What does Luke 16 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Luke 16:1—17:10 contains further teachings about the kingdom of God, particularly about the characteristics of those who follow God. The narrative starts with Jesus teaching the disciples about the role of worldly wealth and the realities of faithful stewardship. It then transitions to teaching the Pharisees how their love of money and accolades is opposed to God. The passage finishes by showing how the disciples can please God through faith and obedience, and by exposing the Pharisees' hearts hardened against belief.

Luke 16:1–8 contains the curious parable of the dishonest manager. The manager of a rich man's possessions is discovered to be incompetent. Realizing he is about to be fired, the manager works quickly. He ingratiates himself with his master's debtors by decreasing their debts in his master's ledgers. The master praises him for being so shrewd. This is not approval of the man's actions, but merely a recognition that it was a clever strategy.

In Luke 16:9–13, Jesus gives applications and consequences taken from the story of the dishonest manager. The main point is describing how His disciples should think about money. First, Jesus notes that eventually, earthly riches will fail and they will die. Instead of clinging to temporary possessions, His disciples should share their wealth, thus earning accolades when they arrive in paradise. Next, He tells them that those who have integrity with a little will prove trustworthy with much. If they are not faithful with worldly wealth, how can they be faithful with things of eternal value? Those who are faithful with another's things can be trusted with their own. Finally, Jesus points out that it's impossible to serve money and be devoted to God.

Luke 16:14–18 begins with the Pharisees rejecting Jesus' words. They love money and they claim to worship God. Jesus dismisses them. They don't even seek God's praise: they only want the attention of other people. Despite their claims, they don't follow the Mosaic law nor sincerely believe in the Prophets. Though the Mosaic law was never a formula to provide Jews with eternal salvation, it provides essential principles for the works that please God, including with money and in marriage.

In Luke 16:19–31, Jesus tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The account addresses the proper use of money, the relationship between earthly lives and what happens after death, and the Pharisees' stubborn rejection of Jesus. The story is of a rich man who dies and goes to torment in Hades. Also involved is a poor, diseased beggar who dies and goes to paradise. The Pharisees learn that riches may be a blessing on earth, but what you do with them is a sure sign of where you will be after death. In addition, if they reject the Law and the Prophets that tell them about Jesus, not even witnessing someone being raised from the dead will convince them to change their lives. This segment pointedly rejects the claim that those who reject God do so because of a lack of evidence or miraculous intervention (Romans 1:18–20; Matthew 12:38–39).

In Luke 17:1–10, Jesus will return His attention to the disciples. Jesus tells them to protect others from sin, trust that the amount of faith they have is sufficient, and take their position as His followers humbly.
Verse Context:
Luke 16:1–8 is the parable of the dishonest manager. A wealthy man learns his money is being wasted by a hired supervisor. With no time to escape being fired, the manager calls on the owner's debtors. He tells them to decrease the amount they are expected to pay back. This favor earns the manager their approval and hopefully their help later. The owner notes that this was a clever ploy to make allies. Jesus uses this negative example to teach His followers a good lesson: to be equally sharp when interacting with the world.
Luke 16:9–13 provides spiritual applications for the parable of the dishonest manager. Facing unemployment because he mismanaged another's property, the manager schemes to secure himself a new job. What he does is not likely illegal, but it's unethical and sneaky. Jesus-followers are to take a good lesson from that bad example. Insight into how the world works leaves room to add responsibility, fidelity, and faithfulness to God. Next, Jesus explains the relationship between one's heart, the Mosaic law, and the kingdom of God with an application relating to marriage and divorce (Luke 16:14–18).
Luke 16:14–18 exposes the Pharisees' twisted relationship between their hearts, the Mosaic law, and the kingdom of God. They love money, and so reject Jesus' assertions about the antagonistic relationship between chasing wealth and following God. Jesus points out that this is a problem with their hearts, not the Law. He then gives another example: the callous way in which men divorce their wives. Next, Jesus will tell the story of the rich man and Lazarus, warning the Pharisees to let the Scriptures lead them to Him (Luke 16:19–31).
Luke 16:19–31 contains the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus, a poor beggar, dies and goes to "Abraham's bosom" while a rich man dies and goes to torment. The rich man begs Abraham first for some relief and then to warn his brothers; Abraham insists they have been warned enough. There are several applications: our feelings about money often reveal our devotion to God; once someone dies, their fate is sealed; and if the Pharisees cannot see Jesus in the Mosaic law and the Prophets, they'll never see the truth of who He is in miracles—even someone returning from the dead.
Chapter Summary:
Teaching His disciples and confronting the Pharisees, Jesus offers several lessons about wealth and devotion to God. The first is a parable about a dishonest manager. This illustrates the value of being careful and clever with earthly resources. Jesus then uses remarks about the Law and marriage to introduce the story of the rich man and Lazarus. This not only highlights the dangers of greed, but it also debunks the common claim that a non-believer would submit to God if only they saw "a little more evidence" or a miracle.
Chapter Context:
The prior chapter included Jesus' teachings centered on lost things: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Luke 16 includes several of Jesus' lessons about living in the kingdom of God compared to the world system, beginning and ending with parables (Luke 16:1—17:10). Chapter 16 includes the parable of the dishonest manager, Jesus' teaching on how money reveals faith, and the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Luke 17:1–10 teaches about whether Christ-followers bear responsibility for others' sin, lessons about faith, and the parable of the unworthy servants.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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