are not called to dishonesty. Jesus considers all of us in constant need, especially in need of friends that will meet us in the eternal world. Too often, we use our wealth, tangible and intangible, for personal gain and benefits only good during these temporal times. The things we acquire and the people we befriend are frequently done so for access to today’s pleasures. Jesus tells us that each person is to be measured on how they have used both their physical (tangible) wealth as well as their God-given (intangible) wealth to gain favor with those things of a more eternal perspective.
List some ways that cleverness and creativity can be used in a personal ministry for Christ?
- Raising money for the Church
- Solving problems as a church officer
- Presenting the Gospel’s message in an appealing fashion
Have someone in your group read Luke 16:14-15
Tell your group to think of the things they saw on television this past week. Make two lists, those things that were acceptable and those things that were not acceptable.
Now think back 10 to 25 years — How many of the acceptable things would you move to the unacceptable column if you were to use yesteryear’s criteria?
- It is usually quite easy to point out that we would move many of the items from today’s acceptable list to yesterday’s unacceptable list.
Would you draw the conclusion that, today, our standards have shifted and are allowing less desirable things on television?
- It is not difficult to see that standards within our society’s television habits have shifted to the more liberal with regard to violence, sex, homosexuality, etc.
Using Luke 16:14-15 as Jesus’ insight as to the character of Pharisees, what conclusion do you draw as to why our standards within our society are changing for the worse?
- Jesus indicates that self-justification and the human desire to satisfy with things of this world are several key driving forces.
If self-justification is so bad, how do we guard ourselves against falling into this trap?
- A repentant nature
- Full/complete reliance upon Christ
- There are no real short cuts
Section Two: More Lessons
Have someone in your group read Luke 16:16-18
The smallest letter of the Greek alphabet is the letter (i) called the iota (Hebrew is yodh). You may have heard the term, “Not one iota.” Jesus is very explicit here about God’s law. What conclusion do you draw?
- God’s law is fixed. No amount of intellectual study, human knowledge, or self-justification can alter Its meaning or intent. While it should not be the intent to draw judgment with regard to any situation of divorce, one can conclude that our world has eroded the meaning and commitments of marriage. Jesus reminds us, however, that God has not. (If necessary, review Matthew 19:8-9 regarding divorce).
Section Three: A Rich Man and Lazarus
Have someone in your group read Luke 16:19-31
What are the differences between the Rich Man and Lazarus?
Who had the tangible wealth, and who had the intangible wealth?
Whose life was better in this world? Whose life is better now?
In the final analysis of the Rich Man, what world do you think he would pick if he had it to do over again?
With this same knowledge now, why do you think that so many people still pick this world over the eternal benefits of the next?
- A question pursued since man was first created and only God holds the answer.
How does one’s humility fit into this issue of wealth?
- Jesus seems to be telling us that we have a choice as to which world we can receive our rewards. The pleasures of this world have little room for humility. Our fast-paced, have-it-your-way world stresses that we are to go for the gusto, just do it. Yet, the rewards seem to end up with those like Lazarus.
We are called by Christ to be good stewards of our talents and treasures, using creativity and hard work for the good of Christ’s kingdom, not for our comfort and personal gain. Doing this, we are promised that our efforts will be eternally rewarding.
No amount of intellectual analysis or self-justification will ever change these basic points.
Bible Truth Being Taught
A walk with Christ requires self-motivation, self-denial and self-control.
To be good stewards of our talents as well as our treasures and use them for God’s purpose.