This is an outline of the notes that I use to teach my Wednesday evening class on the sayings and the life of Jesus.
The Heart of the Lesson: often success by the world’s standard is a sign of spiritual poverty. What good will it be for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Matthew 16:26).
Today’s Term: Soul – translated from psyche, which is also self. While possessions are not bad in themselves, too much attachment cause some people to lose their soul.
The Sneering Pharisees (Luke 16:14-15)
- These Pharisee literally turned up their noses at Jesus. Why? Wealth was a way to measure God’s pleasure with them. More wealth allowed them to give more to the poor. Wealth became everything to them.
- God knows the heart – our thoughts and motivation (Proverbs 21:2, 1 Samuel 16:7).
- God was not only all-knowing and all-powerful, but perfectly holy, too. Roman and Greek gods were like spoiled brats toying with mankind, but the God of the Bible is portrayed as the moral center of the universe (Isaiah 55:8).
The Camel-Needle Dilemma (Matthew 19:23-26)
- The rich, young, ruler could not part with his wealth, so is this typical of the wealthy? He does not belong to God, not himself, but belongs to the inanimate things he possesses. Jesus’ point is that the rich will find it more difficult to surrender their lives to Christ.
- Wealth opens doors, so why not open the door to heaven?
- Their history is filled with God’s people being men of great wealth: Abraham, Job, Solomon. It appears that right living leads to health and prosperity.
- Great wealth has led many away from God (1 Timothy 6:9, 17-18).
Your Two-Cents Worth (Mark 12:41-44)
- The widow’s coin was small but huge in God’s eyes. All through the ages, this woman will be know for her generosity and sacrifice. Rich people gave from their excess, she gave all she had, beyond her ability.
- The story is followed by Jesus’ prediction of the temple’s destruction. Giving all she had impressed Jesus, while the temple was managed by materialistic, unscriptural men; it was doomed to fail.
Success Now, Distress Later (Luke 6:24-25)
- Rather than all blessings in the Beatitudes, Luke brings in several woes. This is not about condemnation, but warnings.
- The wealthy have received their comfort and consolation already, paid in full, but they have not received that which is worth having, eternal life.
- Telling the well-fed that they will go hungry is not a prophecy of physical hunger, but of spiritual hunger. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.
Unsound Investment Strategy (Luke 12:13-21)
- In settling a dispute, Jesus does not provide an answer, rather he tells them to get their minds off of material things.
- Jesus sees the man’s desire not one of fairness (divide the inheritance) but one of greed. He was not teaching against possessions in general, but against abundance. If you have all you need, be content with that. The man’s focus was not on “what do I need?” but “what can I get?”
- As a farmer, this man was dependent on rain and the sun. Seems like he would be grateful to God for his success.
- Humor in the parable: his field is so profitable that his barns will not hold it all. He would rather build bigger barns than give it away to the poor and hungry.
- While planning for the future, he obviously did not plan far enough.
- Do not forget the real source of your possessions (Deuteronomy 8:17, James 4:13-14).
- Observation: this man does not live in the present, rather he is living in the future. His “eat, drink, and be merry” lies in the future. Many driven people live for delayed gratification.
- The point is, we must be rich toward God (Luke 12:21).
The Great Chasm (Luke 16:19-31)
- Here is a “rich man that landed in hell” parable, with a severe contrast with Lazarus at the gate.
- Both died and had different destinies, but only the pitiable beggar is at home with the father, at Abraham’s side.
- We know the beggar’s name but the wealthy man is nameless; total role reversal.
- Lazarus can warn my brothers – if they will not listen to the Law and the Prophets, they will not respond to a sign, even if someone was raised from the dead.
- The man’s sin was indifference to the suffering around him, literally at his own gate.
Rich, Cozy, and Lukewarm (Revelation 3:14-19)
- Of these seven churches, the first six had a mix of praise and criticism, but this seventh church (Laodicea) had all criticism from Jesus.
- Lukewarm can be mediocre, a play on words regarding the warm springs in the city. It was not cold for drinking, nor was it hot for healing properties.
- The word used for spew or spit is literally vomit.
- Laodicea was a wealthy city that declined assistance after an earthquake in AD 60. Jesus points out their spiritual poverty.
The Soul Objective (Matthew 16:24-26)
- To deny oneself means to say no to oneself. Luke adds the word “daily” and to everyone, not just the disciples (Luke 9:23).
- Jesus makes it clear that he came to suffer and die in Jerusalem, and those who follow him can expect the same treatment.
- While crucifixion on the cross was a once and done deal, persecution for the believer is an every day event along the journey of discipleship.
- The term “follow me” is another hard saying for us today. In a sense, we lose our lives to gain real life. The world translates “gains” by profit and loss, so those who see life this way need to write off their life as a loss.
- Soul is psuche, or some may see it as the real self of a person. The point is that if we live selfishly like most people do, we will end up losing our real selves.
- Jesus offers glory at a high cost. This type of honesty is not very appealing on a recruitment poster for Christianity, but it can spark interest and loyalty in those who seek something greater than themselves in life.
- Key passages: Galatians 2:20, Romans 12:1-2.
The Wages of Obedience (Luke 12:32)
- Why fret over such earthly things when God is pleased to give people an everlasting reward?
- Jesus uses a tender expression, “little flock.” This emphasizes the fact that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who guard and looks out for his sheep.
- The Father does not give the kingdom grudgingly but willfully, with pleasure, to those who trust the Shepherd to guide and protect them.