Great Lessons from a Miserable Pagan

Great Lessons from a Miserable Pagan: 2016 Gospel of Luke #63

This is an exposition of Luke 16:1-13. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning June 18, 2017.


It had been an interesting couple of days. Jesus, exhibiting the grit and determination of a street fighter, had been slugging it out with some of the religious establishment. Animosity and hostility had been building for months. The Scribes and Pharisees were determined to destroy the trouble-making rabbi from Galilee. In an attempt to trap him in a compromising situation they invited him to a dinner party. At the dinner they placed a man who was terminally ill. This was no accident. They knew of Jesus’ reputation for compassion and healing. They knew that he did not feel bound by Sabbath regulations. So they set the trap. Jesus obliged by healing the man. But rather than being trapped – he trapped them! They found themselves on the ropes. He then jabbed them with a stern word concerning their pride and arrogance in seeking out the places of honor. And then hit them with a rebuke of their impure motives. Jesus then proceeded to address the darkness of their hearts in failing to respond to the Gospel, in the parable of the Great Banquet. A large crowd gathered around and Jesus spoke of the cost of following him. As all involved were reeling over what they’ve heard Jesus spoke the parable of Lost Things revealing the depth of the love and grace of God. About this time I’m sure the crowd felt as if they’ve heard everything but they were not prepared for what came next. Our text this morning is found in Luke Luke 16 beginning with Luke 16:1.

Text: Luke 16:1-13

Dr. Luke is writing to his good friend Theophilus.
His purpose is to present and accurate account of the life and ministry of Jesus.
The goal is to bring his friend to faith in Christ.
We are in the closing months of our Lord’s earthly life and ministry.
He is determined to go to Jerusalem.
The time appointed in eternity has now come.
The moment of redemption has at last arrived.

This parable is one of those that caused a double take.
There is that part of you that says, “I’m not sure I heard that correctly.”
It is important to note that Jesus spoke these words to his disciples.
This is a word to the “faithful”.
This is intended to instruct those who have committed themselves to following him.
The reason this parable is so unusual is the character of the central figure.
He is a thief. A rogue. A white-collar criminal.
Yet his master commends him for his shrewdness.
The story is called “The Parable of the Shrewd Manager” but I prefer to call it “Lessons from a Miserable Pagan.”

This is one of the reasons why I’m convinced that Jesus was a master storyteller.

Thesis: For only Jesus could use a miserable pagan to teach his followers the importance of diligence, faithfulness and loyalty.

Take a look at this story. Remember the context of a parable, it is a story to be heard. It is intended to leave you with an impression. We must be careful and not read things into it but allow it to speak for itself.

Recount the details.

This lying, scheming thief pulled off another scam. Now, what’s the great lesson our Lord wants his followers to come away with?

As our Lord applies this parable we find three valuable lessons.

  1. The shrewdness of this pagan challenges the believer to diligent planning for the future. (16:8b-9)
  2. The irresponsibility of this pagan reminds us of the necessity of faithfulness. (16:10-12)
  3. The self-serving attitude of this pagan warns us of the danger of trying to serve two masters. (16:13)


Now that I think about it, I guess you can learn a lot from a miserable pagan. We need to thank him for:

  • challenging us to consider the future.
  • reminding us of the need for faithfulness
  • warning us of the danger of trying to serve two masters.
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