Jesus told a story about a rich man who gave his servants large sums of money and went away.
Two of them trusted their master and desired to please him. They worked hard and wisely and eventually doubled the money they had been given.
The other servant despised and feared the master. He buried his treasure in a safe place and gave it back when the master returned.
How the master responded to each of his servants is intended to give us a preview of how Jesus will judge our efforts. For some of his listeners it was a warning. For others it was a word of encouragement and hope.
Jesus told a very odd parable about people who tended a vineyard for a portion of the fruit, but wanted to keep it all for themselves. Everyone in the parable behaves oddly, but it is easy to understand once you realize Jesus is using the parable to highlight the lengths to which the leaders of Israel are willing to go to keep their power. He also warns of the futility and consequences of their actions.
But why was such a parable written down for later generations? How can understanding it benefit us?
First, it underscores the concreteness of our faith, which is grounded in history, not fairy tales.
Second, we are warned not to ignore our duty to God or think that we can despise him.
Third, the plan and patience of God are evident and that plan involves us.
Jesus told a story in which he said that God was like a man who paid everyone the same no matter how long or hard they had worked. Some of the workers thought it wasn’t fair, but the man had other concerns he considered more important. So how is God like such a man and what does that mean for us? Listen and find out.
For Lazarus the great reversal was a great blessing; for the rich man who had ignored him it was the greatest of catastrophes. Are you looking forward to the day when everything changes or are you blocking out the warnings? Will this sermon make you uncomfortable or give you hope and encouragement?
You can read the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus here.
This parable is a tough one because the rich guy, who in many parables represents God, praises a dishonest farm manager. (Read the story here.) What are we to do with this? I will start with what we know about God and the proper use of wealth and then show how the parable illustrates the wisdom of generosity. Oh, and that bit about praising a dishonest man? Wait until you hear what I do with that!