Parables of Jesus

Introduction

This study aims to help the reader understand most of Jesus’s parables recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Although we strive to cover what Scripture provides, there are many parables that Jesus told that we do not have in Scripture, as the passage below confirms.

Note

Some of the parables within the synoptic gospels are absent from this study because I am still examining them.

Matthew 13:34-35 (ESV)

34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

So we have it from the Bible itself that there are far more parables that Jesus told than what we have contained in the Word. But what we have written in Scripture, we have for a reason. All the teachings believers need to know are found in the Word of God so that it is not a case that we are missing any crucial information.

As for interpreting the parables, my approach is less technical and consists of teaching and focusing on the main message that Jesus intended us to learn. Understanding the parables are crucial to grasping the teachings of Jesus because they appear throughout the first three books of the New Testament, the gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Our Lord intended us to learn so many important things about them, and many contain eschatological teachings. One cannot read the first three books of the New Testament and comprehend them when they do not understand the parables contained therein. Therefore, I hope that those who read this examination find these brief interpretations helpful.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB)

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.

1. The Wise and Foolish Virgins - Matthew 25:1-13

Matthew 25:1-13 (NASB 1995)

Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

Jesus spoke this parable on readiness for His return on the Mount of Olives as part of the Olivet discourse. The wise virgins represent truly committed believers who “stored” up enough truth in their hearts to get them through the dark days of the tribulation, represented by the nighttime in our parable. “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). The foolish virgins represent apostate believers who did not adequately prepare for those dark days because they were spiritually lazy and complacent before and during that most horrible period. They did not have enough faith to get them through the trials and tests of the tribulation, and thus they fall away and are refused entrance into the millennial kingdom. The oil represents God’s Word, while the light of the virgin’s lamps represents the believer’s faith. The bridegroom represents the Father and the wedding feast, the millennium or wedding supper of the lamb. The shout at midnight refers to the second advent of our Lord when He comes to receive His own and destroy Antichrist and his armies (Revelation 16:12-16).

Faith in Jesus Christ, who He is, and what He has done are all part of God’s revelation found in His Word. The Bible contains all the truth we need and must have to build up our faith to last us in those terrible days ahead. Only those who endure to the end in faith without taking the mark of the beast will enter the millennial and eternal kingdom. But for those who fall away, no such entrance will be granted. For this reason, our Lord then says in our passage, “ Truly I do not know you,” and that is because they no longer belong to Him because of their lack of faith.

Matthew 24:9-13 (ESV)

9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

During the tribulation, one-third of believers will fall away from the faith. The other third will endure having their lives end in martyrdom, while the final third will not only hold fast to Christ but will physically live on to survive the entire seven-year period of the tribulation to witness the Lord’s return at the battle of Armageddon. The wise virgins represent those faithful believers who live to see the Lord’s return and the foolish those who fall away. The passage below in Revelation speaks of this one-third of apostates.

Revelation 12:1-4 (ESV)

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.

We see the above prophesied in Daniel as well. Both passages have a dual application. The stars refer both to the one-third of the angelic kind that was led into rebellion against God by Satan and to believers whom Satan will deceive into rebellion against God during the tribulation.

Daniel 8:8-10 (ESV)

8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. 9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host (angels) and some of the stars (believers) it threw down to the ground and trampled on them.

The final phrase in our parable, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour,” has the same message as Luke 12:35-48. Believers must be ready for Christ’s return by diligently going about their business of growing spiritually and doing what the Lord would have them do. Unbelievers need to prepare by believing in Christ and then growing spiritually from there on out. Spiritual growth is the only way to negotiate this world safely. It is the only way we can be confident we will have the strength to bear up under the difficulties that come our way in the future.

2. The Wedding Banquet - Matthew 22:1-14

Matthew 22:1-14 (NASB 1995)

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 4 Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw 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.”

Jesus spoke this parable in response to the unbelief and opposition of the Pharisees and chief priests (see chapter twenty-one). They thought they had salvation because of their ancestry as descendants of Abraham. However, both John the baptist and Jesus called them out on this to show them they would miss out and suffer destruction if they continued in their destructive course.

Matthew 3:7-10 (NASB 1995)

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 8:11-12 (NASB 1995)

11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The King in the parable above represents the Father, and the son, Jesus Christ. The Son came to earth to seek and save the lost (particularly the Jewish people during His three-year ministry—though Christ died for all). The lost represent those called or invited to the wedding feast (unbelievers called to salvation), which symbolizes the millennial kingdom and the great feast that occurs during that period after Christ’s second advent.

Jesus ministered to His people and called them to repentance for their salvation. But most refused this gracious offer of eternal life. They rejected the Messiah crucifying Him in the end, just as how most in our parable declined the invitation for the wedding dinner. However, this parable can also apply to all unbelievers of all time. Those who never believed in Christ (through ALL of human history) will all suffer the same fate.

The slaves symbolize the witnessing believers, particularly the prophets, who were mercilessly killed by those who opposed them because of their message about Christ. In Jesus’ day, this would refer not only to those most hostile to His ministry but especially to the Scribes, Pharisees, and chief priests who had twisted and misinterpreted not only the Law but Christ and His mission as well. Thus, many messengers and slaves of Christ would suffer death because of their faith and for preaching the truth. Most of the apostles would suffer a similar fate as the prophets before them. They, too, would face significant opposition from their people, the Jews, as well as the Romans, John 21:15-23.

All those who oppose and mistreat God’s servants will be destroyed at His second coming, only to face the lake of fire after the end of Christ’s thousand-year reign. We see this fact demonstrated by the master who sends his army to destroy those disobedient men and set their cities on fire. This parable spoken by Jesus may also refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. We know from the context that this passage most certainly refers to “the day of the Lord,” the second and final return of Christ. Therefore, it has a twin application, referring to the destruction of Jesus’s contemporaries and to those who reject Christ at and after His second advent return. Those who initially refused the king’s invitation to the wedding banquet represent the unbeliever’s of Jesus’s time and the ones thrown out after the second invitation symbolize unbelievers during the Millennium.

Regarding the first application of this parable, since most of God’s chosen people, the Jews, rejected Christ as the Son of God, many of Christ’s servants began to give the “invitation” of the gospel to the gentiles and “lower-ranking” Jews (“gathered together,” συνήγαγον means giving the gospel to all people on earth) Matthew 22:10. The reason is that they were more open to the gospel message than the highest in Israel at that time. As a result, many lower-class Jews and Gentiles came to Christ.

In our parable in Matthew, we then have in verse ten the phrase, “Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both good and bad.” This refers to believers (the good) and unbelievers (the bad). Unbelievers will be present during Christ’s Millennial reign (wheat growing up among the tares Matthew 13:24-43) but will receive their due judgment after the thousand years are over.

As for the man lacking proper wedding attire, this person represents an unbeliever who refuses to accept Christ (during His thousand-year reign on earth) and insults the king (Christ) by refusing to come to God the only way possible; by faith through grace alone. Instead, this person who went to the wedding feast dressed in his own attire is an unbeliever who tried to approach God through his works (his way). Therefore, such an individual has refused the gospel and is not a believer who should belong in the kingdom, let alone the Lamb’s wedding supper. For this reason, the king has him thrown out. Jesus, undoubtedly, also had Israel’s religious leaders in mind when He spoke these words because they (the Pharisees in particular) were attempting to come to God their own way by trying to do good works to get to heaven.

The phrase, “many are called, but few are chosen,” means that although God calls/desires everyone to repentance (He died for everyone after all), most have and will reject the invitation.

3. The Two Sons - Matthew 21:28-31

Matthew 21:28-31 (NASB 1995)

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he 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 that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get 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 prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.

In this context, Jesus directed this parable primarily at the religious officials who talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk. As those in leadership, it was their job to care for those they served properly; Israel represents the vineyard. They said yes to God but did not do His will, whereas many of the despised people in society eventually would come to Christ in great numbers once and after Jesus came on the scene (Mark 2:13-17). They would come in faith (a righteousness that is through faith Philippians 3:8-9; John the Baptist in the way of righteousness) as opposed to the self-righteous and religiously educated of that day, Luke 18:9-14.

However, this parable can apply to all people of every age because faith without works is dead. This case is what we have here in the context of our passage with the religious elite. They proved by their lack of good fruit that they did not have saving faith and thus were not doing God’s will because they were trying to do so in their strength according to their ways and traditions.

Matthew 15:1-9 (ESV)

8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

Just like the son who gave lip service but no service at all, the Scribes and Pharisees did the same by talking of righteous living but not practicing what they preached. And much of what they did do was wrong and legalistic.

As the parable of the man without proper wedding attire (parable of the wedding) shows, we cannot come to God our way. Only faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (the Way) is sufficient to save anyone. Religion is man’s attempt of trying to earn a spot in the kingdom. But only God can save, and what an insult it is to blaspheme the work of Christ by deeming it insufficient by one’s own works! That is what the Scribes, Pharisees, chief priests and other religious people were doing; they weren’t doing God’s will despite claims to the contrary. They had no actions to back up their words and thus confirmation of a changed and regenerated life. And even after seeing so many of the most frowned upon people in society come to Christ, it never occurred to them that someone special had arrived on the scene; and that someone was John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ sent to prepare the way for Him.

Doing God’s will means playing by God’s rules, not our own. There is only one way to heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ. And after we get saved, we are left here on this earth to grow, progress, and produce. That is what it means to do the Lord’s will!

4.The Wicked Vinedressers - Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19

Matthew 21:33-46 (NASB 1995)

33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” 41 They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 46 When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.

The landowner in the parable of the vineyards is God; the vineyard is Israel, the vine-growers the religious Jews in leadership, the slaves God’s prophets and witnesses to the truth, and the Son Jesus Christ.

Most of Israel, especially the Scribes, chief priests, and Pharisees, had killed/persecuted many of God’s servants (the prophets) sent to testify the truth. Right before this parable we have the parable of the two sons in verses twenty-eight to thirty-two. The religious elite were not doing their job by caring for Israel but were instead hindering their fellow countrymen from entering the kingdom (Matthew 23:13-14). Now they were attacking Jesus in whatever ways they could. In addition to persecuting those also testifying of Jesus, that was clear enough proof that the religious crowd of Jesus’ day was not righteous as they thought they were. They adorned themselves with splendid clothing and spoke words and lengthy prayers to put on a display of righteousness. However, deep down inside, they were unrighteous, unregenerate unbelievers filled with nothing but “dead man’s bones.” These same men who killed and persecuted the prophets would also kill God’s One and only Son. And so, for their rejection of and slaughter of Christ, these same men will suffer eternal separation from God after judgment at the great white throne.

