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A Good Lesson from a Bad Example

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
May 30, 2024 4:00 am

A Good Lesson from a Bad Example

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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May 30, 2024 4:00 am

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Grace To You
John MacArthur
Grace To You
John MacArthur

This is just the way the world works. Everybody's relatively corrupt. They're all part of how the system works.

You secure your future any way you can. And the people who are part of the system even are prone to commend the shrewdness and conniving of a clever person. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. The parables of the good Samaritan, the rich fool, the great banquet. Jesus frequently used stories like those to expose self-righteousness and to shatter the false hope of religious leaders. And mainly what you learn from those stories are the bad examples, the kind you should not follow. But in today's lesson on Grace to You, John MacArthur looks at a parable where Christ actually seems to praise a greedy, dishonest, unrighteous man. What lesson would Jesus want you to learn from that example?

Find out now. Turn to Luke 16 and follow along as John considers the parable of the unrighteous steward, part of his series titled Stories with Purpose. Let me encourage you to come to Luke 16. There are about 40 parables that our Lord gave, and nobody else in the New Testament gave any parable, so all the parables were given by our Lord. And as we know, they were designed to hide the truth from unbelievers, but to reveal it to believers, those who have ears to hear. Parables were, in a sense, a judgment, a confirmation of rejection. At the same time, they were light to those who had the ears to hear. We find that this particular parable is designed to help believers, as they all are. At the end of the day, they are only going to help believers because only believers really understand them. But this, in particular, is designed to speak to the sons of light.

That would be all of those who are part of the kingdom of God. It is a parable that has to do with money, and that's not odd because about one out of three parables will have something to do with money, and that's just the way life is. Somebody said, if you live 80 years, you'll spend 50 of those 80 years thinking about money, one way or another. Our Lord gets it. He understands that life in the world is dependent upon a form of exchange, and we live and breathe and move with those exchanges. So here is a story about money. It's a really shocking story because the characters in this story are, to one degree or another, relatively bad.

One of them is very bad. The rest are complicit with his evil, and even the guy who is supposed to be the hero in the story is really flawed because he commends this bad man and the people who were complicit in the badness. All of this, strangely, becomes an illustration of how we should live, we as believers, God's people. So let's get the story in mind, starting in verse 1, Luke 16. He was also saying to the disciples, hey, now I want you to know, this is for us. This is for us as it was for his disciples.

That is not to say that there weren't others listening. Down in verse 14, the Pharisees who were lovers of money were listening to all these things, and of course, they were scoffing at them. This is what we would expect from the people who didn't understand this parable and who, in many ways, were defined by this parable because they were lovers of money.

So they're in the crowd listening, but the direction of this parable, as always, is to hide the truth from them because of their resolute unbelief and to give the lesson to his disciples and to us. There was a rich man who had a manager, a steward, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions, and he called him and said to him, what is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager. The manager said to himself, what shall I do? Since my master is taking the management away from me, I'm not strong enough to dig. I am ashamed to beg.

I know what I shall do so that when I am removed from the management, people will welcome me into their homes. And he summoned each one of his master's debtors and he began saying to the first, this is a process he goes through, how much do you owe my master? And he said, 100 measures of oil. And he said to him, take your bill and sit down quickly and write 50. Then he said to another, how much do you owe? And he said, 100 measures of wheat.

He said to him, take your bill and write 80. And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.

That's the story. A really strange thing in one sense to tell a story where everybody is sort of relatively corrupted, but that is exactly the point that our Lord is making. Jesus taught from sort of normal routine aspects of life. And once in a while he turned life upside down and said things that might've seemed strange.

This is one of those. He also talked about an unjust judge as well as an unscrupulous steward. So there were times when he used evil people to make his point. Keep in mind, there's nothing in this parable that's secret or hidden or allegorical or mystical. It's a simple story. But what bothers some people is Jesus commends the bad guy.

Listen to his closing. His master praised the unrighteous manager because he acted shrewdly. And then in verse 9, Jesus says, and I say, make friends for yourselves by the means of the wealth of unrighteousness.

Wow. Do what he did? It is a problem for some people to have Jesus saying, follow the behavior of a wasteful, profligate, prodigal, deceitful, thieving, selfish, conniving, unprincipled person. And by the way, this is placed here right after the story of the prodigal son because this is a prodigal manager. Prodigal means wasteful. The son wasted everything and didn't provide for his future. Here's a man who wasted the assets that he had control of, but did provide for his futures.

