6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: Sermon’s purpose is to explain the Parable of the Shrewd Steward so that people follow his example of trusting the master’s generosity and mercy.

[This sermon is contributed by Hal Seed of New Song Church in Oceanside, California and of www.PastorMentor.com. Hal is the author of numerous books including The God Questions and The Bible Questions. If you are interested in The Bible Questions Church-wide Campaign, please visit and watch Hal’s video at www.PastorMentor.com.]

Good morning/evening friends.

Anyone who has raised more than one child knows that, because each of them has a unique temperament and motivational styles, that you often you speak differently to one child than to the other.

And anyone who has been part of the inside of a group knows that there are times when you speak differently to those inside the group that those outside the group. In fact, even inside the group, because there are often the curious and the casual as well as the committed, often the way a person talks to the various types inside the group differs.

Know what I’m saying?

Well, over the past 3 weeks, we’ve been listening to Jesus tell stories to one type of people. In Luke 14 and 15, He’s surrounded by highly-trained and highly-but-falsely-self-confident religious types. The Bible calls them “Pharisees.”

In Luke 14 and 15, Jesus has all sorts of stories to tell these people. Stories so good they’ve been recorded and read and learned from countless times in the last 2000 years. If you’ve been here that past three weeks, you know that those stories are the stories of the Great Banquet, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Wayward Son. (If you haven’t been here, but are curious, you can pick up a copy of them at the Information Center.)

But while Jesus is telling those stories, He’s aware that there’s another group that’s listening in. A group, not that opposed Him, like the Pharisees, but a group that supported Him. A group of insiders. A group so committed to Him that they had bet the farm that following Him was the best decision for their lives and eternities.

So, in typical Jesus’ fashion, when He gets through talking with the outsiders, He turns to these close followers, and He talks to them awhile. He tells them a very intriguing story about a scoundrel who’d bet the farm on a person he had offended. A person he had mistreated. But because of the character of the mistreated one, the scoundrel won the bet and secured his prosperous future.

That’s the story I want to tell you today.

If you’re a seeker here today, wondering whether God can be trusted and whether you’d ever want to trust your life to Him, you’re going to like the way this story turns out.

If you’re a believer, and you’ve made a mild commitment to Christ, and wondered if you should commit everything to Him, you’re going to want to take that step after you hear this.

And if you’re a spiritual soldier, and you’re fully invested with Him, you’ve committed everything to Him – your time, your talents, and your treasures, when this story is done, you are just going to say, “I am so glad, I am so glad.”

So, I think there’s something here for everybody. And like last week, I’m going to pretend that you know virtually nothing about 1st century Palestinian culture, and give you all sorts of brain candy to chew on so that you can see this story in the way the original hearer saw it.

So take notes, and write small.

Ready? Let’s start with the very elementary:

Luke 16 is the chapter in the Bible that immediate follows Luke 15. Everybody with me on that? When He gets done addressing the Pharisees, Jesus turns to His disciples and tells them the story of The Shrewd Manager.

It’s a story about a rich guy, a nobleman, who finds out that he’s being cheated by one of his employees, so he fires the employee, who then does something very creative and unethical to ensure his future. The twist to the story is, instead of being outraged at this, the nobleman praises the manager for being a shrewd operator.

For centuries, this story has confounded right-brained, Western logical thinkers, because for the life of them, they can’t understand why Jesus, or the character that represents God in the story, would praise someone for doing something unethical. They’ve come up with a lot of theories of how this might work, or what’s wrong with the story. But all of them miss the mark unless they know something about Middle Eastern culture. – And 30 minutes from now, you all are going to be experts on this. So with what we’re going to cover, you’ll be able to walk out of here and act like a Pharisee, knowing more than everybody else at the office, and secretly feeling just a little superior because you do.

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