Lovers of Money

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Luke 16:14–17 (ESV)

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

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Do You Serve God or Money?

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Reading the Word

Luke 16:10–13 (ESV)

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

It has been said, “Show me a person’s checkbook and I will tell you what is really important to that person.” I find this to be a true statement. Where a person spends his money reflects what is truly important. It is also true that a person who mishandles a small amount of money and possessions will mishandle a larger amount. A person does not magically become a better and wiser steward when given more.

Jesus’ primary point in these verses is summarized in the last verse. One cannot serve two masters. A person cannot serve God and money. Jesus’ point is not to say that money is evil in and of itself. Money has its proper place. It is a tool that we use in our world. We need it for basic survival. We can also use money for great good by helping others or using it to help spread the gospel message. However, it can become a great idol when we think of money as the source of happiness and fulfillment. When we think this way, not only are our affections misplaced, but we will spend all of our time trying to gain more of it. It will consume our thoughts and actions. When this happens, it has become our master.

We are called to worship God and God alone. We are to have no idols. So, for the believer, God must be the focus of our affections and actions. All that we do is for him, including how we use our money and possessions. We must use it for his glory and to fulfill his will. How we use our money is an opportunity to worship our Lord and to show who we truly belong to. In the end, we will give an account for how we have used the things that God has given to us. Will we prove that we are trustworthy stewards of the things of God?

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The Shrewd Use of Possessions

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Reading the Word

Luke 16:1–9 (ESV)

1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This is a parable that lends itself to some debate. A manager is discovered mismanaging his master’s possessions. When this happens, the manager quickly goes to his master’s debtors and forgives portions of their debt. He does this to get into the good graces of others so he will have a better chance of employment when he loses his current position. When the master found out about this, he commended the manager for his shrewdness.

The parable poses difficulty because it is strange to us why the master would commend the manager for what he did. After all, he cost the master profit. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, this is a parable and the details do not have to reflect what we would expect in real life. The story is meant to teach a specific lesson and the details point to that lesson. Also, the master does not commend the manager for his actions, but for his shrewdness. The manager acted in such a way to look out for his future. The master recognized this forward-looking behavior and acknowledged it.

Jesus finished the parable by telling his disciples that they too needed to be shrewd in how they used “unrighteous wealth”. Possessions have a way of being used for our own self interests and pulling us away from the most important things in life. Instead, we should be always looking to the future in our use of wealth and possessions, knowing that one day we will give an account before the Lord in how we have used these things for the glory of God and his kingdom. How can we use our possessions shrewdly for the Lord?

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The Father Is Waiting

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Reading the Word

Luke 15:25–32 (ESV)

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday, we looked at the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The parable is titled based upon a son who took his inheritance, left home, and wasted all he had. The son returned home and was welcomed in celebration by his father. That is the part of the story we remember and focus on, but that is not the end of the parable. The story has two sons.

The father had another son who was older and who never left home. He stayed and served in the family home by working in the fields with all of the servants. When the older son heard that his younger brother, the one who had gone away and wasted everything, had returned home, he was not happy. His brother did not deserve a party after all he had done! He said to his father, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.”

To feel the full force of this parable, we must understand this older son. The first son represented the tax collectors and sinners who were drawing near to Jesus (cf. Luke 15:1). They were hearing the teaching of Jesus and repenting of their sins and turning to God. The older son represented the Pharisees and scribes who were angry that Jesus was spending time with sinners who did not deserve such attention (cf. Luke 15:2). You can almost hear the Pharisees saying, “Why are you spending time with them? We are the ones who deserve the attention. We are the ones who have kept all of the rules, but you do not spend any time with us!”

The father in the parable tried to get the older son to go in and join the celebration, but he would not. He was too righteous to join in with his brother, so he remained outside. The same could be said for the Pharisees. Jesus’ teaching invited them to repent of their sins and enter into the kingdom just as the tax collectors and sinners were doing, but the Pharisees would not. They were too righteous to join in with such sinners, so they remained outside.

The gospel calls us all to repentance. We must acknowledge our need of forgiveness and turn to Jesus. None of us deserve the rewards of the kingdom, but God is a gracious and forgiving Father waiting for us all to return home.

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The Return of the Prodigal Son

Prodigal Son The Return

Prodigal Son, the Return (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 15:11–24 (ESV)

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The third and final parable of Luke 15 is one of the most well-known passages in the New Testament. It is the parable often referred to as The Parable of the Prodigal Son. The word “prodigal” is not one that we often use today, but it speaks of a person who is wasteful and spends money in a reckless manner. It is easy to see how this parable earned its popular title.

The amazing part of the parable is that when the prodigal son returns home after wasting all he had, his father is happy to have him back. Not only does he welcome him, but he restores him to complete standing and throws a party to celebrate. Jesus told this parable to teach the Pharisees and scribes about God, who is represented by the father in the parable. God celebrates when a sinner returns home. It is a grand and joyous occasion! No matter where the person has roamed or what he has done while away, when a sinner repents and goes to the Father, the Father welcomes him with open arms and celebrates.

Know that God’s love for you is the same. He stands ready to welcome you home no matter how far you have gone or what you have done. Turn from your sins and go to him now. He is waiting for you.

