Luke 16 Study Notes


16:1-2 A rich man would often employ a manager (Gk oikonomos, “steward, administrator”) who handled all the business affairs of his estate. The charge that this manager had squandered the rich man’s possessions, indicating either neglectful management or criminal misconduct, must have been true. After all, the manager offered no defense when questioned. The landowner demanded a careful accounting of his assets, possibly so the next manager would have accurate data from the outset.

16:3-4 Realizing that he was being fired, the manager had to find a way to support himself. Since he was not in condition to do physical labor and too proud to beg, he focused on a way to make his former clients willing to offer him hospitality.

16:5-7 Four explanations are offered for the manager’s tactics in lowering these debts: (1) He dropped the price enough to ingratiate himself with the debtors, (2) he removed the interest charges on the debt, (3) he removed his commission on the transactions, or (4) he reduced the debt back to what it should have been in the first place, after having overcharged them previously in a bid to cover his mismanagement. All four tactics are possible, but it should be remembered that the manager was required to present a full accounting to the landowner. Therefore, his tactics here must have been legitimate.

16:8-9 Because the Greek word translated master is kurios (“lord”), some have thought that it was God who praised the unrighteous manager. However, it is much more likely that the story ends in the middle of v. 8. Thus it was the landowner rather than God who offered praise, and he did so only because the manager acted shrewdly in response to his errors. In the last half of v. 8 and all of v. 9, Jesus shares an implication of the story: the children of this age (unbelievers) typically deal shrewdly with each other and win friends by this means, whereas the children of light (believers) often fail to use their financial resources to win people to faith, who thus become friends forever (welcome you into eternal dwellings). Thus Jesus encouraged his followers to use their money shrewdly (but innocently) in order to advance God’s kingdom.

16:10-12 A second lesson that this story teaches is the need to be faithful before the Lord. Spiritually, every believer is a steward of the gifts God has given. If you are faithful with small amounts of money, the Lord may trust you with much more, including things of priceless eternal value. If you cannot be trusted with only a little, you would also be a poor steward if more were entrusted to you.

16:13 On serve two masters, see Mt 6:24.

16:14-15 The Pharisees, because they were lovers of money, were scoffing at Jesus, for they believed it was possible to serve both God and money (v. 13). In response, Jesus told the Pharisees that their desire to be admired by people was an abomination in God’s sight, for he does not approve of the world’s values.

16:16-17 The Law and the Prophets is a way of referring to the entire OT (v. 29; 24:27,44). The ministry of John the Baptist marked the end of the old covenant era. The ministry of Jesus began the offer of the gospel (good news), the new covenant era, and embodied the nearness of the kingdom of God. In this context, everyone is urgently invited probably refers to the urgency expressed by the evangelistic preaching efforts of John the Baptist, Jesus, and his apostles. On one stroke of a letter, see Mt 5:17-20.

16:18 Remarriage after divorce constitutes adultery if the former marriage was dissolved for illegitimate reasons or motivations; hence the strict terms of this verse. The parallel passages in Mt 5:31-32 and 19:9 are more detailed. They indicate that remarriage is legitimate in cases where the former marriage was dissolved due to sexual immorality.

16:19-21 The rich man (called Dives, Latin for “rich man”) clearly did not use his wealth to make friends in the “eternal dwellings” (see note at vv. 8-9). Sores is a medical term used only here in the NT, perhaps reflecting Luke’s background as a physician (Col 4:14). It is ironic that the suffering poor man was named Lazarus since a man by that name would later rise from the dead (Jn 11:1-44). On dress in purple, see Ac 16:14.

16:22-24 The circumstances were reversed after both men died. The Jewish Talmud refers to both paradise (23:43; 2Co 12:4) and Abraham’s side (or “bosom”) as names for the place of blessedness beyond the grave. Hades, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol, is, generally, “the place of the dead.” In this case, however, because of the mention of being in torment, Hades must be viewed as hell, the place of the unrighteous dead. In this flame refers to the eternal lake of fire (Mt 25:41).

16:25 This verse is an application of the principle in 13:30. The rich man had been “first” in this life, having enjoyed many good things, but was now “last,” referring to his agony in the afterlife. By contrast, Lazarus had been “last” during his earthly existence (vv. 20-21) but now was “first” (eternally comforted).

16:26 In the afterlife, there is a separation between believers and unbelievers that cannot be spanned. It is not possible to cross over from heaven to hell or hell to heaven.

16:27-29 Not being able to improve his own lot, the rich man finally showed concern for the eternal destiny of his five brothers. The phrase Moses and the prophets is another way of referring to the entire OT (see v. 16).

16:30-31 The irony here is that Luke, writing from a time after Jesus’s resurrection, knew that very few people would be persuaded to repent even through witnessing the miracle of someone rising from the dead (Lazarus or Jesus). They must listen with “ears to hear” to the message of salvation in the Scriptures. On Moses and the prophets, see notes at vv. 16-17,27-29.