Spend the week studying Luke 16:1-15, 19-31. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Following Jesus’ teaching frees us from slavery to money.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
Feeling the crunch
“But mom. All the other girls are getting that dress! What do you want me to do? Get my prom dress from the second hand? I’ll be laughed out of high school.” Kim thought for a moment. She knew there wasn’t enough money in the family’s budget to buy that kind of dress. But she also didn’t want to tell her daughter, “No way, Jose.” Kim felt hopeless.
Lately things have been difficult for the family. Dee, Kim’s husband, was fired from his job almost two years ago. After four months of looking for work, they had to start withdrawing from their savings to stay afloat financially. They had to take out a loan to pay for their oldest daughter’s wedding last fall. Kaitlin, their youngest daughter, broke her arm at taekwondo practice. Because Dee didn’t have health insurance, they had to pay for her medical expenses out of pocket.
Dee and Kim would put on airs around their children, because they didn’t want them worrying too. But it was hard to hide the strain they both felt. Sometimes Dee seems completely withdrawn, lost in his thoughts about whether he can provide for his family. Kim’s anxiety causes her to lose sleep and not feel herself. Recently Dee opened up to his best friend, Keith: “We just feel overwhelmed most of the time.”
Normal isn’t working
Does Dee and Kim’s story sound familiar? Chances are, many can relate to it. Money seems to be on most Americans’ minds. The average American household owes $15,310 on credit cards, $171,775 on mortgages and $27,188 on auto loans.  The rising cost of higher education has made the graduating class of 2015 the most indebted ever.  A debt-filled lifestyle seems normal to many—if not most—Americans. But it’s not working and has left many Americans feeling confused, frustrated and overwhelmed.
God’s Word gives us a different direction in life. The world’s road (what’s “normal” in culture) leads only to dead ends, while God’s leads to clarity, purpose, peace and blessing. When we follow God’s way, we gain a better mindset of Him, ourselves and others. God’s way may seem weird, but it’s the best path to find purpose and experience relief from hopelessness and stress.
Is there anything in Dee and Kim’s story that you relate to? If so, what?
What things do you find yourself worrying about most in life?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
This week your group will look at Jesus’ view on money and how following Him frees us from slavery to it. In Luke 16 He teaches his disciples a correct view of money using two parables (short stories used to illustrate a truth).
The shrewd manager
The first parable is about a manager who, before getting fired, ingratiates himself with his master’s debtors by negotiating smaller debt payments with them. Doing this would ensure a future income for the manager. In an odd twist, the master commends the manager for his shrewdness and in being strategic with what he had. Jesus goes on to teach that we all must choose our master, God or money. We can’t choose both.
The rich man and Lazarus
The second parable is about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. The rich man lives large during his lifetime, but cares only for himself. When he dies, he goes to a place of torment. There he’s confronted with the truth that he preferred the temporary, fleeting his lifetime, but cares only for himself. When he dies, he goes to a place of torment. There he’s confronted with the truth that he preferred the temporary, fleeting pleasures of his wealth instead of choosing the things of God. Jesus uses this story to show that how we treat our wealth matters, in this life and in eternity.
Choose one of Jesus’ parables and have someone read it aloud to the group. Next, divide the group into pairs and have them retell the story to one another in their own words.
What truth from Jesus’ teaching stands out most to you? Why?
Describe someone whose master is money. Next, describe someone whose master is God. Explain the differences in each description.
What’s one change you can make to treat your wealth and possessions differently this week?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
Jesus’ teaching was always practical; that is, it could be applied to everyday life. There are three applications that come from His teaching on money in Luke 16.
You don’t own it, you manage it
First, the Parable of the Shrewd Manager shows us we aren’t owners. Everything belongs to God; we are simply managers of what is already His. He expects us to manage the money and resources He gives us with wisdom and care. Having this perspective allows us to see the goodness of God and His gifts.
What gifts from God are you thankful for? Share them with the group.
You don’t love it, you use it
Money can easily become an idol. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day (the Pharisees) for their love of it. Jesus lived differently. Wealth and possessions didn’t define Him. His love for God did. He chose to serve God rather than money.
Money is one way to demonstrate our love for God to others. We should use our wealth to bring blessing to others and glory to God. Use what you have to make others happy in God. After all, Jesus taught that it’s better to give than receive.
Name one thing you can do to use your wealth as a blessing to others that glories God.
You don’t count on it, you know it will fail you
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus shows us that, in the end, money will fail us. Money promis- es happiness, but can’t deliver on that promise. Money promises security, but any number of events can take that sense of security away. The stock market crashes. The doctor’s report is cancer. Money promises control, but only God, who is in full control over His creation, can help you understand and navigate life’s unpredictability.
What truths/promises of God can you use to combat the false promises money makes? For example, “Only God can give me the joy and happiness my heart desires.”
Select 1 question from this section to answer.
Living like Jesus
Jesus seemed weird to those around Him. While everyone was living for money, possessions and success, He lived to please God and serve others. This is the lifestyle God calls believers to live out today.
You can live like Jesus in three main ways when it comes to money:
- By being God-centered. All of life revolves around God and your relationship to Him. Everything else takes second place.
- By trusting Him. Freedom from stress and anxiety comes when trust that God is good, knows our needs and will care for us.
- By holding everything loosely. Money and things are here today, gone tomorrow. Only what’s done for Jesus will last.
Which of the three applications would be most challenging to you? Why?
How might your group embrace these applications in its community?
First, thank God for His goodness and provision. Acknowledge that everything—including your money—belongs to Him. Ask for wisdom and the ability to see money like Jesus did. Ask Him to give you a more generous heart that seeks to bless others and bring Him glory.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read Philippians 4:11-13 and reflect on how Paul found contentment in God, whether he had a lot or a little.
Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their life.
The Bible and money.
The Bible has much to say about money. Overall, there are over 2,000 verses regarding money in the Bible. Sixteen of Jesus’ thirty-eight parables concern money and posses- sions. One in ten verses in the Gospels deal with money. The Bible doesn’t condemn wealth. Rather, it encourages the wealthy to use their wealth for good (1 Tim. 6:17-18).
Understanding the master’s strange response.
There are various interpretations regarding the master commending the manager’s actions. One is that the manager excluded his commission with the debtors. Another is that the manager created an inflow of money for his master by reducing debts that wouldn’t likely be paid. A third interpretation is that the master’s commendation was for how the manager was shrewd in looking out for himself. In any event, Jesus’ parables are focused on one major point and one should not focus too much on the particular details or actions of the characters in it.” 
There is overlap between the concepts of Sheol, Hades and hell in the New Testament. “Hades” was thought to be a place where the dead dwell. “Hell” (Gk. gehenna) was a place of torment and punishment. Another distinction is that Hades and Sheol are places you enter upon death, whereas hell is entered after the final judgment. 
An important aspect of Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is the truth that, not even the dead coming back to warn others, can ultimately change a sinful heart. Only God can change a sinner’s heart to lead them to repentance.
1. Erin El Issa, “2015 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Nerd Wallet, accessed September 2, 2016, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/cred- it-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/.
2. The average debt per borrower is over $35,000. Jeffrey Sparshott, “Congratulations, Class of 2015. You’re the Most Indebted Ever (For Now),” Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2015, accessed September 2, 2016, http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/05/08/congratulations-class-of-2015-youre-the-most-indebted-ever-for-now/.
3. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1990.
4. Adela Yarbro Collins and Mark Allan Powell, “Hades,” ed. Mark Allan Powell, The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 354.