The people (all of whom accept Jesus as the Messiah) whom the landowner rents out to in place of those who rejected him refers to other Jews, Gentiles and their leaders (all of which comprise the church). The “proceeds” mentioned in our present context symbolize spiritual fruits produced by the believer through Christ’s strength. However, the parable of the withered fig tree once again demonstrates that most of Israel lacked production because of their rejection of Christ. But a small handful of Jews and Gentiles who did accept their Lord and Savior would produce the fruit of righteousness through the faith they possessed so as to reap a bountiful crop in eternity. The religious crowd (and sadly most Jews), on the other hand, were more hostile to Jesus and the message He had presented and considered Jesus’ claim of divinity to be absolute blasphemy. For this reason, they came to hate Him all the more, even convincing many of these same people who once admired Him to turn on Him and have Him crucified. So, in the end, most of Israel’s leaders never took John’s advice to repent and produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

Matthew 3:7-10 (NASB 1995)

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Regarding Christ as the cornerstone (Psalm 118:22-23), this speaks of Him as the absolute foundation and authority of the church, but not just for the 2,000 years of church history as we know it. The church began with Adam and will end with the last believer to draw breath before the present earth and universe pass away. Christ is the authority, foundation, and object of faith and worship of all believers who have and will ever live. And all who have believed in Him are expected to bring forth fruit like the master expected his tenants to care for his vineyard so that it would produce a sizable crop. But because the so-called “leaders” of Israel were not doing their job properly (most of them were not believers), their authority and leadership positions would be taken from them. These leadership positions would be handed over to others from the church, which was about to begin not too long after Christ’s death on the cross. Most Israelites rejected Christ because they wanted a conquering king but instead got a suffering servant. It was for this reason why they stumbled over Him through this same rejection.

5. The Laborers in the Vineyard - Matthew 20:1-16

Matthew 20:1-16 (NASB 1995)

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ 9 When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 10 When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last.”

This parable has a dual application because it links directly with Matthew 19:30 before it, in which Jesus ends with “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Although the vineyard in this parable represents Israel (believing Jews who produced spiritual fruit in their own land), this teaching also applies to all believers of all time.

In Matthew chapter nineteen (the chapter right before the one we examine here), that section finishes with Jesus telling His disciples how to handle wealth and how riches can swamp men’s hearts. According to the world’s standards, many prominent, rich, and powerful unbelievers who display righteousness through good works are the most likely candidates for eternal life. In other words, these are people trying to work their way to heaven. Jesus reverses this assumption by telling His disciples that riches make it more difficult for people to enter God’s kingdom. That in no way teaches that wealthy people can’t get saved but that people who have more in this world have greater distraction and difficulty (Matthew 19:23-26). During Christ’s day, most converts were poor in the lower class. That is why Jesus finishes chapter nineteen with “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Despite the false perceptions of the unbelieving world, those deemed less worthy of God’s kingdom (the poor and frowned on in society) will enter it ahead of those who are unworthy because of unbelief (Matthew 21:28-32). No one deserves eternal life, but Christ’s death on the cross made possible what was impossible for man to accomplish Himself. Those who accept God’s gift of salvation will inherit eternal life. But those who refuse this offer can only expect condemnation.

In this parable in our context, the landowner who gives each worker a denarius represents God providing salvation to all who accept it, meaning the workers in our parable represent believers. Each “worker” receives equal pay because no man deserves eternal life more than any other. Salvation is for everybody, and all can accept it. Since our Lord receives all men who come to Him (He never drives anyone away from Himself), we believers are to do the same.

1 John 2:2 (NIV)

2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 6:37-40 (NIV)

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

The workers who receive their money first are believers who receive their eternal rewards before everyone else, even though most would expect the men hired first (the other believers) to receive their wages ahead of the others.

Many believers deemed greatest in men’s eyes will not have accomplished as much as was thought. Not only will they not have produced as much as expected, but many who were assumed and seen to be less effective in the body of Christ will end up receiving not only a greater reward at the judgment seat but receiving it first as well. In the church’s eyes, these believers were last (behind those deemed more productive) but turned out to be first, having done more with their spiritual gifts in the ministries they were called to. Even though they were more “under the radar” regarding their service to Christ, God sees everything we do and why we do it. Those who grumbled against the landowner cannot possibly refer to the Scribes and Pharisees because they had not accepted the gospel at all and, therefore, were not producing anything for God because of their unbelieving status.

To continue, man has limited knowledge because God is the One who evaluates the quality and quantity of our work. Additionally, He also looks at our hearts, something that other people cannot see except our Lord Himself, who knows our thoughts, attitudes, and motivations involving why and what we do.

There is an important lesson we can learn from this: believers should not judge before the time. It is often easy for many within the church to assume those with better education, intellect, charisma, popularity, speaking abilities, and apparent ministry works will be the most rewarded in the kingdom. And not only people with so much of the above but believers with multiple spiritual gifts instead of just one. But what escapes the attention of so many Christians is the fact that God does not limit individuals by their circumstances and abilities. That kind of popularity contest discredits so many genuine servants of Christ who are making the most significant difference in the world today. Additionally, it discourages many from pursuing their spiritual gifts in the ministries the Lord calls them to, and God calls all believers to serve. Spiritual production and eternal reward have nothing to do with intellect, education, popularity, number of/or specific gifts, and abilities. Instead, as the example of the poor widow demonstrates, it all has to do with how well we serve with what we have.

Luke 21:1-4 (ESV)

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

1 Corinthians 4:5 (ESV)

5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

However, many whom the church views as worthy of greater reward will receive some of the highest rewards in the kingdom. So those who seemed unproductive may not have done much at all. On the other hand, those seen to have achieved a tremendous amount of spiritual work will have produced a lot and will be among the “first” and not the “last.” So our Lord is not teaching that man’s perception will be inaccurate in every case for sure. But human judgment is often incorrect, and that will prove true at the Bema. The point is that Christ is the ultimate judge and that we are not to play God and become judges unto ourselves. The Lord is the One who will evaluate the work of every believer, not man. Many will have misjudged the life and work of so many believers, and this will prove true when every one of us stands at the judgment seat only to be greatly shocked and surprised to see the results turn out differently than we expected.

6. The Widow and the Unjust Judge - Luke 18:1-8

Luke 18:1-8 (NASB 1995)

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2 saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. 3 There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 4 For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Jesus spoke this parable right after His teaching on the end times before Christ’s second advent return (Luke 17:20-37). Believing Jews (all Christians alive during that period) will need to have exceptional faith to endure through those terrible times and will need to continuously rely on God’s strength through persistent prayer. It would not have been beneficial for Jesus to have told His disciples that they wouldn’t see the dark days of the tribulation ahead because He had already encouraged them to be ready at all times because the Son’s return could happen at any time. So even though the twelve never got to see those days (they are still presently future), Jesus did not want to discourage His followers from constantly relying on Him at all times by telling them they would never have to go through the tribulation. Had He done this, they may have slacked off on their efforts. The point is that, tribulation or not, all believers need to be strong and of a good courage through consistent prayer and reliance on God.

The first sentence in bold above is the interpretation of this parable, but we will expound on it more below for further explanation. This parable teaches believers to keep on with their prayer life (and to hold fast to their faith) during testing and tribulation. The judge whom the widow persistently begged for justice was unjust in contrast to our Lord, who is fair and righteous. As a solitary woman, she stood little chance of receiving a fair hearing from those in court, much like believers will not receive proper treatment from the unbelieving world under the antichrist during the tribulation. Yet, despite his wicked discriminating, this unfair judge eventually gave in to the widow’s cries for justice, and what this means is that how can we not expect our Savior, who graciously gives to those in need, to provide for us? If a woman could persuade a wicked judge, then God, who is just and loving, will most certainly give us everything we need (Matthew 6:26-34), for He is more than happy to do so (unlike the stingy judge in our parable). He feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies, so will He not take care of us if we would but continue to rely on Him through faith?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Philippians 4:5-7 (ESV)

5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Although we are to pray in all circumstances at all times, Luke 17:20-37 (the context right before our present passage) shows us that Jesus is pointing more specifically to the dark days of the tribulation when believers will need to rely on Him more than ever before. And this is where endurance prayer comes in, for just because we have not received help or justice right away does not mean that God will not give it to us. Our Lord is the One who determines the time of when He will grant our requests and come to our aid. We must have the patient willingness to continue trusting in Him that He has heard our prayers. During the tribulation, only those who endure in their faith will spend eternity with God. But for those who shrink back, only eternal separation awaits (Hebrews 10:38). And for the reasons we have stated here (martyrdom of many faithful believers will also be a big reason), this is why our verse says, “When the son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth.” Jesus is encouraging all believers to have courage and not lose heart in the face of demanding tests, especially for those who must endure the tribulation. Times will be so difficult during those days that many believers will feel like giving up and giving in to the pressures around them. The persecution at the hands of unbelievers (resulting in many lost lives in the form of martyrdom) will be so intense that God’s servants will feel as if He has left and abandoned them.

Matthew 24:21-22 (ESV)

21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

For this reason, patient endurance is ever so needed. And prayerful reliance on God will be most required during this worst time of earth’s history. God will never leave or forsake His own but allows our faith to receive testing so that it can grow and stay strong enough to make it through life intact. Like the Thessalonians, the church alive now and during the tribulation must stand firm in the face of opposition. We will not receive fair treatment from the world, especially during the time of Jacob’s trouble! Justice will be all but non-existent during those dark days. Yet believers genuinely committed to Christ know that He will bring it to the earth when He returns to repay the wicked for all the sins they have committed. And after our Lord has slaughtered all of His enemies, He will rule the earth for a thousand years in perfect fairness. Since believers know this ahead of time, we should pray all the more now and during those strenuous times ahead, knowing that our prayers for spiritual strength and deliverance are not in vain.

1 John 5:14-15 (NASB)

14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Hebrews 12:3 (NASB)

3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Matthew 7:7 (NASB)

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Persistent prayer demonstrates faith in what God is and will continue to do. But we must never approach direct communication with our Savior in a demanding attitude of “Give me what I ask.” If it is the Lord’s will for this or that to occur, then we must humbly submit to His plan. If God wants us to suffer martyrdom, imprisonment (during the tribulation) or live on till His return, that is ultimately His decision (Revelation 13:10; Matthew 6:9-13; James 4:13-15).

