Prepare Now for the Future

silhouette of woman

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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 parable is notorious for its difficulty. Just read through a few commentaries or listen to a few sermons on this passage and you will quickly learn that there are a few different interpretations. The difficulty is in deciding if what the manager did by cutting the bills of each debtor was for the master’s benefit or not. I will let you research this and decide on your own. The important thing to see here is that the master commended the manager for his “shrewdness”. The manager did everything to prepare for his own future.

The lesson Jesus is teaching with this parable is that we, like the manager, must always have our futures in mind. The things we do now must be done in preparation for the day when we stand before the holy God and give an account of our lives. Are we using all that we have to prepare for that day or are we going through life without thought of what is coming tomorrow. We must be shrewd in preparing because the day will be here before we know it.

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All for the Kingdom

Kingdom of God

Reading the Word

Luke 19:11–27 (ESV)

11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus used parables often. He used these stories to make the people think about their meaning and to make the messages memorable. In today’s Parable of the Ten Minas Jesus taught a lesson about using the things that God has given us. We need to use all that we have been given in the work of growing the kingdom of God (v. 11). We are stewards of God’s things and everything is for his glory.

How well do we really use the gifts of God for his glory? How often do we think of all we have as God’s and use it for the growth of his kingdom? Imagine if the people of God were truly committed to the gospel as their chief priority in life. What could be accomplished for the glory of God?

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Are You Good Soil?

The Sower

The Sower (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 8:4–8 (ESV)

4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus described the different ways the word of God effects people. In the parable, Jesus used the imagery of a farmer planting planting seed and the different types of soil the seed would land in as it was scattered. The seed represented the word of God as it was spread and the different types of soil represented the different responses to it.

The key to properly understanding this parable is focusing on the end result of the seed in each type of soil. Only one soil, the “good soil”, produced a yield. All of the others failed for one reason or another. These words teach us that those who hear the word of God and truly receive it will produce a yield. There will be true evidence in their lives. What has been your response to the word of God in your life? Has it produced a bountiful crop in your life that is evident to all who know you? Praise God for a living and active word that is powerful to change us for his glory!

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Well Done, Faithful Servant

Matthew 2521 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 25:14–30 (ESV)

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Understanding and Applying the Word

After telling a parable to teach his disciples that he may return sooner than they expect and then a second parable to teach his disciples that they must be prepared if his return is delayed, Jesus tells a third parable. This time, he uses a story about a master, three servants, and talents. In the parable, the master entrusts each of his three servants with talents (a talent was money worth about about 20 years wages for the common laborer) to care for while he is away. When the master returned, he wanted to know what each of the servants had done with the talents he had left for them to manage. Two of the servants had invested and received a return on their investment. This pleased the master. However, the third had done nothing with his talents. He buried them and returned them to the master on his return. The master was displeased with this servant’s failure to steward his talents so he took them and gave them to one of the faithful servants.

The first two parables told us that we need to be ready for Jesus’ return whether that return is soon or in the distant future. The Parable of the Talents teaches us what we should be doing as we wait. Those who are prepared for the Lord’s return are those who have been faithful in caring for all the Lord has given us. We must realize that everything we have and everything we are is to be used for God’s glory and the building of his kingdom. Nothing we have is our own. We are servants and we have been given the responsibility to manage our Master’s things for him. When Christ returns, we will give an account of what we have done with our time, our money, and our abilities. Will we hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

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Ready to Wait

standing man looking his watch

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Reading the Word

Matthew 25:1–13 (ESV)

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus spoke a second parable to his disciples concerning his return. In the first, which we read yesterday (cf. Matthew 24:45-51), Jesus emphasized that he could return sooner than expected so they must be prepared and not assume there is a long wait ahead. In today’s passage, Jesus teaches the opposite message. Jesus uses the story of a wedding to teach that his followers must be prepared if he delays longer than expected.

In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, there are ten young women, who we would label bridesmaids today, that are a part of the wedding party. They were to greet the bridegroom when he came and accompany him to the wedding feast and celebrate with him. Five of the virgins were prepared to wait late into the night. They brought extra oil for their lamps. Five of the virgins were unprepared for such a long wait. They only brought what was in their lamps and no extra. When the bridegroom came, the five who were prepared lit their lamps and accompanied him while the five who were unprepared went to seek oil to purchase. As a result, they were late to the party and unable to enter.

As we await our Lord’s return, we must be prepared to remain and serve even if Jesus does not return in our lifetimes, or in many lifetimes. We must be ready for him to come soon, but we must also be prepared for the long haul. We do this through faithful service every day and by teaching the next generation how to do the same. Are you prepared to serve Christ even if his return is far in the future?

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A Wedding Feast

plates and wine glass on table

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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.”