Maybe that's the link. The ending is a shock, a surprise ending, and becomes the point of the story. And we'll get to that in a minute, but let's go back and kind of track a little bit with the story so you understand how they would have heard it when our Lord gave it. There was a certain rich man. Let me just say he was very rich because he is distant from this whole operation.

He's distant. We know he's a significant man because people owe him massive amounts of money. They are in debt to him on a very large scale, and there are many debtors.

You only have two illustrations here, but the verb in verse 5 means there was a process going on, and essentially you have a couple of illustrations of what was probably to be imagined as a much more extensive list of debtors. So this is a very rich man, a very rich man. What he has done is he's had to hire a manager and put him in charge of all of the assets of this entire operation because he's not there.

We know that because he had to be called, a report had to be given to him, and he had to reconnect with the circumstances. This was pretty common in ancient times where people who were very wealthy had a lot of operations going on, a lot of agricultural operations going on, businesses going on, and they hired managers. The term manager, oikonomos from the Greek, which means law and house, he had the law of the house. He was the one delegated the authority to act for the owner. He managed the land. He managed the crops. He managed the assets. He managed the debts.

He managed internally the dispersing of the resources and the food and whatever was necessary for the servants and all the people who made up the core who operated this particular enterprise. Well, this manager has been wasting his owner's substance, his possessions. The end of verse 1, it was reported to the owner that the manager was squandering his possessions. Squandering is the same word used to describe the prodigal back in chapter 15, verse 13. He was dispersing.

He was scattering, wasteful like the prodigal. This is not necessarily embezzlement. This is not necessarily some kind of shrewd scheme to embezzle. This is just an irresponsible, incompetent person at this point in the story. The rich man acts immediately, verse 2, he called him and said to him, what is this I hear about you?

What is this I hear about you? Well, what had he actually heard? Well, he'd heard some pretty severe things because the verb reported in the last verse, verse 1, the previous verse, is the verb diabolo from which we get the word diabolical. So the report was not a benign report. It was a report that involved a serious and legitimate slander against the man. By the way, diabolos is a biblical name for Satan, who is the slanderer. Slanderer was legitimate because the man had done what he had done. So he gets a very extreme report of the diabolical nature of this man's function in the position of manager. So he calls him, says, what is this I hear about you?

And then he does a foolish thing, this character that Jesus invents because it suits him, suits the story. Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager. Unlike any smart businessman, he says essentially go back and get an accounting of what you've done. I want you to go back and I want you to account for what you've done. The steward doesn't defend himself, clean out your desk in a sense, but you've got two weeks notice.

We'll put it that way. You know, you go back, you're not going to save your job. That's not possible. He knows that's not possible, but the rich man wants an accurate record of his irresponsibility.

He wants to know exactly what he's done. That is a bad policy. That is a bad policy. If you have to fire someone, get rid of them that day.

Let somebody else figure out the mess. Because if you put them back in, they're going to go back in with vengeance and they're going to go back in with a target goal objective of personal gain, exactly what he did. He's losing his job. He's losing his home because they lived in those ancient times on the estate where they served. He's losing his income and he's losing his reputation because now everybody's going to know that he was incompetent. He is a mismanaging, irresponsible, incompetent, wasteful, prodigal manager. So in verse 3, he says to himself, a little soliloquy here, what shall I do? By the way, Luke loves that question.

He uses it three times, twice further in the book and once in the book of Acts. What shall I do? What shall I do so that when I am removed from the management, when it actually happens and I'm terminated, people will welcome me into their homes? I've got to find a way to go somewhere else. I've got to have a place to live. I've got to have an income. I've got to have a future.

What am I going to do to secure my future when my master takes away my stewardship, my management? Then he says, I'm not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. This is a proud white-collar worker. He's not interested in picking up a shovel. He doesn't want any manual labor. Hard work is not his thing.

He doesn't want even to step into the low status of a hard worker, let alone the low status of a beggar. Not going to do that. So what am I going to do? I'm sort of trapped. Then he has a eureka moment as Jesus invents the story.

I know what I shall do so that when I am removed from the management, people will welcome me into their homes. That's exactly what he has to have. He has to have a future. He has to have a future that is beneficial. He has to have a future that is comfortable.

He has to have a future that supplies all that he needs. I know what I will do. This is his eureka moment.

This is his bright idea. I need to be welcomed by some people into their homes. Who are those people going to be when the whole community knows that I've been thrown out for my mismanagement?