7. The Master and his Servant - Luke 17:7-10

Luke 17:7-10 (NASB 1995)

7 “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? 9 He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

This parable teaches believers that they should keep their gifts and service to Christ in perspective as one way to avoid pride and increase one’s faith (see Luke 17:5-6). We can only grow spiritually by humbling ourselves to be exalted (**Matthew 23:12 **because we are unworthy of accolades from God. Not only is there nothing we can accomplish in our own strength apart from Him, but that which we have done in His eyes is what we were supposed to do, so nothing extraordinary on our part in the sense that we didn’t do it ourselves but in the power of the Spirit. We are not our own, but we are slaves of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 6:20-22). Doing right and abstaining from wrong is no accomplishment; it was what we were supposed not to do and nothing more.

For example, the Bible commands us to obey the law and submit to authority when it is biblical (it isn’t violating God’s commands in any way). You see a sign that tells you not to spit in that specific area. And so you don’t spit. Was what you just did an accomplishment? No, you just simply did what you were supposed to do by obeying the sign.

The same thing goes for using our spiritual gifts in the ministries the Lord has assigned us. Ministry is not just service to Christ; it is our duty! And we could never do our job without relying on God, who gets all the glory for all we do. Living for the Lord and not ourselves is what God expects from us! Believers must understand their dutiful relationship to Christ and how it should dictate their lives. We should not see ourselves as gods to deserve special treatment and glory from Him that we do not deserve. This arrogance only leads to pride and the believer going their way because they did not keep their status with God adequately aligned. God owes us nothing, but we owe Him everything! Yet, despite not deserving eternal life, Christ has done all the work of redemption for us by dying on the cross to pay for our sins. The price that should have been ours to pay (a debt we could never have paid off) has been paid in full by Jesus Christ. God needs nothing from us, but we need everything from Him! He is our Creator, our master. He was the potter who formed us, so what makes us think He even needs us and that He owes us something (Romans 9:14-24)?

Yes, the Lord is pleased with all the positive free will choices we make in life, but free will by itself is nothing without the grace of our Lord to empower it (2 Corinthians 12:10). Our job is to submit to Christ in faith and let Him do the rest. That is why our Master created us; to walk in the good works He has prepared for us beforehand (Ephesians 2:10).

8. The Prodigal Son - Luke 15:11-32

See passage link: Luke 15:11-32.

This parable is linked with those before it in Luke 14:15-24, 15:1-7 (the lost sheep) Luke 15:8-10 (the lost coin). There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents then over “ninety-nine who need no repentance.” The prodigal son represents all the sinners, tax collectors, and people with bad reputations flooding into the kingdom by coming to Christ (they came as unbelievers as those hated and frowned upon in society). However, the parable itself also applies to all believers who have backslidden in their walk with God but who have returned to Him (the other application of this parable). The father represents our heavenly Father. The older son—possibly the Scribes, Pharisees, and other religious people who were angry that Jesus was associating with and helping the worst of sinners in their day. At the same time, he may also have been used by Jesus to represent a bitter believer who refuses to accept a repentant brother back into the fold. The older sibling was a brother, after all. I believe this parable can refer to God’s willingness to forgive wandering believers who return and repent (restoring them to fellowship in the process), and also “newcomers” to the faith who come flooding into the kingdom (something that greatly upset the religious elite of our Lord’s time).

What probably upset Christs’ opponents the most was that He told them that sinners and tax collectors were getting into the kingdom while they were not (Matthew 21:28-34), which led to strife and self-denial on their part. Just as the older son thought he deserved higher honor, many of Israel’s religious leaders saw themselves as more worthy of eternal fellowship with God, represented by the great feast the father threw for his son. But because of their pride and misguided thinking, the Scribes and Pharisees were blinded to their own spiritually dead condition. They thought they were morally superior to others, yet they tried to approach God through self-righteous behavior. The younger son represents a true converted believer who comes to God in genuine faith/repentance (or returns after a long bout with sin). On the other hand, it is likely the older son is partly symbolic of Israel’s religious leaders who thought their years of self-righteous service (works) made them more deserving of God’s kingdom. Yet, no amount of good human works will earn salvation for anyone.

Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Scribes, chief priests, and Pharisees were angry and jealous toward others who were getting all the attention. They showed contempt for other people when they began to come to Christ and receive salvation, just as how the older son became angry and jealous of his younger brother, whose return prompted the celebration of a great feast. This point is ironic because Israel’s leaders almost always sought the attention and praise of men, something those coming to Christ in faith were not attempting to replicate. The older brother was selfish and self-centered because he was only concerned about himself, just as many of Israel’s leaders were. For years they had dominated the spotlight, but now they were beginning to receive less attention which infuriated them (Mark 2:13-17). They talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk. They could not enter the kingdom because they were unwilling due to their self-righteous attitude, thinking they needed no help. And yet, despite claiming to be servants of God, their sin of unbelief remained because they rejected the Messiah (John 9:40-41) and hindered others from accepting Him as well.

The central theme of the parable is God’s forgiveness. Both the interpretation above and this one are correct. Christ grants forgiveness to all who seek it, whether it be an unbeliever first coming to Christ or a believer who has temporarily strayed from the flock. The point remains the same; God’s forgiveness is infinite and unlimited, as the passage below shows (the number seven represents completion without limitation).

Matthew 18:21-22 (NASB)

21 Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I still forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times.

The phrase, “For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found” refers to God’s forgiveness of wandering believers and their restoration of fellowship. God’s forgiveness for all men is what is stressed, and the Lord used the false teachers of His day who thought they needed no forgiveness as a contrast to those who knew they did and sought the only way to receive it—through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Luke 15:4-7 (ESV)

4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Something very touching we can see from this story is how the father, who saw his son from a distance, didn’t even say a word but ran right up to his son and embraced him in his arms. That is how God welcomes all men when they come to Him for forgiveness, regardless of whether they are straying believers or unbelievers first coming to Christ. He takes our sins and throws them behind His back (Isaiah 38:17), remembering them no more.

9. The Lost Coin - Luke 15:8-10

Luke 15:8-10 (NASB 1995)

8 “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Every person is precious in God’s sight, and this parable clearly shows that. Christ died for every person who has and will ever live. God loves all men, but He has a special love reserved for His own because they are His children who will spend eternity with Him forever. Believers who draw close to the Lord will have an even more immediate and more intimate relationship with their heavenly Father. But whether a person is an unbeliever first coming to Christ or a believer who is returning to the fold after having backslidden for a while, the Father’s joy is something we can never comprehend because its greatness is so deep, intense, and limitless.

The whole point of the parable is to demonstrate God’s love for humanity, and it was the Son’s act of living a perfect life and dying on the cross to pay for the sins of all people that demonstrates this perfectly (John 3:16). God has shown His love for all in words and action, i.e., a lifestyle of complete sacrifice and suffering ending in death on a cross.

John 15:13 (ESV)

13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

This parable is linked with Luke 15:11-32; Matthew 18:10-14 in that Jesus was responding to the criticism of the Scribes and Pharisees. They grumbled and complained over the way Jesus was receiving the sinners and tax collectors unto Himself. Why eat with them? Yet how else was the Lord supposed to help them? But why receive them if they didn’t follow the Law as the religious leaders did? The reason is that there is nothing we can give back to God. We cannot earn salvation, but the legalists of Israel thought that only people who tried to do so could enter the kingdom.

The Lord did not have to die for us, and yet He chose to do so anyway. He hated sin and death so much that He staked His life against it. So to see anyone come to/return to Him brings Him joy that we cannot comprehend. The Lord’s will is for none to perish and for all to come to repentance, 2 Peter 3:9.

10. The Unmerciful Servant - Matthew 18:21-34

Matthew 18:21-35 (NASB 1995)

21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

**Matthew 18:21-35 **follows on the heels of Jesus’s teachings on forgiveness and reconciliation (see Matthew 18:10-20- the parable of the lost sheep and forgiveness of a repentant brother). The Lord emphasized mercy in all of these connected verses. To further drive home His point, He highlighted the fact that no one deserves forgiveness which means we should grant it to others as well (especially those who seek it). If God Himself is merciful and compassionate, should not all of His followers be the same? God is love, so if that is how He comports Himself to His creatures, we must do our very best through His strength to replicate the example He gives us. 1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Failure to show mercy shows a lack of love in one’s heart (no one is perfect on this score). To demonstrate love toward others is to love one’s neighbor and, thus, God Himself. That right there sums up all the Law and the prophets (Mark 12:30-31). That being the case, our parable shows that we would all be lost without the grace and mercy of Christ. We are at His mercy so that we must totally rely on Him for salvation and spiritual growth.

Matthew 7:12 (NASB 1995)

12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12 (NASB 1995)

37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Believers are to forgive other believers (and unbelievers) as much as needed. Our Lord forgave us of all our sins which were many indeed. No one deserves eternal life, and yet God loved us so much that He gave us a way to have it. The behavior of the unmerciful slave is quite outrageous in light of this fact because he owed a much larger debt (one he couldn’t repay just as we couldn’t pay for our sins) than what his servant owed him. Despite this, he treated his slave harshly and had him thrown into prison, which warranted his treatment from his lord of being handed over to the torturers.

In the same context of this parable, we have in verse twenty-two the seventy-seven principle. The number seven is unique in the Bible in that it represents completion and perfection, meaning that seventy-seven indicates forgiving someone as many times as they seek for and need it. The blood of Jesus covered all our sins, past, present, and future, so that not one unrighteous act (except for the eternal sin of unbelief through rejecting Jesus Christ) is left uncleansed by the precious blood of the lamb. God’s forgiveness of us is perfect and complete, as the number seven represents, but we must seek it through faith in the person and work of His Son. Unbelievers, therefore, must accept this offer of grace, while believers must continue to confess their sins to keep their “feet” clean (John 13:4-11) and their relationship and fellowship with God pure. So although believers may stumble, we have an advocate in our Savior Jesus Christ who goes to the Father on our behalf as an intercessor and intermediary confirming that His blood has covered any sin we have and will commit.

Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV)

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

1 John 2:1-2 (ESV)

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

God is love because He is holy, and He has commanded us as believers to be so as well. But when we fail to be merciful and show compassion through forgiveness, we cannot be loving God at that moment because true love for Him translates into and manifests itself in our treatment of others. For if we love God as we should, we will love others as we should. The unforgiving servant represents a real person whose sins have been paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Yet despite owing a much larger debt (representing all of humanity of which do not deserve forgiveness but the lake of fire), the slave who owed more persecutes the man who owed far less, making him a total hypocrite. The unmerciful servant forgot the treatment that he received and his original status before being forgiven. Believers must remember their status before God and what He did to grant us that position we are blessed to enjoy. We must never forget that we owed a debt to God that we could not repay, and yet He paid it for us by suffering for thirty-three years on this earth only to die on a cross. Why would we not forgive other people, especially our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? The debt they may owe will never compare in size and importance to what we once owed Christ. Just as God forgave us everything, so we as believers must forgive others all as well, no matter how many and terrible the trespasses.

