The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)

Parable of the Talents 504

Once upon a time there was a man who went on a journey and before he left he entrusted three servants with his money. When the man returned, he praised the two servants who had doubled his money, but the third servant, who had done nothing, was thrown outside into the darkness. The parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30) is used by some to say, “Jesus paid a great price for you. If you don’t work hard to give him a return for his investment, he will toss you into the outer darkness. So get busy for Jesus.” This resonates with those who see themselves as servants rather than sons of God, … [Read more...]

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1–8)

Unjust Steward

The strangest parable Jesus ever told was about a man who cheats on his boss and is then praised for doing so (see Luke 16:1–8). The parable of the shrewd manager (or the unjust steward) is puzzling. What is Jesus trying to tell us? That it’s okay to cook the books, diddle the figures, and engage in white-collar crime? No, Jesus isn’t encouraging dishonesty. He’s telling us how to plan for the future: And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. (Luke 16:9, NKJV) The punchline of the parable is “make … [Read more...]

Can Divorced People Remarry?

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Hmm, that’s a tough one. Let me see. Can sinners be forgiven? Can runaways come home? Can crooks get a second chance? Can the broken be made whole? No, it’s not a tough question. It’s an easy question. Of course divorced people can remarry! These questions are only tough because religion has told us that divorced people are unforgiveable sinners. They’re lepers who blight our perfect little churches. As long as they sit quietly and help with our programs, they are welcome. But the moment they start looking for love, they’ve crossed the line. They had their shot at love and they messed … [Read more...]

Labor to Enter His Rest (Hebrews 4:11)

Migrant-Mother-Dorothea-Lange

The other day a strange man approached a young girl and offered her candy if she would get in his car. Thankfully, the girl knew all about stranger danger and quickly walked to a shop where she was safe. I know you’ve heard this sort of story before but this was different for us because it happened on the street where we live and the girl was a classmate of one of my daughters. She was walking home when it happened so you can guess what every parent in our school is now thinking. That could’ve been my little girl! I mention this story because a few years ago this incident would’ve sent … [Read more...]

The Parable of the Beaten Servants (Luke 12:35-48)

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There are only two ways you can respond to Jesus; positively, in faith, or negatively, with unbelief. Consequently, it makes sense to speak, as Jesus did, of people dividing themselves into two groups: sheep and goats, wheat and weeds, good fish and bad fish. But on a few occasions Jesus spoke of three or even four groups. Think of the parable of the sower where there were four types of soil (Matt. 13). Or the parable of the master who came home to three types of servant in Luke 12. Here they are: The faithful and wise servant (v.42) who makes his master happy and is put in charge of … [Read more...]

The wrath of God has come upon them at last (1 Thess 2:16)

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In our ongoing series on the wrath of God, there is an important scripture we have not yet looked at. It’s this one: For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. … [Read more...]

What is the “Coming Wrath”?

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“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” When John the Baptist said this to the Pharisees and Sadducees, what did he mean (see Luke 3:7-8)? What is the coming wrath? And is this something we should be concerned about? Some commentators say John was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem. The venerable Victorian Adam Clarke says the coming wrath refers to “the desolation which was about to fall on the Jewish nation for their wickedness.” But this doesn’t square with what Paul said to Gentile Christians: They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve … [Read more...]

The Bible is not a Rule-Book

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Imagine it’s your wedding day. You’ve had the ceremony, and you’re starting to relax when the minister hands you a gift, a thick book of Marriage Rules. “Read this,” he says. “The secret to a happy marriage is found within.” You open the book with interest. Inside you discover many rules and guidelines: “Be honest, be kind, always tell the truth, listen well, keep your promises, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ freely forgive, don’t covet your neighbor’s wife,” and that sort of thing. Initially you think, This is gold! I want a successful marriage, so I will do everything this book … [Read more...]

What about God’s Wrath?

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The other night my little girl was on the toilet when she started yelling. “There’s a spider!” Normally, I would encourage my kids to face their fears and deal with spiders on their own but I could hear panic in my daughter’s voice. Poor kid. Stuck on the porcelain throne she was in no position to deal with a terrifying spider. Time for Daddy to be a hero! I charged into the bathroom like a grizzly bear. “Where is this terrible creature that dares to frighten you, sweetie?” She pointed and I saw a tiny black spider on the floor. I pretended not to see it. Then I planted my foot on it as … [Read more...]

Grumble and Die? (James 5:9)

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If you went to Sunday School you probably know that the Israelites grumbled in the wilderness. And you may also know what God did to them when they grumbled. He slaughtered them (see Ps 106:25-26)! “So let this be a lesson to you, children,” says the historically-minded teacher. “You grumble, you die.” What a frightening thing to hear, especially if you are a child. Will God really kill us if we grumble? “Oh, no Paul. That’s so old covenant.” Okay. So how do we read this verse which is found in the New Testament? Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The … [Read more...]

Alternatives to Hell

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You may have been raised with a picture of judgment that says sinners go to hell where they are tormented for eternity. Unless you say the magic words of a formulaic prayer, you will burn forever along with all the babies and children who never got a chance to put their faith in Jesus. Unsurprisingly, this traditional picture of hell has come under attack from those who cannot conceive of a good God doing such awful things to his children. But what is the alternative? If the wicked aren’t roasted alive, what does happen to them? Let me suggest three alternatives: 1.    Dwarfs in the … [Read more...]

Does God Scourge Us? 7 Reasons to say “No!”

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Much of what we believe about discipline in the church is informed by the old covenant. For instance, if you think God’s discipline entails punishment in any shape or form, you’re living in the past. You haven’t seen the cross (Is 53:5). Think about it. If the cross was the once and final solution for sin Hebrews says it is, then you would not expect to find any scriptures in the new covenant linking sin with divine punishment. And indeed, there are none – except this one: For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives. (Heb 12:6, NASB) As we saw … [Read more...]