Items filtered by date: June 2014 - Harris Creek Baptist Church
Many biblical scholars have suggested that the parable found in Luke 16:1-15 is one of the more confusing and difficult parables to interpret for us today. We are obviously not the original hearers of this parable; we are quite removed from the context Jesus spoke this parable to. On top of that, this parable is long, choppy, and has some demanding questions for what it means to be people of the Kingdom of God. But, no matter how you interpret the characters in "The Parable of the Shrewd Manager," one thing that is clear is we are called to steward our wealth with a Kingdom mindset. A Kingdom mindset means the believer possesses a certain urgency to do the right things for the right reasons. In saying that, this urgency isn't predicated on anxiety; rather, our urgency is built on hope. The timeliness of our actions is born out of the knowledge that we have a short time to make a difference. So, we are to leverage our wealth, of all forms, for Kingdom advancement because we know that, in the end, these assets are fleeting. Our money, relationships, and influence are all resources that can be leveraged powerfully and creatively for the Kingdom in the "here and now." As we consider our position in life and account for what God has entrusted us with, we know that our subsequent choices will ultimately be an acknowledgment of our salvation.
Many of the world's famous parables are thousands of years old and have been handed down from generation to generation. There is obviously a reason these stories stick with us, but the original meaning behind any given parable is always in danger of being lost in translation. This is the case with parables outside of Scripture as well as parables that Jesus told. If we lose the cultural context behind these stories, the natural tendency is to turn the characters in parables into caricatures of themselves. That is particularly the case with the parable found in Luke 18:9-14 called "The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector." Since Pharisees and tax collectors are not positions held within our society, it's easy to stand outside the story and experience it from a distance. However, doing so will keep us from being transformed by the parable. The only way to be transformed by a parable is to find one's self in the story, to identify with the characters. What we find when we dig beneath the surface of this particular parable is that it relates to our lives much more than we might have imagined.
When you think about the parables Jesus told, the most popular and well-known of all of his stories is "The Parable of the Two Sons" in Luke 15:11-32 (also known as "The Parable of the Prodigal Son"). In Luke 15, Jesus tells a series of three parables about things that are lost and later found. With each parable, he intensifies his message and ups the ante. Jesus begins with a story about a shepherd losing 1 out of 100 sheep. When the sheep is found, the shepherd celebrates with his friends. Jesus then tells a second story about a woman losing 1 out of 10 coins. When she finds the coin, she also celebrates with her friends. Finally, Jesus tells a third story that drives home his primary message and intensifies it. He tells a story about a father who loses 1 out of 2 sons. It started with a story about 1 out of 100, then 1 out of 10, and now 1 out of 2. It started with a story about a lost animal, then lost money, and now a lost child. With all of the similarities between these three parables, Jesus throws in a few unexpected twists to this final parable to communicate his message clearly. The story doesn't end with celebration when the lost son is found, like the other two stories do. The story then turns to the older brother who is furious that his father is throwing a party for this rebel son. By breaking the established pattern and shocking our sensibilities and expectations, Jesus teaches us many profound truths about the mercy, grace, and love of our Heavenly Father. Perhaps the shock and unexpected turns are why this parable has been called the greatest short story in the history of the world.
One of the most famous parables Jesus ever told is commonly known as "The Parable of the Good Samaritan." It is a parable so widely shared that our country has "Samaritan laws" some 2,000 years after Jesus originally told this story. While most people in our culture may be familiar with the story, it's the context surrounding this famous parable that actually helps us understand what exactly Jesus is trying to say. In the period right before Jesus tells this story, he and his disciples have numerous encounters with Samaritans because they are traveling through the region. Relations between Jews and Samaritans were tense and often even hostile for a lot of reasons, some of which included racial prejudices and religious differences. In Luke 10, Jesus sends out 72 of his disciples into Samaria and they see a positive response to the Gospel from the Samaritans. This undoubtedly caused a stir and had many questioning the legitimacy of Jesus. One of the skeptics was a religious expert who approached Jesus to test his theology. In the midst of what he thought would be an examination of Jesus, the religious expert finds himself on trial and his prejudices exposed by Jesus. In this shocking story of what it means to be a "neighbor," Jesus says that we are called to care for all that we come in contact with, even those who we would consider to be our enemies.