Parallel Text: Luke 14:15-24

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus continues to address the religious leaders in this parable. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast where a king has sent out invitations, but the guests would not come. Instead, the guests killed the servants of the king who had been sent to remind them of the feast. In response to such wickedness, the king sent troops to destroy the murderers and he also sent other servants to gather other gusts, both bad and good, who would come to the feast. The wedding hall was filled. When the king saw his guests that were gathered, he noticed that one had come with no wedding garment. He had failed to properly prepare for the occasion and was cast out of the wedding feast into the darkness.

The Parable of the Tenants (yesterday’s reading) focused on the failure of the religious leadership in Israel. This parable, the Parable of the Wedding Feast, continues the same theme, but addresses more broadly the lack of response to God’s word from the whole nation. God, in his grace and abundant love, had chosen Israel as his own and had invited them into communion with him. The people had rejected God’s grace and gone their own way. They had even killed some of the prophets who had been sent by God and would soon kill the Son.

The privileged position that Israel had once occupied as the people of God was coming to an end. God’s plan would now include people both bad and good. All who responded to the word of God, whether Jew or Gentile, would enter into the kingdom. However, there is proper attire for the kingdom. One does not enter in any way they might want. It is only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ that one can truly be a part of the wedding feast. All others will be cast out into the darkness.

There is a great deal to think about in this parable, but the primary message is clear. God has graciously invited all, whether bad or good, to be a part of the kingdom of heaven. We accept the invitation by turning to Jesus for forgiveness of our sin and trusting him for our future hope. There is no other way into this feast.

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Rejecting the Cornerstone

1 Peter 27 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 21:33–46 (ESV)

33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Parallel Texts: Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19

Understanding and Applying the Word

The key to understanding this parable is knowing who Jesus is addressing through it. The passage gives us this information. In verse 45, we are told that the chief priests and the Pharisees perceived that Jesus was speaking about them. This is no surprise as he has been in a constant face-off with them since he entered Jerusalem for Passover week.

The parable tells us that the religious leaders and the religious system that they represented had failed the people. The leaders, who had been assigned by God to take care of his vineyard (i.e. the people of Israel), had failed to respond to the Lord’s servants that he had sent (referring to the prophets of the Old Testament). Lastly, the Lord had sent his own Son, Jesus, but the religious leaders would not listen to him either. Instead, they were planning to put Jesus to death, which they will do in just a few more days. What the religious leaders did not realize is that they were rejecting the very cornerstone of God’s salvation plans.

As a result, the religious leaders were rejected by God, as well as the system that they represented. God was moving to replace these things with something different. This new thing would prove to be the Church, made up of Jew and Gentile and no longer tied to the temple, the sacrificial system, or the priesthood. Instead, Jesus would be the great high priest who offered the once-for-all sacrifice of himself for all who believe. Big changes were coming because of Christ!

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A Man Had Two Sons…

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

Reading the Word

Matthew 21:28–32 (ESV)

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

God’s Amazing Grace

Beitzel 2009 Beqa and Lebanon Mountains 22

Reading the Word

Matthew 20:1–16 (ESV)

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this parable, Jesus tells a story about different workers who were hired to work in a vineyard. The master of the house hired workers at the beginning of the day and agreed to pay them a denarius for a day of labor. A denarius was the standard pay for a day of work. A few hours later, at 9:00 AM, the master hired more workers. He did the same at noon, 3:00 PM, and at 5:00 PM. Each time hiring more workers and promising to give them fair pay for their work. A typical work day was 6:00 AM until 6:00 PM.

At the end of the day, the workers went to receive their pay. Those hired last, at 5:00 PM had only worked for an hour, but they received a denarius as pay. When those hired at the beginning of the day saw that the late-comers received a denarius, they thought they would receive more. They were mistaken. The master paid all of the workers the same. It did not matter when they started. This angered the workers who were hired early in the morning. They believed they deserved more! The master explained to the workers that he paid them exactly what he told them he was going to when he hired them. If he chose to pay others the same, why should it be an issue?

The lesson of this parable is that God’s servants should not spend their time comparing themselves with other servants. God is generous to all of his people and gives us all far more than we deserve. God is a God of amazing grace and his mercies are new every morning. Take the time to reflect on the Lord’s goodness and thank him for it.

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God Is Just

Luke 181 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 18:1–8 (ESV)

1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Some read this parable and understand it to mean that if we bother God enough by continuing to ask him for something, that he will eventually give us what we want. Is that really what this is saying? Can we wear God down by asking him over and over again? I do not think that is Jesus’ point.

A better way to understand Jesus’ teaching here is to know that Jesus is not saying the judge is like God, but that he is unlike him. This is a parable of contrast. The judge is unrighteous. God is perfectly righteous. So, if an unrighteous judge will eventually do what is right when asked, how much more will the righteous Judge (i.e. God) do what is right – and it will not be necessary to wear him down to get him to do it either! Jesus was teaching us that we can trust in God to be righteous and judge wickedness in the end. We can turn to him in prayer and trust in him each and every day even in the difficult times. The righteous Judge will do what is right.

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