I am finding Luke 16 to be exceedingly confusing. As if verses 1-15 and the Parable of the Shrewd Steward weren’t difficult enough (I preached on them this past Sunday…you can read about that sermon here and here), this coming Sunday I’m focusing on verses 14-18 which put Law and Marriage together, and I’m not sure they go together very well! Last week I had a lot of help from Kenneth Bailey’s studies on the parables of Luke. Bailey’s awesome study makes great sense of the Shrewd Steward. This week, well, the scholars are not as helpful.
Let me explain. My first question is about the placement of verses 16-18 in the passage. I’ve been reading a number of commentaries, and they have many theories about these verses, most of which don’t even try to see a flow of thought. They see verses 1-15 and 19-31 as two sections primarily about how to use money. I get that. Here’s the strange part: they suggest that the verses sandwiched in between, verses 16-18 about Law and Marriage, are somewhat random. One scholar, Bock (in the IVP Commentary series), has a theory for the unity of the passage, but I found it unconvincing.
I wonder what you think when you read chapter 16!
Here is a bit more explanation about Law and Marriage, the two topics that we’re going to look at on Sunday:
- How Christians should use the OT Law
- Marriage and Divorce
They seem like an odd couple of themes to place together, but that is exactly what Jesus does. Why, though? What is it about marriage that might relate to the OT Law? What do we need to know about the OT Law that could help us with marriage?
There is no doubt in my mind that we need to talk about both of these subjects. There is perhaps just as much confusion about how Christians should use the OT Law, as there is about marriage and divorce. Randall Balmer points out in his book, Thy Kingdom Come, that decades ago the religious right stopped talking about divorce and marriage because so many of their leaders had gotten divorces. They needed a new issue to galvanize support for their causes, so they picked abortion. Balmer suggests that they never should have stopped talking about marriage. I agree. Most of us are married or will be one day, but many marriages fail or are painful. People are hungry for help in their marriages.
Thankfully the pursuit of healthy marriage is something that God loves and encourages, and many people, pastors, churches, and organizations are talking about it a lot. So will we this coming Sunday.
As I write this on Thursday afternoon, I have to admit that I don’t have this passage all figured out. I’ve got study to do! There’s a potential for a big snowstorm to cover our area, so we may need to cancel worship. But even if that happens, I won’t be off the hook! I’ll either record a podcast on Monday or upload the manuscript of the sermon for you. For now, I encourage you to prepare yourself for worship. Read Luke 16, thinking about that question of the OT Law. Are we bound to follow it? And think about marriage? What does it mean to have a healthy one so that divorce is not even in the realm of possibility?
And weather permitting, we’d love to have you join us at Faith Church on Sunday as we’ll talk about this further.