Lesson 54: Luke 16

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

Jesus taught the parable of the unjust steward. The Pharisees heard Jesus’s teachings and ridiculed Him. Jesus then rebuked the Pharisees and taught them the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Suggestions for Teaching

Luke 16:1–12

Jesus teaches the parable of the unjust steward

Consider bringing to class items that could represent earthly riches and power, such as money, an electronic device, a diploma, a toy car, or a picture of a house.

Begin the lesson by asking:

  • What are some items that people often set their hearts on and try to obtain? (If you brought related items to class, display them as students mention them. Otherwise, ask a student to list class members’ responses on the board.)

  • What are some riches that Heavenly Father wants us to seek? (Invite a student to list on the board class members’ responses, which may include eternal families, peace, joy, and celestial glory. Instruct the student to write the heading Eternal Riches above the list.)

Point out that we can enjoy some of these eternal riches in this life. Ask students to ponder which eternal riches are particularly important to them. Invite them to look for truths as they study Luke 16 that can help them obtain eternal riches.

Explain that after teaching the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son, the Savior taught the parable of the unjust steward. You may want to explain that a steward is someone who manages another person’s business affairs, money, or property.

Invite a student to read Luke 16:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the rich man in the parable learned about his steward.

  • What had the steward been doing with the rich man’s goods?

  • What was the consequence of the steward’s wastefulness? (He would lose his job.)

Summarize Luke 16:3–7 by explaining that the steward worried about what he would do when he lost his job because he did not feel he could do manual labor and was too ashamed to beg. He devised a plan that he thought might lead to job opportunities in other households. He visited two of the rich man’s debtors and significantly discounted their debts, which he hoped would earn their favor.

Invite a student to read Luke 16:8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the rich man responded when he learned about his steward’s actions. Explain that “children of this world” are worldly minded people and that “children of light” are followers of God, or spiritually minded people.

  • How did the rich man respond when he learned about his steward’s actions? What did the rich man commend? (The rich man commended the steward’s cleverness in obtaining the favor of the rich man’s debtors. He was not commending the steward’s dishonesty.)

Provide students with copies of the following statement by Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Invite a student to read the statement aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior was teaching through the parable of the unjust steward.

Elder James E. Talmage

“Our Lord’s purpose was to show the contrast between the care, thoughtfulness, and devotion of men engaged in the money-making affairs of earth, and the half hearted ways of many who are professedly striving after spiritual riches. …

“… Take a lesson from even the dishonest and the evil; if they are so prudent as to provide for the only future they think of, how much more should you, who believe in an eternal future, provide therefor! … Emulate the unjust steward and the lovers of mammon, not in their dishonesty, cupidity [selfish greed], and miserly hoarding of the wealth that is at best but transitory [temporary], but in their zeal, forethought, and provision for the future” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 463, 464).

  • What did the Savior want His disciples to learn from worldly minded people like the unjust steward?

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: If we wisely prepare for our eternal future …

Invite a student to read Luke 16:10–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior said we must do to be blessed with eternal riches. Explain that mammon refers to earthly riches, including money, possessions, and associations.

  • What do you think it means to be “faithful in that which is least” (verse 10)? (After students respond, add the following to the phrase on the board: and righteously use earthly riches …)

Direct students’ attention to the list of eternal riches on the board.

  • What makes these “true riches” (verse 11)?

Ask students to complete the statement on the board so that it creates a principle about how we can obtain eternal riches. (Students should identify the following principle: If we wisely prepare for our eternal future and righteously use earthly riches, we can be blessed with eternal riches.)

  • Why is it sometimes difficult to wisely and diligently prepare for our eternal future?

  • How can we righteously use earthly riches?

  • How does our righteous use of earthly riches reflect our worthiness to be trusted with eternal riches?

Luke 16:13–31

Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and teaches the parable of the rich man and Lazarus

Direct students’ attention to the list on the board (or, if you brought them, to the objects representing earthly riches), and ask them to ponder how coveting earthly riches can prevent us from obtaining eternal riches. Invite students to look for one answer to this question as they study Luke 16:13–26.

