Saturday, June 23, 2012

Is that Your Final Answer?

Reading: Luke 15–16  
It is easy to recognize the connection between the parables of Luke 15. They might be easily summarized as the parables on the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Three things that were lost and found. Each refers to the joy that heaven has over the repentance of lost sinners (see Luke 15:7, 10, 23,24, 32). Something I had not recognized prior to my reading this morning is a significant connection between the parable of the prodigal son and the parable of the dishonest steward which immediately follows it in Luke 16:1-13. 
This connection is first evidenced by the description of what was done wrong:
"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered (dieskorpisen) his wealth in wild living. (Luke 15:13)
But when this son of yours who has squandered (devoured: kataphagon) your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' (Luke 15:30)
Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting (squandering: diaskorpidzo) his possessions. (Luke 16:1)
The prodigal son squandered his wealth in wild living, later described as devouring this wealth on prostitutes. The dishonest steward squandered the possessions of his master.
Secondly, this connection is evident in their acknowledgment of their wrong. In each case they ask what might be described as a “What shall I do now?” kind of question. In the case of the prodigal son, those words aren't explicit, but implicit (Luke 15:17-19). They are explicit in the case of the dishonest manager (Luke 16:3-4). Each of them recognized their guilt and the desperation of their precarious state. In recognizing this, they gave up figuring things out on their own, and put their fate in the hands of others—the prodigal son put his in the hands of the father; the dishonest steward into the hands of the debtors. This is a “What shall we do?” kind of question.
Luke records many “what shall we do?” kinds of questions. Recall the response of the people to Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:37. What we must do in light of Christ's coming? light of our sin? light of eternity? These “what shall I do?” kinds of questions are a theme throughout Luke's 2 volume writing (Luke 3:10-14; 10:25-26; 12:17; 18:18; Acts 2:37-38; 9:6; 16:30). This is a question that each of us must ask when we realize our own guilt before the holy God and the desperation of our precarious state. We have squandered what God has given us; we have wasted what we were given; we are without an eternal home, we have no ability to provide one for ourselves. We must humble ourselves before the Lord and ask, “What shall I now do?”
In another place, Luke records the wrong way to answer that question (Luke 12:16-21). There the Lord had blessed a man with abundant possessions and he asked himself the question, “What shall I do?” His answer?
18'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'
This sounds like an advertisement for a financial management company. Keep in mind, it wasn't that this man had barns for storage, it was that his need, instead of his generosity, increased dramatically with the Lord's blessing. When the Lord adds to you, which of those increases most: your need or your generosity?
Some of us may think the next verse should read, “And the Lord said, 'Is that your final answer?' So the man rethought his answer....” However, the next verse reads,
20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'  21"This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God."
The parable serves those of us who read it as God's question for us, “Is that your final answer?” Like the man in this parable, and the dishonest steward, we have been fools, and have wasted what has been entrusted to us. What must I now do? We must throw ourselves on the mercy of God (Acts 2:38), we must put our fate in His hands, we must become rich toward God (Luke 12:21), and that richness toward God will be expressed in a richness to those who are in need (Luke 16:4) just as God has been rich toward us in our need. Freely we have received; freely we give.
This isn't only about money. We have been entrusted with the grace of God in the Gospel, we have been given forgiveness of our sins. How are we doing in giving away forgiveness? God has been rich toward us; are we lavishing forgiveness and forbearance on others? Or do we make them pay even though they've repented? There are so many ways in which God has entrusted to us His wealth; are we being faithful with what we've been given? When we want to hold someone's sin against them, though they've repented, we ought to hear the question, “Is that your final answer?”  What shall I now do?
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,