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

1 Peter 1:14-19 (ESV)

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

When we get saved, we have been crucified with Christ and have become a part of Him. God is love, so how can we say we are abiding in Christ if we do not show and demonstrate through our own lives that whom supposedly resides within us? We are identified with our Lord, meaning we have the power and ability to live a righteous life as He lived, though we will never be perfect. When believers mistreat others, they are failing to live out their true identity. They are not true to themselves because they allow the flesh to control and manipulate their behavior. You could say then that someone who is not loving was never a believer at all or is a believer who has taken a perilous path (of course, not even the greatest believers are perfect on that score).

James 2:12-13 (NASB)

12 So speak, and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

11. The Lost Sheep - Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7

Luke 15:3-7 (NASB 1995)

3 So He told them this parable, saying, 4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

This parable connects with that of the lost coin and the prodigal son. Jesus told it when the Pharisees and teachers of the law complained to Him that He was eating with tax collectors and healing on the sabbath. Yet our Lord told them an essential principle that He desired mercy over sacrifice (Hosea 6:6 Matthew 12:1-14). A human life, or in this case spirit, is what matters the most. Regardless of the day or those we are associated with, all people need the Lord at all times. There can be no delay in helping someone when the need is immediate. There can be no beating about the bush over time, circumstances, etc. We must grant them the help they need irrespective of other people’s wrong and misguided thoughts and opinions. We give to those who need help immediately when the need arises. Our Lord gave the gospel to those who needed it, and He did so without regard to any religious holiday or festival. He came to save, and He was going to do so no matter the circumstances. We believers would do well to put this into practice, just as the passage below exhorts.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NLT)

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: 2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. 3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

Every moment we fail to help other people spiritually and physically is an opportunity that we throw away. For we must remember that not helping someone when they need it is the same as hurting. Christ saw the people’s needs and acted accordingly regardless of the specific day or the people He was dealing with, for God shows no partiality. The religious leaders saw themselves as righteous and others who didn’t conform to their belief system as unregenerate sinners. Yet it was they who were blind and unrepentant. Even though they were among those who needed a physician because of their unbelieving status, they refused any help from Jesus because they didn’t think they needed it.

James 2:1-7 (ESV)

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

The main topic of the parable is about God’s love for and treatment of all people and how leaders in the church should shepherd the flock of Christ with great love and responsibility. Believers are to imitate Christ and demonstrate His love toward others in how they minister to them, unbelievers included. God grants forgiveness to all who seek it and does not give up on individuals as soon as they begin to stray from Him. Our Savior loves His own so much that He will pursue them as far as they will allow. But rest assured, we still have free will and do not have to respond to the rallying cries. If a believer would prefer to abandon the faith and spend eternity away from Him, then God will grant them that choice. But that never means the Lord never pursued them at all, for that He most certainly did because it is not His will that any should perish.

John 6:37-39 (ESV)

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

John 10:27-30 (ESV)

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

The passage above (John 10:27-30) in no way contradicts Luke 15:3-7. Believers can wander away from the Lord and not come back. But they can return as well, and all with truly committed faith will do so. Additionally, Luke’s translation says, “Until he finds it,” (ἕως εὕρῃ αὐτό), while Matthew’s says “If he should happen to find it,” (καὶ ἐὰν γένηται εὑρεῖν αὐτό), suggesting the shepherd may not find the sheep. Not every believer who wanders from the Lord will return.

2 Peter 2:20-22 (ESV)

20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

All those the Father gives to the Son are believers whom the Lord foreknew ahead of time would endure in their faith. But for those who only believed for a time but then fell away, as in the case of the seed sown on rocky soil (the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:18-23, Mark 4:13-20, and Luke 8:11-15) they will no longer hear and heed Christ’s voice because they are no longer committed to Him. No outside force can pluck a believer out of God’s hand, but a believer can jump out and go astray. Some return while others don’t, but that is, as we have seen, not the parable’s point.

Both Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7 refer to believers and unbelievers. Believers can stray from the flock, so Christ pursues them until they return or continue on their way. On the other hand, God desires the salvation of all people, which means that He chases after the hearts of every person that has ever lived, from Adam to the last individual to draw breath. Whether they choose to respond is entirely their decision. But that doesn’t change the fact that Christ died for their sins. Jesus told the disciples not to look down on the little children (the children represent unbelievers and straying believers) because Christ died for them all and desires their salvation equally/just as much as anyone else (Matthew 18:10). The Lord wants all men to come to His flock for spiritual safety and stay there. The Scribes, Pharisees, high priests, and teachers of the law thought that only those who lived according to their standards could enter God’s kingdom. Yet Jesus taught that all people could come freely without cost.

Revelation 22:17 (ESV)

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

As a final note, this parable has a dual application in that the owner of the sheep refers not only to Christ but to all believers in general, especially pastors (Matthew 18:10-14). Church leaders care for their members and rally them back to Christ when they begin to stray. They are to exhort them to stay faithful to Christ and not lead them into sin and apostasy (Matthew 18:7-9).

12. The Unfruitful Fig Tree - Luke 13:6-9

Luke 13:6-9 (NASB 1995)

6 And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”

We must examine this parable in light of verses 1-5 before it. Just as how those killed by the falling tower in Siloam could not escape or avoid their fate, so Israel will not be able to prevent her future judgment and refinement, especially since they will continue to harden their hearts until the tribulation and Christ’s return. Therefore, our Lord warns His people not to think that just because they have more time means judgment is no longer coming. The people killed by Pilate and those who died in the tower incident were no more deserving of their fate than Israel will be (Luke 13:1-5). Jesus’s words look forward to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Mark 13:1-2) and to the distant future when Israel suffers mistreatment at the hands of the antichrist (Revelation 12).

The unfruitful fig tree represents Israel, which rejected the Messiah at the time of His ministry and were thus unproductive. Israel had been in a deplorable state for a very long time as well, long before Jesus came on the scene. The Old Testament contains so many instances of apostasy in the history of the nation so that there seems to be little consistency. This doesn’t mean that the nation was never fruitful at all (they had their times) or that there weren’t great believers (there most certainly were). Even in Jesus’s day, there existed a remnant of faithful followers. But most in the nation were obstinate and refused to “recognize” their time of visitation. To put it this way, this tree wasn’t entirely fruitless as much as that it just didn’t produce nearly as much as it could/should have because most of the Jews (not all) were unbelievers. You could think of an apple tree that should have fruit all over it’s branches but only contains about three or four. The question that remains, “Is it worth keeping?”

To continue, the tree can also represent individual believers of every age as well. The vineyard owner symbolizes God the Father, while the vineyard keeper represents the Son. Christ came to die for the sins of humanity and gave man more time to repent and believe in Himself. His death on the cross made repentance and reconciliation possible. God still had to purchase our salvation for us through the sacrifice of His Son to ransom us from death with the payment of His blood. Yet despite having even more time till Christ’s final return, most Jews (and, sadly, Gentiles) will not accept Jesus as the Son of God.

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

However, it is crucial to note that this unproductivity from Israel will not stay deplorable forever. Even though most Jews will still reject Christ before and after His return, large numbers of them (as never seen before) will call on the name of the Lord at His return. Indeed, many Jews will respond to the ministry of Moses, Elijah, and the evangelism of the 144,000 during the tribulation. Additionally, many of those who reject this ministry while denying the beast’s false crusade of messiahship will call upon the Lord at His return when they look upon Him whom they have pierced. And thus, much of Israel will come to their Savior and produce for Him during the millennium. For more insight into the massive waves of Jews flooding into the kingdom at Christ’s return, I encourage the reader to read through Romans 11, some of which we will quote here.

Romans 11:25-27 (NIV)

25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. 27 And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

Zechariah 12:10 (ESV)

10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

Revelation 1:7 (NIV)

7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.

The tribulation will prove to be a massive wake-up call for Israel, and after those seven years are over, God will further refine His people to see who is fit to enter the land, as the prophetic passage below demonstrates.

Zechariah 13:8-9 (NIV)

8 In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. 9 This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”

Back to our main discussion, this parable is very similar to the parable of the talents because the unproductive servant represents an unbeliever who had nothing to show to His master because he failed to put the money given to him to use. Most of Israel were not producing spiritual fruit because they were unbelievers who rejected Christ’s ministry.

But the parable’s central theme is the patience and graciousness of God, who is always willing to extend mercy toward all people by giving them the time and opportunities to get saved and bring forth fruit as a result of their salvation. This point is crucial because this is where the parable applies to individuals of all ages. No unbeliever will have any excuse before God when they stand before Him at the great white throne. No one will be able to say they did not have the time and opportunities to believe in Christ, let alone enough proof of His existence. The fact is, creation (natural revelation) has made His presence obvious so that none are without excuse. Every person knows about God and has the time and opportunities to receive His gracious offer of eternal life. But the chances men have on earth are limited and will not last forever because God has decreed a time for everyone and everything. Our Master is patient and loving, but when He returns at His second advent to inspect the earth, will He find faith, aka fruitful believers?

Luke 18:7-8 (ESV)

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?”

2 Peter 3:8-13 (ESV)

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

13. The Master’s Return - Luke 12:35-40

Luke 12:35-40 (NASB 1995)

35 “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. 38 Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

This parable is very similar to the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. The only way a believer (this parable applies to all believers of every period after this parable was spoken but especially to those alive during the tribulation) can be ready for Christ’s return is to continue growing in the faith. A key to enduring through this life with faith intact (specifically through the tribulation) is to build it up, represented in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins as packing extra oil to see them through the darkness of the night which prophetically speaks of the dark period of the tribulation. Being ready in this context is being found with faith still alive at Christ’s return (Luke 18:7-8).

To build up faith, believers need to grow spiritually in the truth of the Word. The more we study and understand Scripture, the closer we grow to God, and the greater our faith becomes to overcome whatever tests we might have to undergo. We may not know the specific time of our Savior’s return, but much of that is a big test of our faith meant to challenge and encourage us to be ready at all times. All believers must live as if they were about to go through the tribulation today, for the Lord could bring it about at any time. We must strive to live in the present, day by day, moment by moment. We must not worry about the past or the future. Testing will come when it comes; Christ will come when He comes. Our job is to go about the task our Lord calls us to every day so that whenever He does come back, we will be ready for Him to receive and transform us at the resurrection.

