Three Taverns Church

Reconstructing The Parable Of The Shrewd Manager, Part 2: The Setting

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Part 1 of the series discovered and discussed the primary and secondary character in Jesus’ Parable of the Shrewd Manager. Part 2 of the series will briefly discuss the setting of the parable within the context of the Gospel of Luke.

Who:

  • Chapter 16 opens with, “Jesus told his disciples…” so we know that Jesus’ disciples are the audience for this parable. It is very likely that “his disciples” refers to the larger body of Jesus’ followers, and not just the Twelve Apostles.
  • Verse 14 states, “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this…” so we know that a number of Pharisees (who were not Jesus’ disciples) were also witness to this parable.
  • Chapter 15 shows Jesus speaking to a group of ‘sinners’ and tax collectors; it is unknown whether that group was present.
  • Chapter 17 also opens with, “Jesus said to his disciples…” It is possible that Jesus repeated this parable often to his larger group of followers.
  • Based on the location this parable was probably told (see Where below) it is likely that those in attendance included Galileans, Samaritans, and Romans. In terms of first century Palestine, this was a diverse crowd!

What:

  • It’s a parable, of course, which means that Jesus wasn’t just ‘flapping His gums’. He told this story to make a point, which is of course why we’re studying it at all.

When:

  • The exact date and time of the telling of this parable is unknown; it is very likely that Jesus told the parable more than once. However, we know from previous and following chapters that Jesus was telling this and other parables as he moved through towns on his final trip to Jerusalem. This parable can be included with a handful of others (including the Prodigal Son) which Jesus attempted to impart on His followers as he knowingly approached His own execution.

Where:

  • The exact location is unknown, though previous and following chapters reveal that Jesus was teaching in towns and villages as He made His final trip to Jerusalem.
  • Chapter 17, verse 11 puts Jesus in a village on the border of the provinces of Galilee and Samaria, possibly near the town of Nain (where Jesus previously restored a widow’s son to life) and just south of His hometown of Nazareth.

Why:

  • I assume because He wanted to impart additional wisdom before He was executed in Jerusalem.
  • The gospels don’t always record events in chronological order (so it’s impossible to know for sure) but this parable is nestled close to several others, including the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the prodigal son. The proximity of those beloved (and well understood) parables to this rather confusing story is part of what agitates me…and, I suspect, many others.
  • Even if the chronological order isn’t correct (according to our modern understanding of time) the author of this gospel felt compelled to group these teachings together before Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. There is significance to this fact: Either Jesus was imparting His final wisdom to His wider audience, or the author felt this was the best place to insert these teachings.

Questions:

  1. Did I miss any important aspects of the setting for this parable?
  2. What do you think the significance is of the placement of this parable within the larger context of the Gospel?
  3. Does it seem odd to you that such a difficult parable comes directly after arguably the most beloved and well-understood parable in the Bible (the prodigal son)?
  4. Does the probable location of the telling of this parable pose any significance?

3 thoughts on “Reconstructing The Parable Of The Shrewd Manager, Part 2: The Setting

  1. 1. Part of the WHO of the setting might want to explore WHO the writer of this scripture was(Luke), WHO he was writing to, and the point he was trying to make by including this parable at this point in the text.

    2. Perhaps Luke placed this parable after the Prodigal Son parable to imply that the relationship between the rich man (who was also the steward’s master) and the steward, is as close as the Father-Son relationship in the Prodigal Son parable—born out of a societal/work relationship rather than a “born of one’s flesh” relationship. Many slaves in the American south were thought of as “family” by their benevolent “masters”. Many slaves were commmitted and loyal members of their master’s households. They “became family” as much as society would permit.

    • Hi Mary, thanks for reading & commenting! Re: #1, I’m going to explore authorship soon, but I want to treat it separately from the actual parable itself. Re: #2, I’m not convinced that ‘the master’ is also the rich man…having said that, I do like the way you compare the father/son relationship in the Prodigal Son parable to the Rich Man/Manager relationship here. It speaks to a love for others that transcends biological relationships.

  2. Pingback: Reconstructing The Parable Of The Shrewd Manager, Part 5: The Parable « rabidmongoose

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