Summarize Luke 16:13–14 by explaining that the Savior taught that we “cannot serve [both] God and mammon” (verse 13). The Pharisees heard the Savior’s teachings and “derided” (verse 14), or ridiculed, Him. Ask students to search in Luke 16:14 for the word that describes the Pharisees and offers one explanation as to why they ridiculed the Savior for His teachings.

  • From what you have learned about the Pharisees, what did they covet? (Earthly wealth and power [see Matthew 23:2–6, 14].)

  • Why do you think the Pharisees’ covetousness led them to ridicule the Savior?

Explain that the Joseph Smith Translation of Luke 16:16–23 (in the Bible appendix) provides further insight into the exchange between the Pharisees and the Savior. Invite a student to read aloud the following summary of this translation:

The Pharisees claimed that the law of Moses and other prophetic scripture (the Old Testament) served as their law, and they therefore rejected Jesus as their judge. Jesus explained that the law of Moses and the prophets had testified of Him. He questioned the Pharisees for denying what had been written and rebuked them for “pervert[ing] the right way” (Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 16:21). To help the Pharisees, whose hearts were set on worldly riches and power, to understand their behavior and the consequences of it, the Savior likened them to the rich man in the parable recorded in Luke 16:19–31.

Ask three volunteers to participate in a reader’s theater. Assign one volunteer to read the Savior’s words (Luke 16:19–23), the second volunteer to read the rich man’s words (Luke 16:24, 27, 28, 30), and the third volunteer to read Abraham’s words (Luke 16:25, 26, 29, 31). Instruct these students to read aloud their parts in Luke 16:19–26. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what a poor man named Lazarus and a rich man experienced.

  • How did the mortal lives of the rich man and Lazarus differ?

  • How did their postmortal lives differ? (You may need to explain that “Abraham’s bosom” [verse 22] represents paradise in the spirit world and that “hell” [verse 23] refers to the spirit prison [see Bible Dictionary, “Abraham’s Bosom,” “Hell”].)

  • In what way did the rich man fail to use his earthly riches righteously?

Remind students that the rich man in this parable represents the covetous Pharisees.

  • What can we learn from this parable about what will happen if we are covetous and do not righteously use our earthly riches? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we are covetous and do not use our earthly riches righteously, we will eventually experience suffering and regret [see also D&C 104:18].)

To prepare students to identify an additional truth from this parable, invite them to think of someone they care about who is choosing to live in disobedience to the Savior’s teachings.

  • What do you think could convince that person to repent and change his or her lifestyle?

Invite the assigned students to read aloud their parts in Luke 16:27–31. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the rich man’s request.

  • What did the rich man want done for his five brothers? Why?

  • What did the rich man believe would happen if Lazarus appeared to the rich man’s brothers?

Explain that the rich man believed his brothers would repent and be converted to the truth if Lazarus appeared to them. Conversion is “changing one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Conversion, Convert,” scriptures.lds.org).

  • According to the parable, why did Abraham not send Lazarus to the rich man’s brothers?

Point out that by mentioning “Moses and the prophets” (Luke 16:29, 31), the Savior was again referencing the scriptures that the Pharisees claimed to believe in and live by but in reality rejected. Explain that a real man named Lazarus later became “one [who] rose from the dead” (verse 31) when the Savior brought him back to life (see John 11). Later, Jesus became the One who rose from the dead when He was resurrected. However, in both instances, the Pharisees and others rejected the evidence of the Savior’s divinity and were not persuaded to repent.

  • What truth about conversion can we learn from what Abraham taught the rich man in this parable? (Students may identify a variety of truths, but make sure they identify the following truth: Conversion comes through believing and heeding the words of prophets, not by witnessing miracles or seeing angels.)

  • Why do you think conversion comes through believing and heeding the words of prophets rather than through witnessing miracles or seeing angels?

  • How can we help people believe and heed the words of prophets?

  • What specific teachings from prophets have influenced your conversion?

Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals ways in which they can better believe or heed specific teachings or counsel from prophets, thereby strengthening their conversion. Encourage students to apply what they wrote.