Revelation 16:15 (ESV)

15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

14. The Rich Fool - Luke 12:15-21

Luke 12:15-21 (NASB 1995)

13 Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” 16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Jesus spoke this parable in response to the young man’s request to tell his brother to divide the family inheritance with him. Regarding the phrase, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you,” Dr. Luginbill of Ichthys.com says—

Quote from Ichthys

This answer shows that if Jesus really is worthy to be judge and arbiter over Israel, then He must be the Messiah; so if the answer is “God the Father Himself”, then that means the person asking for this intervention is accepting our Lord as the Lord. However, the fact that this person is tied up in knots over earthly things and is merely trying an additional venue (no doubt having already tried other ways to get what he wants), demonstrates pretty clearly that he does not accept our Lord as the Messiah, the Son of God. This approach is perfectly consistent with what our Lord always did in making the issue the truth and its acceptance (analogous to asking the Pharisees, “Was John’s ministry from God or not?”, since in that case also a “yes” accepts also the authority of Christ).

Throughout the book of Luke, Jesus used the Scribes and Pharisees as examples of how not to handle wealth, and the disciples were to avoid their behavior. Luke chapter twelve shows us how to manage wealth and how not to. The verses after our parable from verse twenty-two and on reveal the discourse between Jesus and His disciples on living life without fear of one’s possessions. The interpretation of this parable is that believers are to trust in God alone and not wealth and riches. No amount or manner of worldly possessions can ransom the life of a human being. Not only that, but no person knows when and how their time will come about, for it could happen at any moment in various ways. It profits no one to gain the world, only to lose their entire self in the end. (Mark 8:34-38).

1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ESV)

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Not only can great riches keep a person from coming to Christ, but it can endanger their salvation as well. If anyone decides to put money over God, then they have fallen into idolatry. This life we live is all about Jesus Christ, not ourselves. We are not to horde away wealth while disregarding our relationship with God and other’s needs. Christ comes first, and He will provide for us. How can we be rich toward God and others when we are more concerned for ourselves?

15. The Friend in Need - Luke 11:5-8

Luke 11:5-8 (NASB 1995)

5 Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

This parable in Luke comes right after the section where Jesus told His disciples how to pray (verses one to four) to encourage them (and us today) to ask anything in His name that is in accordance with His will for us to have. God will not begrudge us of our spiritual and physical needs (hence, our present parable).

Pertaining most to this parable is that God will grant us spiritual help and deliverance in our times of greatest need, all times to be more precise. However, whenever, and wherever are all God’s decisions. But help will come! Unlike the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8) and the other reluctant friend, our Lord is fair and loving and will not turn down our requests (as long as they are within His will). God is more than eager to give us good things than anyone! That is the point of this parable! Our Lord is not unmerciful and uncaring, but just, loving, and compassionate so that no mere human can compare to Him. This parable uses an extreme (the sleeping friend as polar opposites of our Savior) to boost our faith in God. Suppose two selfish and reluctant people (individuals most unlikely to lend a helping hand) finally help those in need (albeit with impure motives). How much more likely will God, who will not withhold anything good from His own, provide for us?

1 John 5:14-15 (ESV)

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

In the following context (Luke 11:9-13), Jesus continues the dialogue with His disciples on demonstrating their faith through prayer. It is worth mentioning that asking and seeking both go hand in hand because one cannot just search for truth with the intellect but must diligently seek with the heart. Any believer can study the Word of God intellectually, but how much they understand and apply depends on how they put their heart into their work. We must not “seek” only but must “ask” simultaneously. The Holy Spirit will guide and control our thoughts and minds if we submit to Him, but we must search with humility and an open heart ready to receive the truth. By asking God to help us understand what we are reading, we demonstrate the faith, humility, and complete reliance on Him that we should. But this concept doesn’t mean just uttering empty words, but they must be heart-felt; they must be spoken in faith with a zealous desire to discover the truth one is after.

One big lesson we can learn from this parable not found in our primary interpretation is that faith demonstrated through prayer should not be dependent on time and circumstances. The man went to his friend at night while he and his children were in bed. Yet, that did not stop the man from going to his friend for help. If this man received support from his friend in such circumstances, how can we not expect God to give us aid during what may appear to be “impossible situations?” We can go to God in prayer at any time and place, regardless of the conditions around us. As believers, we aren’t stuck in a “box” but stand in a “wide-open field” from where we can freely cry out to God at all times. Even if other people refuse and fail us, God will never let us down. If there is something He knows we need, He will give it to us in His own good time. And we must remember that His timing is always perfect. Just like the man in our parable, we believers may have to wait for God to answer our prayer. But rest assured, our Lord always wants to give us things He knows we need. He will never refuse our requests or provide them to us begrudgingly as the friend in our parable did at first but will hear them out and grant them according to His will. Our part is to trust in Him that He has heard and is perfectly capable of supplying our needs.

Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV)

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

16. The Good Samaritan - Luke 10:25-32

Luke 10:25-37 (NASB 1995)

25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

In the context of our parable, the man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He then (after being asked by Jesus to do so) quotes the commands found in the Law. In no way does this teach salvation by works, but just as James tells us, faith without works is dead. Thus, obedience demonstrates the disposition of a person’s heart. But Christ taught in this parable the lawyer a vital principle that salvation does not come by keeping the Law but only by believing in Jesus. After doing this and growing in one’s faith, love will come naturally since Christ now empowers that person to live obediently instead of trying to do so in their own strength according to the law of works and not of grace. Those who do not love others expose their spiritual condition; they don’t love God and thus need Him in their life. Their human spirit is void of Christ. The only way to receive this love is to believe in Jesus Christ. Just keeping the Law’s commands will not suffice. Jesus showed this expert in the law that doing, not just knowing the commandments, was necessary to fulfill the Law of Christ. Jesus knew this man was trying to justify Himself (through his own good works) and exposed the man’s inner emptiness with this parable in response. Christ commanded us to love all people, even our enemies.

Romans 12:19-21 (ESV)

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We conclude that our “neighbor” refers to anybody and everybody we encounter, not just some or a few. For what profit is there if we love only those who love us but hate those who hate us? That is a cheap and superficial love that expects something back in return, but that is not how it works (Luke 6:32-36, Matthew 5:46). Even though Jews and Samaritans were enemies, this fact did not stop the good man in our parable from helping his fellow man, a Jew.

But the question of “Who is my neighbor” should come from the injured Jew. Would a Jew be willing to receive help from a Samaritan? Would he be willing to accept aid from someone He disliked? The question now applies to the Lawyer and what he thought about Jesus. Would He put His faith in Christ by receiving someone He didn’t appear to love? Jesus was trying to be a neighbor to the people of Israel (and all the world). He would eventually die on a cross, so what would people think of Him then? This lawyer did not realize that, like the injured man in our parable, he too needed help and that Jesus was trying to give it to Him. The question is, was he willing to receive it? The context doesn’t tell us.

Luke 6:27-36 (ESV)

27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

The parable’s main point is that we must love all people unconditionally, not just in word and speech but also in action. The priest and the Levite (who knew the law better than the Samaritan just as how the Lawyer knew it very well) demonstrated their lack of love for this helpless man showing that they were either in a very spiritually poor condition or unbelievers. Either way, the passage does not give us a clear answer to that. The point is that there is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. The priest and Levite had head knowledge and knew the Law better than the Samaritan, who was not a Jew, and yet it was not they but this “half-breed” who reacted accordingly.

This parable is (in a way) linked with Luke 10:38-42, when Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha in the verses following our present context. Mary took the time to listen to our Lord’s words. She was more interested in Jesus than she was in the less important details as Martha was. Martha’s example is reminiscent of the lawyer caught up in the details but who missed the big picture; Jesus. The religious leader would have done well to listen to our Lord and heed his words instead of listening to his false perceptions of what he thought was true love for God and others. Because he misinterpreted the truth, he misinterpreted himself and his need for Christ in his life. And though this wasn’t the case with Martha, her situation links to that of the lawyers in that we must listen to God, not ourselves. The lawyer saw himself as righteous; Martha thought she was doing a better thing than her sister. But to do good works for Christ properly, a person first has to learn the truth about God and themselves, i.e., their need for a Savior. The only way to do this is to listen FIRST and then “go and do likewise.” Martha was most likely already a believer, but we can learn from her mistake.

17. The Moneylender - Luke 7:36-50

See link: Luke 7:36-50

The man to whom Jesus told this parable was a Pharisee named Simon, who was disgusted by the fact that Jesus was allowing a sinful woman to touch and associate with Him. But Jesus then tells the parable above to show that because she was an even greater sinner than Simon himself, she was even more grateful to be forgiven by Christ. Therefore, the woman demonstrated more love by pouring oil on Jesus’ feet, kissing them, and wiping them with her hair. But Simon never did any of these things for Jesus, proving that he was not as grateful as the woman who had just received Jesus as her Savior before demonstrating her gratefulness. Instead, she received forgiveness for a debt she could not repay, a life filled with sin stacked as high as a mountain. And for this reason, she was all the more grateful.

Simon was a self-righteous unbeliever, as shown by his reaction “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” By this statement, he implies that Jesus did not know the women’s situation, her lifestyle, and her “track record.” “If this man is a prophet (and Jesus was but even more than that), He would know the woman who was touching Him. But this Pharisee rejected Christ’s divine knowledge and thus God Himself.

The woman’s debt was forgiven because of her faith, meaning that her gratitude was correspondingly immense since her debt was so large. She came to Jesus already forgiven and expressed her love and appreciation for Christ’s mercy and graciousness through her acts of love and devotion. She knew she stood justified, and Christ reminded her of this when He said, “Your sins have been forgiven”(ἀφέωνται- perfect tense). And her sins were forgiven because of her faith as the Lord tells her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Assuming Simon was an unbeliever, his sins remained because he refused to accept Jesus. He didn’t think he needed forgiveness which explains why he showed less hospitality. The woman was grateful to the Lord because He forgave her. But Simon showed no such gratitude because He did not think that Jesus was the Messiah who could grant forgiveness (forgiveness he felt he didn’t need). Despite his less obvious sinful lifestyle than that of the woman, the woman did the one thing that Simon had not done up to that point. Simon’s pride as a self-righteous and justifying person blinded him to the reality that he needed Christ (John 9:41). But regardless of how good or bad our lifestyles are, the truth remains that only faith in the person and work of God’s Son can completely relieve a person of their debt. Although our Lord has died for all men, the sacrifice of God’s Son will not benefit anyone if they do not accept it regardless of how much they have or haven’t sinned in their lifetime. This truth shows that only through God’s grace and power are we saved, not by our efforts.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

John 6:28-29 (ESV)

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

18. The Pearl of Great Price - Matthew 13:45-46

Matthew 13:45-46 (NASB 1995)

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Nothing compares to God’s kingdom and the treasures within it. Nothing compares with God Himself! This fact is especially true for a person who has just come to Christ! Indeed, finding the path of salvation and sticking to it faithfully to the very end is like finding a pearl of great price because nothing in this world is worth anything compared to it. And for those who find the narrow and difficult way, they are willing to sacrifice anything to reach the heavenly kingdom safely.

Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

1 Peter 4:18 (NASB)

18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?

Only a fool would throw away a treasure so great as the kingdom of God in exchange for things that are no true treasures at all. A wise man would realize the value of what he has, take it, and run with it. But we know from human history and the Bible itself that not all people who find this pearl hold onto it for the rest of their lives because people have been committing apostasy as far back as in Adam’s day. We need faith in Christ to purchase this great pearl. But this belief must continue if a person ever wants to spend eternity with their Savior forever. One could think of faith as a pearl worth guarding at all times and all costs.

Jude 20-21 (ESV)

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Hebrews 3:13-14 (ESV)

13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

In conclusion, God and the kingdom He offers are more precious than anything in creation. And once a person finds the way unto eternal life and stays committed to it the rest of their lives, there is no need for them to continue searching for anything else, for there is only one God and one kingdom. There is only one way to God. But to grow spiritually, they must continue to search for the truths Scripture has to offer; a process that never ends as long as we are on earth because there will always be things to learn.

Acts 4:12 (ESV)

12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Our passage tells us, “And upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.” This concept is the same principle Jesus taught throughout His ministry: sacrificial service for the kingdom’s sake—Matthew 19:29; Matthew 16:24-26.

19. The Hidden Treasure - Matthew 13:44

Matthew 13:44 (NASB 1995)

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

This parable has the meaning of the one above (the parable of the pearl of great price). God and His kingdom, represented by the pearl and the field, are of such high value that nothing can compare to them. A person who comes to Christ and truly knows what they have should take as much action as necessary to guard and protect their discovery. In this case, this would be a believer safeguarding their relationship with God by growing in the truth. The question to challenge the believer is, how much do they value eternal life and the One who paid for them to have it? Have they indeed counted the cost? Are they willing to suffer and sacrifice anything and everything if needs be, including their own lives (Matthew 19:23-29)?

Those who give up on their faith later in life prove they did not value what they had enough, nor did they truly realize what they had found. But even for believers whose faith remains genuine, do they love God as much as they should? If they do, they will be willing to give up whatever is necessary for the sake of the kingdom, just as the man in the parable went and gave up everything he had. In his case, it could mean he has given up trying to get to heaven his way. It also means that he was willing to give up whatever was necessary, including his old way of life characterized by sin (John 14:15). All of these suggestions are correct and are not only probable but are part of the many things a believer will have to sacrifice to follow Christ. We must never allow anything to swamp our faith and keep us away from God and eternal life. For this reason, we are to guard our faith by building it up in the truths of Scripture (Jude 1:20).

Romans 6:13 (ESV)

13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

20. The Mustard Seed - Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-20

Mark 4:30-32 (NASB 1995)

30 And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.”

This parable has the same meaning as that of the leaven in the dough (see Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:20-21 for that parable).The kingdom of God started small from Old Testament times (ever since Adam and Eve) and during Jesus’ period on earth and had humble beginnings but has since grown into a large and mighty “tree” as people have been coming to Christ over the years and spreading the gospel. There are many ways God has chosen to spread the truth of His Word (the true meaning of dispensationalism and dispensations) ; missionaries are but one example while teachers could be another etc. All believers play a vital role in advancing God’s kingdom, but all the glory goes to God, who works through believers to carry out His will (Philippians 2:13). Natural revelation relates to creation as undeniable evidence of God’s existence. Divine or special revelation refers to other ways God reveals Himself through a nation (Israel) or individual (a missionary). There are also miracles and wonders which God has used in times past. Miracles still occur today but in different forms than they did during Old Testament times.

Nothing will hinder God’s kingdom from growing to full maturity! Unlike a seedling or even a full-grown tree vulnerable to disease and other natural causes of death, the kingdom of heaven will never die or fade away (Daniel 2:31-45). Instead, it will grow to full maturity once all believers foreknown and predestined to come to Christ have crossed the finish line by the end of time.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Finally, this brief parable spoken by Jesus can be applied not only to the churches growth, but to the growing influence of the Spirit in the believer’s life as they continue to advance spiritually. So we can take this passage to apply collectively (to the entire church) and individually (to single believers).

21. The Sower and the Seed - Matthew 13:3-9; Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8

Matthew 13:3-9 (NASB 1995)

3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

Our Lord explains this parable for us further in the context of Matthew chapter thirteen, verses eighteen to twenty-three. This parable applies to all believers of every age including the nation of Israel (in what category did all the Jews in Israel fall?) to whom Christ spoke these words.

Matthew 13:18-23 (NASB 1995)

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20 The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

The first group mentioned as those who do not understand the kingdom reject Jesus Christ and choose to remain servants of Satan because they have hardened their hearts to the truth. Because they have given themselves over to the lie, they remain under Satan’s control as long as they continue to resist the Holy Spirit.

Even though there are many fine law-abiding citizens globally, there is no excuse for not believing in Jesus. All people know about God and are therefore without excuse. And just a simple belief in God (theism) is not enough to enter the kingdom, for even the demons believe, and yet they tremble (James 2:19). To put one’s faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ is a commitment, not just a matter of mouthing empty words with no genuine desire to change or follow the Lord. Faith and repentance are both two sides of the same coin because believing in Christ is giving one’s life over to God in complete submission. But the people referred to in this group want nothing to do with God. Therefore, they reject Him.

John 3:18-21 (ESV)

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

The seed sown on rocky soil speaks of a person who was once a genuine believer but commits apostasy later on by turning away from God because of significant testing that comes their way. These people receive the gospel with joy, believe for a while, but abandon the faith later on. For it to be temporary, a true living faith had to exist, and the context clearly shows us here that faith was alive and active at one point in the person’s life, meaning they were a believer at one time. But they fall away from the faith due to some problematic trial or tribulation because their faith (represented by their small and weak root, which could not expand in the shallow rocky soil) was too weak to see them through it. When trial and tribulation come, they are unprepared to endure it. And for those who argue that this rocky soil category isn’t referring to believers must explain why trials and tribulations (testing) come their way? God does not test unbelievers because they have no faith to grow. Testing comes only to believers, not unbelievers. Luke 8:13 describes this group best—

Luke 8:13 (NIV)

13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

We can sum up this verse with the following points—

1. Someone who receives the Word can only refer to a person who became a believer. Unbelievers, no matter how enthusiastic, have not received the gospel if they are still unbelievers.

2.True believers (Christians) are those who believe. Unbelievers do not. Our context clearly shows that these individuals received the Word in FAITH. They believed!

3. As we have just noted, unbelievers have no faith and therefore nothing to warrant testing, persecution, trial, or tribulation. God only allows believers to undergo testing to further refine and strengthen their faith, to prove its quality and genuineness. This passage cannot refer to unbelievers because they have no faith to grow and undergo testing.

4. To fall away from the faith, you had to have faith to begin with. An Unbeliever who stays an unbeliever is not capable of falling away from a faith they never had.

Thus this category clearly shows the need for endurance in the believer’s life. Those who come to Christ but abandon Him later on believed in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 (NIV)

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

The seed sown on thorny ground refers to believers and unbelievers (apostates). These marginal Christians, who, although saved, live a mostly wasted life. The reason is due to their greater desire to live as if the world is their home. They allow the worries and distractions of life to become their number one priority, meaning they put God in second place. Some of them fall away by committing apostasy (as one-third of believers will do during the tribulation) in that they abandon the faith when the pressure is on due to their greater desire for earthly security over their spiritual health. But we also know from Scripture that two-thirds of the church (consisting of all believers alive during the tribulation) will get their acts together. The other third will suffer martyrdom for holding fast their testimony of Jesus. The final third will endure in the faith as well but will live to see Christ’s return at the tribulation’s end. So what we have in the thorny soil group are lukewarm believers, most of whom will endure but some of which will fall away. Not all who commit apostasy during the tribulation will be in the thorny ground category, however. Many were no doubt part of the rocky soil group. Only our Lord knows the difference and who came from where.

This “thorny ground” is where most believers of our day (known as the church era of Laodicea Revelation 3:14-22) and most during almost 2,000 years of church history would fall. In our day, the reason is because of the believer’s lukewarm attitude toward God. Most have put the world before their Savior and are thus wasting and squandering precious time they could be using to grow, progress, and produce for Jesus. The result is spiritual complacency.

The phrase “becomes unfruitful” mentioned in the thorny ground category should not be translated to mean “no production whatsoever” in the case of those who don’t fall away. All believers who endure in their faith to the end will have something to show for their time on earth. The best and correct way to interpret this phrase is to state that most of these believers are not producing as they should. Their production rate is low, though they still produce to some degree nonetheless. However, this applies only to believers who stay faithful. For those that fall away, nothing they did in the past will matter in the end because they gave up. Not only was their production stunted, but their faith choked entirely.

The seed sown on the good soil are believers who live their time on earth as they should, growing, progressing, and producing for the Lord. They grow to basic spiritual maturity, pass the excruciatingly strenuous tests of their faith meant to refine and strengthen them, and come into using their spiritual gifts in the ministries the Lord has called them to carry out. They then reap a bountiful crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty, with the size of the crop depending on how well they served the Lord. The believers in this category know what it means to live the Christian life and act accordingly to God’s Word in thought, word, and deed. These people understand their purpose on earth and allow God to fulfill it in their lives.

Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

22. The Strongman’s House - Matthew 12:29-30; Luke 11:21-22

Luke 11:21-22 (NASB 1995)

21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. 22 But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder.

Jesus gave this parable in answer to those who claimed He drove out demons in the power of demons (Beelzebub). But as our Lord answered in verses seventeen and eighteen, a kingdom cannot be divided against itself. Satan cannot cast out Satan because that would be defeating his evil purposes. Such a kingdom could not stand! So Satanic forces cannot be attributed to Christ’s working miracles because His kingdom and that of the devils are opposed to one another, which means that only Christ Himself in His power could be casting out demons.

In our specific context, Jesus represents the One stronger than the strongman (Satan) overpowering the strongman guarding his own house and possessions. The meaning of this is clear. How could our Lord be controlled by a force contrary to His will and purpose? And why would Satan and his demons attack their own powers?

Luke 11:15-18 (ESV)

15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.

Additionally, Christ has defeated the devil once and for all at the cross. He will solidify this at the end of the thousand years of His millennial reign when Satan is bound and thrown into the lake of fire after the Gog and Magog rebellion.