Ah, I know who it will be. It will be the people that I've been working with who owe my master debts. I need a place to live. I need food. I need a future career. I need status. I need to be where I am now.

I need to be in important places and in the homes of important people. So I have a plan. I'm going to contact all the people who owe my master debts, and I'm going to go through them all one by one by one by one by one, and I'm going to discount all their debts.

Pretty shrewd. I'm going to discount all their debts so that they will be obligated to me, right? Now, if he only did this for one guy, there wouldn't be any peer pressure on the one guy to reciprocate.

But if he does it for everybody in an honor society where everybody's concerned about his honor, they're all going to put peer pressure on everybody else, and he's not only going to have one home to go to, he's going to have a whole lot of homes to go to because they will want to maintain their honor. So, verse 5, he summoned each one of his master's debtors, each one, and he began a process, and there's a couple of illustrations of it, what it would have been. The first one he says, "'How much do you owe my master?' And he said, "'A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, "'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write 50.'" Wow, 50% discount.

That's pretty good. He owes a hundred measures of oil. This could be 900 to 1,000 gallons of oil. This would be worth three years' wages in money, and this would be the product of at least 150 olive trees. This is big debt, significant amount of debt, and I'll just whack it in half.

And oh, by the way, could you please sit down quickly? Thieves always in a hurry, you notice. Con men always in a hurry, sign here, sign here, sign here, sign here. The discount is huge.

The deal is struck. No questions are asked about whether this is the wish of the owner. The guy who's getting the 50% discount doesn't want to ask that question.

Why? Because he doesn't want the answer to that question. He wants to sign and get out quickly because this is a deal he never could have hoped for. Another illustration in verse 7, "'How much do you owe?' And he said, "'A hundred measures of wheat.' And he said to him, "'Take your bill and write 80.'" That would be some estimate about a thousand bushels of wheat, taking a hundred acres to produce, and maybe eight to ten years of labor. Huge amount. He discounts it 20%.

The man can't sign quickly enough either. Look, debts were discounted in the ancient world like they're discounted today. If there's a famine, if there's an economic downturn, that's part of life. But none of those are elements of this. There are no external circumstances. This has nothing to do with a depressed economy.

This has nothing to do with the limits of food. This has nothing to do with somehow disasters happening in the debtor's lives where they're unable to pay and some compassionate person is lessening the debt in order to serve them. This is purely a shrewd way to embezzle his master in such a way that secures the obligation of all these people to this manager so that he can go back to them and say, "'You remember what I did for you? You need to give me a room.

You need to give me a job and a place. And if you don't, I'm going to tell the rest of the people for whom I did the same that you're a dishonorable man.'" Now everybody in this thing is twisted just a little bit. You say, well, it's not a lot.

No, because this is how people in the world are. This is how it works. This is exactly how it works. He literally secures his future in this way. And so in verse 8, his master and here, I told you, Jesus sticks a shock element in his parables very frequently. Here's the shock. His master praised the unrighteous manager.

Whoa! What is he praising him about? He's not praising him about his incompetence, his prodigality. He's not praising him about his embezzlement and deception of the owner. He's praising him because he acted shrewdly.

His owner praised him because he acted shrewdly. Now here again, I say, this is just the way the world works. Everybody's relatively corrupt. They're all part of how the system works. This is how life is.

You secure your future any way you can. And the people who are part of the system even are prone to commend the shrewdness and conniving of a clever person. Well, Jesus comment on this pretty amazing. Verse 8, the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. What? Jesus is commending the guy? This is what has troubled some people.

Why? Well we would understand the owner commending the manager. He's applauding his shrewdness. We get that. But why is Jesus commending this? He acted shrewdly.

Let's just make sure we get that. Phronimos is the word that means providently, considerably. It was a well-devised scheme. He took careful advantage of an opportunity. He worked the situation to secure his future benefit, his future comfort. By reducing the debts, he indebted everybody to him. He had done them immense good.

I mean immense good. They are now obligated for his great generosity. There are many of them who are obligated. They're all concerned about their own honor. They're all concerned about reciprocation for somebody who does good to them because it's part of the social requirement in the culture. The point is direct.

Here it is. Sinful people act to secure their own future benefit in very clever and ingenious ways. They use the resources they have with shrewdness, whether honest or dishonest, to secure the best future they can secure. This is how the sons of this age operate. That's what Jesus says. He made the most of his opportunity.

Pretty impressive plan, pretty well-designed. The sons of this age, who are they? Sinners this age. They're not in God's kingdom.