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Seeking a Lost Coin

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Reading the Word

Luke 15:8–10 (ESV)

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In Luke 15, Jesus presents three parables that are addressed to the scribes and Pharisees (see Luke 15:1-3). These religious leaders were calling into question why Jesus would spend his time with undeserving “tax collectors and sinners.” If Jesus was truly the Messiah, he should only be giving his time to the righteous!

The first parable was about a lost sheep and taught the Pharisees that every sheep is important to the shepherd. God, of course, is represented by the shepherd and the people (tax collectors, sinners, scribes, and Pharisees) are the lost sheep. Heaven rejoices when one of the lost is found.

The parable in today’s passage is about a lost coin. The woman searches diligently until she finds the coin and then she rejoices. While this parable is similar to the one about the lost sheep, the emphasis is different. The parable of the sheep was on the value of every sheep. The parable of the coin focuses us on the nature of the search. The woman, who represents God, searched diligently. In the same way, the Lord searches out those who are lost and rejoices when they are found.

In these opening parable of Luke 15 we learn that God values every lost person and that he desires every one to come to repentance, including the tax collectors and sinners and scribes and Pharisees. He also cares about you and me. If you have not already, will you turn to Christ in repentance today? Heaven will celebrate when you do!

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The Self-Righteous

Luke 157 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 15:1–7 (ESV)

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Parallel Text: Matthew 18:12-14

Understanding and Applying the Word

As we enter into chapter fifteen of Luke, it is important to keep in mind that Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and scribes who are grumbling about Jesus spending time with “tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus tells three parables to challenge the mindset of these religious leaders who felt they were more worthy of God’s favor because of their superior righteousness.

The first parable is about a shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd had one hundred sheep, but lost one. Unwilling to lose any of his sheep, the shepherd searched until he found the lost one. Upon finding the lost sheep, the shepherd threw a party. Jesus said this is what heaven is like when a sinner repents. There is much celebration over the lost person who is now found.

Why did Jesus say that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance? Understanding this last verse is the key to understanding this parable. The message of Scripture is that there are no righteous persons who need no repentance. In fact, Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jesus’ statement then was to address the mindset of the scribes and Pharisees. They believed they were righteous and had no need to repent. In actuality, they too were sinners and no better off than the tax collectors and sinners that they looked down on. Heaven does not rejoice at those who believe they are righteous because it means they are still lost and in need of salvation.

It is clear that no one is good enough to please God. We are all sinners and must call out for forgiveness. It is the only way to be saved and the Shepherd is seeking out every lost sheep.

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Salt with No Taste

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. On Sundays, I include only a suggested Scripture reading without and commentary. Please be sure to subscribe to this page to follow along each day. We are currently reading through the life of Christ. Thanks!

Reading the Word

Luke 14:34–35 (ESV)

34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Counting the Cost

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Reading the Word

Luke 14:25–33 (ESV)

25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus addressed proper priorities in the passages we have been reading the past few days. In today’s reading, he does so again with words that may seem a bit harsh. As Jesus spoke to the crowds that were following him, he said that if anyone came to him and did not hate his closest family members, he could not be a disciple. Wow! Why would Jesus say such a thing? Dis Jesus really teach that we should hate our parents, siblings, spouses, and even ourselves?

Jesus, as he often did, was using hyperbole in his teaching. His words were extreme to set up a strong contrast to the opposing action. Here, he pointed out that if there is anything we love more than him, our priorities are out of line. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, deserves our highest affection and the center of our world. Anything less would be idolatry.

To love Jesus with such a love will cost us something. It may cost us a great deal. Jesus told the crowds if they were to follow him they should count the cost and be prepared for the sacrifice it will require. Following Jesus may cost a disciple family, friends, social status, and financially. Some followers may even lose their lives. However, when Jesus is our first love, all sacrifice is worth it. Are you prepared to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus?

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The King’s Feast

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Reading the Word

Matthew 22:1–14 (ESV)

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s passage shares some similarities with yesterday’s reading from Luke 14:15-24. Both parables speak of a host inviting guests to a celebration and both describe guests who are unwilling to come. In Luke, the reason some declined their invitation was because they had misplaced priorities. In Matthew, the rejections are much more aggressive, even resulting in the death of some of the king’s servants. In response, the king sent his armies to destroy the murderers and also invited others to fill his wedding feast. The king’s orders to gather other guests included both the “good and the bad.” This may be a reference to God’s kingdom invitation to both sinner and religious leader. At the feast, the king notices someone not dressed in proper attire and has him removed from the party.

This parable, as in Luke, deals with God’s invitation to mankind to enter into his kingdom. Matthew’s parable teaches us those who reject the Lord’s invitation do so in rebellion and will be judged for their response to the gospel. We also learn that entrance into the kingdom is on God’s terms, not our own. We must be in the proper attire.

God, in his love and grace, has invited us all to be a part of his kingdom. There is one, and only one, way we can do that. We must repent of our sins and turn to Jesus Christ in faith, believing that his sacrificial death paid the price for our sins and that his resurrection is the assurance that we have eternal life through him. What will you do with God’s invitation?

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