John 16:33 (NIV)

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Revelation 20:7-10 (NKJV)

7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. 9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

23. Tree and its Fruit - Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-45

Luke 6:43-45 (NASB 1995)

43 For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

These words from our Lord come not long after He corrected the Pharisees about Him having a demon and a kingdom being divided against itself (see the parable of the strongman right above). Jesus used the parable of the tree and its fruit to expose the Pharisees as liars (bad trees) void of salvation who produced bad fruit based on all the false accusations they hurled against Him. They “blasphemed the Spirit” by attributing Christ’s words and works to demons, which was to call the spirit a liar about all He testified of the Son. In short, the unpardonable (unforgivable) sin is a rejection of the person and work of Jesus Christ because it is a rejection of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, you cannot believe in Christ if you reject any one of the members of the Trinity (the Holy Spirit included). The Pharisees not only rejected the Spirit and the Son, but did so simultaneously with the Father as well. If they rejected the Son, then they rejected the Father they claimed to believe in. If they rejected the Spirit, they did the same with both the Father and the Son and vice versa, etc., etc.

1 John 2:23 (NIV)

23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

To continue the general interpretation of our parable, the passage above contrasts believers (the good trees bearing good fruit) and unbelievers (all the bad trees producing bad fruit). But even believers are not always bringing forth good fruit as they should, especially when controlled by their flesh and not by the Spirit. Only bad fruit, otherwise known as wood, hay, and stubble, will result if that is the case, as the passage below shows.

1 Corinthians 3:-11-15 (ESV)

11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

So this parable in no way means a believer can’t produce anything bad, for that they most certainly can, do, and will (if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss). All believers sin. Many pastors/teachers have their fair share of incorrect teachings and doctrines in our day, which are the same as bad fruit because they are false, misleading, and even exceptionally dangerous in some cases. But what the passage is telling us is that believers generally produce good things most of the time, though not always as much as they should, as the case of the thorny soil in the parable of the Sower clearly shows. All believers who endure in their faith until the very end will have something to show for their time on earth no matter how little, and what they will have brought forth will be good and acceptable in God’s eyes. But it is most unfortunate that even though most believers of our day will have some good fruit to show, they will not have much or even close to a full crop because the majority will have wasted so much of their time on earth due to their lackadaisical approach to the life God has called them to live. “Unfruitful” in Matthew 13:22 below does not always necessarily mean nothing whatsoever. In the case of believers who fall into the thorny soil category, it simply means not producing as it should in those who stay faithful to Jesus but live a mostly wasted life.

Matthew 13:22 (ESV)

22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Matthew 10:42 (ESV)

42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

The main thrust of the passage has to do with the difference in production between believers and unbelievers. Only believers can and do produce real fruit that is pleasing to God—good works done in faith, such as acts of ministry and or works of obedient righteousness. These unbelievers neither do nor can because they remain under the devil’s control and thus belong to the category of worthless trees unable to produce anything. It doesn’t matter how moral an unbeliever is because we can only please God through faith. From the heart of unbelief comes nothing acceptable to God, and all works deemed good in the Lord’s eyes must have as their foundation the one “work” of believing in Jesus Christ.

John 6:29 (ESV)

29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

And Scripture is clear that we can know the difference between faithful servants of Jesus and wicked followers of the devil by the fruit they produce, represented in the passage below as false teachers spreading lies and dangerous and destructive teachings. These false teachings represent the so-called “fruit” of ministry that they think they are producing. But in reality, they do not desire to serve God but Satan and themselves.

Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV)

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

24. The Unclean Spirit - Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26

Matthew 12:43-45 (NASB 1995)

43 “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

We must interpret this parable in light of the two that just came before (see our two previous parables above). Again, Jesus spoke these words to counter the false thinking of the Pharisees who thought they had salvation through keeping the Law. Here was the Messiah standing right in front of them so that they had the opportunity to accept and believe in Christ. The truth was right before them and they had a chance to rid themselves of all present and future demonic influence. Instead, these religious men chose to reject Jesus which only further blackened their hearts toward God. They were now greater servants of Satan then they were before, and that is one of the main points of this parable. So was the case with most in Israel who rejected their Messiah. They were especially without excuses because Jesus was physically in their midst teaching, healing, and performing a variety of miracles. So although this parable applies to believers of every age (such as a person exposed to the gospel message but refuses it right on the spot), the specific context dealt with Jesus’s handling of the situation between Him and His opponents.

Jesus told this parable in response to the unbelief of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, Matthew 12:38-42. The people of Jesus’ day, especially the religious crowd, had rejected the Messiah even though He was right in their presence, giving them the truth. Jesus was the promised Christ and would grant eternal life to all who believed in Him. He cast out many demons but was the Savior for all men, people who had the chance to free their lives from satanic forces and fill them (their hearts represent the house in our parable) with the Holy Spirit. But most of “this generation” (referring to the people of Jesus’ day in particular) refused to accept Christ. Here was Jesus in the people’s presence, yet even visual manifestations from God’s very own Son were not enough to sway them from unbelief. The generation of that nation who had the Savior right before them but who only rejected Him could only go from bad to worse, and the end will indeed be worse than the beginning.

Many Gentiles were often more accepting of the gospel than the Jews, sadly to say. And it was to the Jews to whom Jesus came and performed many miraculous signs and miracles so that if there was anyone who was especially without excuse, it was the nation of Israel (who had the Law and the prophets), the non-gentiles. People who hear the truth but do away with it in their hearts often become more hardened and hostile to it from that point onward. And it is often those most hostile to the truth who do the most damage influencing the most people in the most negative ways.

Matthew 23:15 (ESV)

15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

Matthew 7:6 (NKJV)

6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

The passage above, Matthew 7:6, tells us not to “throw pearls before swine” because they will only trample them. For this reason, Jesus spoke to the people in parables (the topic of this paper) to help confirm the nation’s unbelief (Matthew 13:10-17). Additionally, our Lord would never have had a chance to commit all the time He did to ministry. He probably would have suffered a premature death not according to the plan of God and would not have been around long to have trained those who did legitimately follow Him, such as the disciples and others. But although our Lord gave the truth in a manner more challenging to understand, Jesus still gave the people the facts in a way they could still comprehend if they were willing enough to commit their minds to it. But most were not interested and thus never pursued the truth with their hearts because they would not accept our Lord. The disciples didn’t always understand every parable Jesus spoke, but they had ready and willing hearts to believe the truth and receive more details. Had the Lord taught the people plainly, they probably would have persecuted Him in some way that would have continually hindered the Father’s plan for Him.

Jesus was not trying to confuse people to keep them out of the kingdom but allowed all to hear the good news by allowing Himself and His ministry to continue according to the Father’s plan. Anyone confused about something or about who Jesus was could have sought the truth to know it like the disciples and other faithful followers often did. But the people weren’t interested, and more damage would have occurred had our Lord spoken plainly. As can be seen from reading through the gospels, especially the book of John, when Jesus was clear and to the point, this aroused anger and hostility in which the people even tried to kill Him at times. The Lord would have touched His people and heal them if they would have softened their hearts by opening their ears, eyes, and minds. But they chose not to.

In the context of Matthew twelve, the Pharisees did not want to accept the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, even when He had just cast out a demon, as we saw in verses twenty-two and twenty-three. The religious officials and others, represented by the individual in our parable in whom the demon has been exorcised, had clear proof that Jesus was the Christ right before their very own eyes. While the demon is gone and not present within the individual, the time represents the opportunity for the Scribes, Pharisees, and other unbelieving Israelites to believe in Jesus so that He could come and fill their hearts ( symbolized by a house). It was plain and apparent to them that He was who He said He was. But because He did not fit their expectations of who they hoped He would be (and because He exposed and condemned their self-righteous behavior), they became all the more hostile to Him. The demon who goes and brings along seven other demons more wicked than Himself represents this greater hostility and hatred. After rejecting Christ, the people’s hearts grew even more evil and corrupt than before, and it showed when they had Christ crucified later on. Those who don’t want the truth because they hate it will only grow more hostile and wicked toward it when it is presented to them because it exposes their evil ways. They become, in essence, even greater servants of Satan than before and cause others to serve him to an even greater degree. The more a person hardens their heart, the greater control the evil one can exercise over them.

Matthew 23:15 (ESV)

15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

Evil people bent on doing evil will react negatively toward good and oppose it all the more when it exposes their deeds for what they are. We often see these types of scenarios from people presented with the gospel but come to reject it harshly.

John 3:20-21 (NIV)

20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

If most of the lost sheep of Israel would not believe the truth with Jesus in their midst now, how much more wicked and hardened will they become after they have witnessed His time on earth (all those who believed in Acts 2:22-41 aside)? The evil spirit could try and go and possess a gentile, but more of them were coming to Christ because they were not as hostile to the gospel as the Jews were. So why not come back to a person (represented as a Jew who saw and heard Jesus but rejected Him), whose heart is even more hardened to God? The eviler a person becomes, the more wickedness they will allow in their life. Hence they enable more demons to live within them, metaphorically speaking. And because of this, those who do so bring even greater future judgment upon themselves.

25. The Sprouting Seed - Mark 4:26-29

Mark 4:26-29 (NASB 1995)

26 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

This parable speaks of the mysterious and rapid growth of God’s kingdom, which our Lord determines by His sovereign will and purpose. But it also applies to the growing influence of God’s presence in the individual believer’s life as they progress in their daily walk. The more they submit to the Lord, the greater His sway of change and control will be in their lives. However, we will make a distinction here.

Believers do play a role in the growth of God’s kingdom in the sense that God works through them to accomplish His objectives. Christians receive spiritual gifts for a reason: to use them in the ministries the Lord has for them. For the Lord to complete His work within the individual, the believer must allow the Spirit to operate through them to fulfill His purposes. This requires a free-will decision on the believer’s part; it requires faith and obedience. God will not force anyone to believe in Him or do the work He calls them to do. The role we as believers play is to trust/submit and obey. The Lord will then do the rest.

The passage below in Romans shows the believer’s responsibility to carry out their task and the unbeliever’s choice to respond to the gospel. So the best way to put this is that God grows the kingdom through the use of His servants, but in His own power so that everything is His work and accomplishment. As His children, we are only His instruments.

Romans 10:14-21(ESV)

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

No one can stop the will or plan of God, but since we as human beings have the gift of free will, how does that work with this passage? The answer to this question is simple. What God foreknows to happen cannot be changed or altered by any person in any way. His plan for the growth and completion of the church cannot change unless He wills it. This fact means that our Creator saw all of human history and knew how it would play out long before the earth and all of creation even came into existence. He then jump-started this knowledge by incorporating it into His plan by predestining it to allow it to play out. If man could throttle this plan, then God’s foreknowledge was incorrect, and predestination never occurred. But of course, we know that God is perfect and can never lie or mess up in any way. Nothing will change or alter the kingdom’s growth from how God has foreknown and predestined it to occur. No human or any other force in the earth and universe can stop God’s will.