These are unbelievers. That's how the passing world works, doesn't it? Every imaginable, clever scheme to make money, to secure your future and the future of the people that you care about is concocted, devised, and entertained. Whether it's honest or dishonest, it's rarely a question of whether it's honest or dishonest.

It's mostly a question of kind of get away with it. Every scheme to secure the future. Investments of all kinds, strategies of all kinds to secure the future, schemes of all kinds.

Every kind of ingenuity is used and applied every imaginable and unimaginable kind of device to guarantee future wealth. It's going on all the time. This is how the world operates. This is how it operates. There are people at the top of the legitimate banks and the legitimate enterprises of the world who are corrupt and using every device that they can use to get what they want to get. There are crooks who create their Ponzi schemes and use every device, and there are people who don't ask very many questions, but when they're told something is going to be lucrative, they can't sign fast enough and they get sucked into the schemes because everybody in this world is trying to take what they've got and multiply it to secure their future.

It's just how it works. And they're good at it. They're shrewd at it.

The governments of the world have to have all kinds of agencies and all kinds of people going through books and all kinds of auditors and all kinds of operators and all kinds of agencies both public and secret to sneak around and find out all the schemes that are going on as people work to secure their future. Jesus says they're more shrewd than the sons of light. What can that possibly mean? Sons of light, believers. They're called sons of light in John 12, 36, Ephesians 5, 8, 1 Thessalonians 5, 5. We're sons of light. We're not in the darkness.

We're in the light. This generation, the people of the sons of this generation, the sons of this age, non-believers. In fact, in Luke 9, 41, it's called this perverted generation. In Luke 11, it's called this wicked generation. So this perverted wicked generation, the unbelieving world, operates with these kinds of machinations, honest or dishonest, whatever it takes to secure the future.

They're more shrewd than we are, sons of light. What could Jesus possibly mean by that? Verse 9, I say to you, and here He interprets this for the disciples and us, an interpretation by the way that the Pharisees completely missed, of course, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. That's John MacArthur with some vital truth from the parable of the unrighteous steward. Today's message is part of John's series titled Stories with Purpose.

Along with teaching on this daily radio broadcast, John is also Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. John, it's clear that Jesus told a lot of parables, using them effectively and memorably to communicate divine truth. But does that mean he saw greater value in parables than in other teaching methods?

Well, that idea is a very popular misconception. You hear people say to young preachers, you need to preach in story form, because that's what Jesus did. What they fail to understand is that Jesus told parables, and here's the key point, as a judgment. In other words, Jesus was making things clear to the inner circle of his disciples, but he was literally obscuring truth from the rest of the masses. No one could tell a story like Jesus, and no one could come up with a more profound parable than he himself.

He is the creator, and he could create some amazing stories. But as simple as they are on the surface, they are actually riddles to people who don't have spiritual understanding. They're not just morality tales. They're not just lessons about honesty, generosity, kindness, social justice.

They're primarily about salvation, eternal life, and the kingdom of God. And that's why I'm so excited to remind you about the book, Parables. I'd love to get a copy of it in your hand, because I think you would be thrilled to know what Jesus really is teaching in the familiar parables that you know as a story, but maybe don't fully understand. Now keep in mind that right now, nearly every item we sell, including the Parables book, as well as the MacArthur Study Bible, is available at 25% off the regular price. The sale ends tomorrow, May 31st, so get your order in right away and take advantage of those reduced prices.

Yes, you do. And thank you, John. Friend, if you're confused by the parables, if it seems you're trying to solve a riddle when you read them, John's book can help, and because it focuses so clearly on the realities of salvation, Parables makes an ideal gift for someone you've been evangelizing or discipling. Take advantage of our limited time discount when you contact us today. You can call us here at 800-55-GRACE or go to our website, Again, during the sale, John's book titled Parables is available at 25% off the normal price, and shipping is free.

To order, call 800-55-GRACE or shop online at And remember, it's not just the Parables book, but practically all of our resources are on sale for 25% off the regular price. You can get our flagship resource, the MacArthur Study Bible, as well as classic books like The Gospel According to Jesus and Anxious for Nothing, all of them at special limited time pricing. To take advantage of this sale, maybe to stock up on some Bible study tools for yourself, or a few to give to loved ones, call our customer service line at 800-55-GRACE or visit our website, Now, for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Be back tomorrow as John looks at what Jesus wants you to learn from the example of an ungodly, worldly businessman. John will continue his compelling study of the parables of Jesus with another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-30 05:34:17 / 2024-05-30 05:44:34 / 10

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