Commentary and Background Information

Luke 16:9. “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness”

Making “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness” refers to using earthly money, possessions, influence, and associations to accomplish righteous purposes. The Savior gave this counsel both to His disciples during His mortal ministry and to Latter-day Saints (see D&C 82:22). President Joseph Fielding Smith described how Latter-day Saints can apply this counsel:

“It is not intended that in making friends of the ‘mammon of unrighteousness’ that the brethren were to partake with them in their sins; to receive them to their bosoms, intermarry with them and otherwise come down to their level. They were to so live that peace with their enemies might be assured. They were to treat them kindly, be friendly with them as far as correct and virtuous principles would permit, but never to swear with them or drink and carouse with them. If they could allay prejudice and show a willingness to trade with and show a kindly spirit, it might help to turn them away from their bitterness. Judgment was to be left with the Lord” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. [1953], 1:323).

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be respectful and friendly to others. In so doing, we can broaden our circle of acquaintances and learn from others. Through genuine interactions, those with whom we associate can be led to form favorable opinions toward us and the Lord’s Church. They may even come to our or the Church’s defense should the need arise.

Luke 16:1–12. Learning from the parable of the unjust steward

For additional lessons we can learn from the parable of the unjust steward, see Brother Tsung-Ting Yang, former Area Seventy, “Parables of Jesus: The Unjust Steward,” Ensign, July 2003, 28–31.

Luke 16:19–26. Consequences of neglecting others’ needs

The rich man lived luxuriously while Lazarus suffered in poverty. Though no specific sin of the rich man is mentioned in this parable, the description of Lazarus, including the fact that he was “laid at [the rich man’s] gate” (Luke 16:20), indicates that the rich man neglected to respond to Lazarus’s begging for relief. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us that we are all beggars for God’s mercy and taught about our responsibility to help others who have temporal needs. He made the following promise regarding how we can know the right way to provide this help:

“[God] will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again” (“Are We Not All Beggars?” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 41).

Luke 16:19–31. Correcting the inequities of mortal life

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man was told, “Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented” (Luke 16:25). The different experiences of the rich man and Lazarus in mortality and in the spirit world illustrate the power of the Atonement to overturn or correct unfairness and injustice experienced in this life. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, justice works in the favor of, and is friend to, the righteous.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“The Savior makes all things right. No injustice in mortality is permanent, even death, for He restores life again. No injury, disability, betrayal, or abuse goes uncompensated in the end because of His ultimate justice and mercy” (“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 112).

Luke 16:19–31. The spirit world in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus

“The parable of the rich man and Lazarus refers to two different conditions in the postmortal spirit world: ‘Abraham’s bosom’ and ‘hell’ (see Luke 16:22–23). The former is depicted as a place of comfort in the company of the faithful (epitomized by father Abraham), the latter as a place of torment. … Between this abode of the faithful and ‘hell’ there was ‘a great gulf fixed’ (Luke 16:26), which prevented interchange between the two. …

“… Before Christ’s death, spirits from paradise could not visit those who were in spirit prison. His ministry in the spirit world bridged the gulf between paradise and the spirit prison, making it possible for the spirits in prison to receive the message of the gospel from authorized ministers sent from paradise (see D&C 138:18–37; John 5:25–29; 1 Peter 3:18–21; 4:6)” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 173). For a visual representation of the gulf between these two conditions that Christ bridged, see the commentary for Luke 16:19–31 in the New Testament Student Manual.

Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 16:16–23 (in the Bible appendix). The Pharisees’ wickedness

As recorded in Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 16:16–23, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for “pervert[ing] the right way” (Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 16:21 [in the Bible appendix]). One way the Pharisees had done this was by pretending to follow the law of Moses and other scriptures while they were actually using them for wicked purposes. Jesus referred to one example of this when he called the Pharisees adulterers, to which they angrily responded by ridiculing Him again. Jesus then described the Pharisees’ unrighteous sanction of divorce for reasons other than fornication, which they tried to justify by twisting a law given by Moses (see also Matthew 19:3–9). The Savior also declared that in their hearts these men did not really believe in God.

Throughout His ministry, Jesus exposed the Pharisees’ abuse and twisted interpretations of the law of Moses and other teachings of ancient prophets. He became a threat to the social and political power the Pharisees had obtained through their wickedness. Because of this, many Pharisees sought to have Jesus killed.