Romans 8:27-29 (NIV)

27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Regarding what we just touched on about believers involved in the church’s advancement, God is still the only source that makes our service to Christ and the kingdom possible. Without Him empowering our every thought, word, and action, nothing we would do would count as anything (we couldn’t do anything absent Christ’s power). In the end, God is the One who causes the kingdom (as well as each and every individual believer) to grow according to His plan for its future fulfillment. He gets all the glory and takes all the credit for all the good things that happen in this world. Free will alone would not even be possible had God not granted it to humanity. And since our Lord works in mysterious ways, we don’t know as much as we would like how He accomplishes His divine purposes. His work is so great and awesome that only He knows the full extent of how it occurs. No person, believer or unbeliever, will ever be able to comprehend it this side of eternity.

The final sentence of our parable with God putting the sickle to the crop has to do with the eschatological gathering and judgment of all church age believers at Christ’s second advent return, beginning with the dead in Christ and ending with those alive at His coming. The passage below gives us a good idea of how this will transpire.

1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 (ESV)

14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Although not mentioned in our parable, the judgment for all unbelievers alive during the tribulation who took the beast’s mark will be harvested and trampled in the winepress of God’s wrath. We see this mentioned in Revelation 14:14-20 below; an event that refers to Christ’s slaughter of antichrist and his forces at the battle of Armageddon.

Revelation 14:14-20 (NIV)

14 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. 17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.

26. The Two Builders - Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46-49

Luke 6:46-49 (NASB 1995)

46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”

This parable is part of the sermon on the mount that Jesus mainly spoke to His disciples but also to the crowds listening. Most of Israel were supposed to be saved but were not in fact so. The majority (especially the religious crowd) talked the talk by putting on a show of righteousness but didn’t walk the walk, hence our Lord said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” To obey The Master, Israel would need to stop trusting in themselves and the Law for salvation and repent by going to Jesus and believing in Him. Those who did believe were expected to grow, progress, and produce by living like members of the kingdom which Jesus now offered. That is what it meant for Israel to come, hear, and act on Christ’s words.

Our faith rests on the rock that is Jesus Christ and nothing else. Faith has to have an object, and that object is the Son of God who became the God-man by coming to earth and suffering thirty-three years to die on a cross to pay for the sins of humanity. The parable’s meaning is clear, and that is that Jesus is the only way to heaven, the way taken by the wise man in our parable (as opposed to those who try to earn it through good works). Only by believing in and following Him faithfully to the very end can we withstand the storm and pressures of this world (testing in the form of trials and tribulations). Our security as believers is in Jesus and no one else, and only in His power can we live the righteous life He has called us to live. And the foundation of their faith must be the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Acts 4:12 (ESV)

12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

On the other hand, the foolish man chooses his own path, which he believes will lead him to eternal life. But in reality, man’s way, represented by works and rituals of various false religions involving the worship of God’s arch-enemy, the devil, leads to destruction. We cannot purchase our salvation, for Christ has already done that at the cross. Our job is to go to God and commit our lives to Him by believing in His Son. Taking any other way is to choose death by building one’s house on a poor foundation. Their end will be according to their choice of whom they chose to serve. And, of course, this parable can refer to apostates whose weak faith (due to a poor understanding of the truth) gives into the pressures of life and dies out entirely. It includes both former believers and those who were never so to begin with.

Joshua 24:14-15 (ESV)

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

John 14:6 (NIV)

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV)

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

John 6:29 (ESV)

29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 (NIV)

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

27. Wineskins, New and Old Cloth - Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39

Luke 5:33-39 (NASB 1995)

33 And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” 36 And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”

The Pharisees and teachers of the Law questioned Jesus on why He and His followers ate and drank. So Jesus gave this parable in response to their rigged question (Israel’s religious leaders often looked for any opportunity they could to trap Jesus).

Jesus is the bridegroom and all believers, the guests. We will see this play out at the wedding supper of the Lamb during the millennium. Jesus (the bridegroom) was with His people (the guests), so there were no reasons to mourn. Everyone should have celebrated! The time to weep would be after Christ’s horrific death on the cross and His ascension when He would no longer be with them (“horrific” in the sense of the physical and spiritual pain and agony that our Lord went through).

This parable refers to the fact that Israel was to get with the times. Jesus came to fulfill the law, so why continue to try and follow it in a legalistic way? The law was good but was often mishandled, especially by the religious elite of that time. The whole point is that the old ways considered obsolete and inappropriate for the occasion do not go well with the new covenant ways ushered in by Jesus. Just as how you can’t put a new piece of wineskin on an old one and expect it to hold (just as our parable tells us), so you cannot practice old and new things simultaneously. Christ did not annul the law of the old covenant but fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17). There was an excellent reason for joy because Jesus had come on the scene, so weeping and fasting didn’t make much sense at that time. Instead, the people should have “mingled” with Jesus’ teachings instead of old past rituals, which had little value for that moment.

However, Jesus was giving us a broader application with this parable. It referred not only to the fact that fasting was unnecessary during His time, but that going back to the old ways of the law for salvation would not result in eternal life because the true gospel is by faith through grace alone. This principle applies to all people of every generation, especially certain Messianic Jews who presently rely on the Law for faith and practice).

Sadly, humanity has been doing this for many years up to our day and age. Many false religions, cults, have been trying to combine the old with the new, resulting in a self-righteous works related gospel. To follow this path is to follow the broad way of Satan, which leads to eternal death and destruction. Christ did away with the old at the cross and expected us to embrace in faith the gracious gift of His Son Jesus Christ, who died to pay for our sins so that we could spend eternity with Him. And even for those groups out there that teach salvation by faith through grace alone, there are still many believers who misunderstand what practices and rituals are for today and which ones no longer apply. So many have misunderstood the gospels (the sermon on the mount in particular) and Acts, which helps to explain so much of the chaos we see in the church throughout the world today.

Two great examples of this behavior of bringing back the old and matching it up with the new lie in Galatians 3:1-29 and Hebrews 6. The reader is encouraged to visit those passages for further reference.

28. The Pharisee and the Tax Collector - Luke 18:9-14

Luke 18:9-14 (NASB 1995)

9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus told this parable right after the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. Self-righteous pride in one’s own ability to save oneself will not justify that person. The Pharisees thought they could see, but as Jesus told them, their guilt remained.

John 9:40-41 (ESV)

40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

In our parable, the pharisee’s pride blinded him to the fact that he was not approaching God the right way. He was following a self-reliant religion of works in which he trusted in his good deeds to save him instead of believing in the Lord by faith through grace. Worse yet, he did not see that he was blind because he saw himself as someone who needed no forgiveness at all. This man thought that his good works could pay for his sins and that since he was a good person, he was not an unbelieving sinner. But how much he deceived himself! He was too proud to humble himself and see himself as he was. He had a problem of unbelief but was unwilling to admit that he had to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

To fix a problem, we have to recognize that we have one. But acting as if all is good when that is not the case will only keep us from addressing the issue and correcting it. False religion promotes this idea that we human beings can make things right and fix the problem of sin and death, taking the focus off of God and onto ourselves, a terrible mistake that got Satan kicked out of heaven. Pride was the original first sin ever to occur when the evil one began to think highly of himself as one who could be self-reliant and rise above even the Almighty (Isaiah 14:12-17). Those who humble themselves become aware of their sinfulness and inability. Humility brings with it rewards of insight, knowledge, and wisdom.

29. The Shrewd Manager - Luke 16:1-15

Luke 16:1-9 (NASB 1995)

Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. 2 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.’ 3 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; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ 5 And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And 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?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 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. 9 And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. 10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? 12 And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” 14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. 15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

Verses eight and nine are the interpretation of this parable. Our Lord was not encouraging us to behave as the shrewd manager did (we shouldn’t be dishonest or crafty in any matter, especially when dealing with money). We aren’t to be like the Pharisees who loved and misused wealth/money. Properly handling this tool that God allows us to have (especially in ministry to help others) is often a sign that we are handling our spiritual priorities properly. Abusing secular wealth can be a sign that we are mishandling our spiritual responsibilities, especially if we are cheating others, lying, stealing or just unlawfully using money in general.

But just because we are to handle financial wealth prudently doesn’t mean money is the goal. If we take the necessary care that we should have for it too far, then we can end up swamping our faith by putting it above our relationship with the Lord (1 Timothy 6:10). That amounts to idolatry which equals unbelief because no servant can serve two masters as the Pharisees attempted to do. The most important thing to God is for us to prioritize our spiritual “health” and “wealth” before the secular aspect of those things. If we do the former first, the latter will naturally fall into place (through spiritual growth and ministry) and Christ will receive us into His kingdom as long as we hold to our faith without caving into the pressures of serving the wealth of this world (1 Timothy 6:10).

If unbelievers are willing to act so zealously in handling worldly wealth, shouldn’t believers control their spiritual matters with more zeal and determination? In other words, shouldn’t the “people of light” handle their priorities with more excellent care and responsibility than the people of darkness? Our Lord is contrasting what unbelievers value to what believers should prioritize more. Money is not the priority of the believer; God is. Our treasures are in heaven, not in this world. How much more cautious should we be with eternal possessions than an unbeliever is with temporal/ephemeral ones?

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

The shrewd manager prepared for his future as best as he could, even though it would not end well because he put all his trust in wealth. In contrast, believers should be even more concerned for their future with God. A faithful servant of Christ will do whatever they can to please their master and ensure they reap a bountiful crop for the Lord at the Bema seat. They will make their calling and election sure by guarding their faith at all costs (2 Peter 1:10)! The point is that believers should be the most zealous and determined people on this earth for what they are after! Unbelievers are eager to secure worldly security; believers are ambitious to make their calling and election sure. We strive to grow in spiritual wealth; the world seeks to increase in earthly security.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

The parable applies to both believers (especially the disciples in our context) and unbelievers (specifically the Pharisees listening in) of all time. For the unbeliever glancing outside, it is a message telling them to stop allowing wealth to keep them from God to bring them to repentance. We see a prime example of this from the rich young ruler, Mark 10:17-27 and the Pharisees in our context. But as our Lord says in our parable, the sons of darkness are more enthusiastic to take care of their priorities than believers. This parable is a wake-up call! How applicable it is to our day in the lukewarm church era known as Laodicea! We continue to show almost as much care and concern for worldly wealth as those not even part of the body of Christ! Christians must show themselves to be different than the world to be a testimony to the world! A lamp hidden under a basket but not on a lampstand won’t attract much attention (Matthew 5:14-16).

Revelation 3:14-22 (NIV)

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. 21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

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