As Jesus continued to go about the countryside of Israel healing and teaching and offering the Good News of God, the religious leaders were becoming more and more offended. Some of them wanted Him dead. Others were nitpicking at everything He did. The latest critique was that He was spending far too much time with the tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and so He addressed it by telling them stories to break them out of their rigid mindset and help them see the bigger picture of God’s love. He told the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin to show the lengths that God will go to reach the lost…and the rejoicing that happens in Heaven when they are found. He told the story of the Prodigal Son where the father sees his reprobate son returning home in rags and goes running…imagine the undignified act of running!…to him and throws his arms around him.
Jesus had another story, and so He began to tell His disciples:
“‘There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.”
“‘The manager said to himself, “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—I know what I’ll do so that when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.”
“‘So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?”
“‘ “Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,” he replied.
“‘ “The manager told him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.”
“‘ “Then he asked the second, “And how much do you owe?”
“‘“A thousand bushels of wheat,” he replied.
“‘“He told him, “Take your bill and make it eight hundred.”
“‘“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
“‘“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”
“‘“No servant can serve two masters. 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 both God and Mammon.”’”
As Jesus said these things to His disciples, the Pharisees were listening in. They loved their money, and as the story unfolded, they began to sneer at Jesus. So the Lord turned to them and said, “‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of man, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.’”
Then Jesus went on to tell another parable. This one would highlight what He was saying in the last one:
““There was as rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury ever day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“‘The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”
“‘“But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received our good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”
“‘“He answered, “Then I beg you Father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.”
“‘“Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them”
“‘“No, Father Abraham,” he said, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”
“”He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.”’”
The wonderful thing about stories is that they can show so much truth as it plays out in the dynamics of real life. Jesus could have told the Pharisees that they weren’t compassionate enough, that they loved money too much, or that they were ruining their chances to be with God for all eternity. He could have said that their ways of greed and hard-heartedness towards the poor was destroying them, and that God would not allow them to force their way into the Kingdom by obeying their own notions about the Law. They allowed all sorts of things that violated the heart of God, yet put oppressive burdens on the people about Laws that were not important to God at all. And what was worse, they were rejecting the Giver of the Law.
Jesus was God…He was there when Moses received the Law, but now as He was among them, they were rejecting what He said about it. Yet they thought they could have all of its blessings. This story highlighted all of those truths in a way that Jesus never once said directly to the Pharisees.