Having a Godly Approach to Money
YOU CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MAMMON
Intro: It shouldn’t be that difficult. Can’t we conceive that it is possible for someone to commend a specific action or particular aspect of what a person does or is, without approving all his actions or endorsing his entire character? Think of baseball. In the 5th game of the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen of the Yankees pitched a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. 27 up and 27 down, no hits, no walks, no hit batters – an otherworldly athletic accomplishment. And yet Larsen was just an average pro baseball player pitcher. He had 81 wins and 91 losses over his career. Likewise, in our story today, a devious estate-manager is commended by his employer as he is firing him. But he is not being celebrated for his morality or business ethics – he failed in those. He was commended for his foresight and resourcefulness. He is praised for his ingenuity not his integrity. Today’s text will answer a very practical question in two ways. Jesus means for us to begin to think differently about money and possessions.
Luke 16:1 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.
Luke 16:2 So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’
“steward” = typically a trusted servant put in charge of the estate to relieve the owner of routine management.
Integrity was vital for this role, and this man’s integrity had failed. The nature of his job made it easy for him to be careless or to misappropriate funds for his own purposes or in sheer negligence.
Evidently the master thought the charge of squandering the goods from his estate was well-founded. He quickly informed the steward that he would be losing his position, but not until he gave a detailed audit of his activities.
This gave the steward time to think up a plan of action. Losing his stewardship not only meant the loss of his livelihood, but also the loss of his room and board. His life was falling apart.
Luke 16:3 “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg.
Inwardly, he reasoned that physically he could not do manual labor and emotionally he could not become like the destitute beggars.
He seemed to be running out of options.
WHAT SHALL I DO WHEN MY OPTIONS ARE LIMITED?
Luke 16:4 I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’
There is the thought of sudden inspiration here. “I have resolved what to do” = “I’ve got it!”
He sees a way out his predicament under the cover and care of his master’s clients.
(1) Do something resourceful in the uncertain present
Luke 16:5 “So he called every one of his master's debtors to him, and said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?’
Luke 16:6 And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’
Luke 16:7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’
Secrecy was essential. He dealt with his master’s debtors one by one.
The first one owes 100 measures of oil (approx. 800 gallons; yield from 146 olive trees; 3 years’ wages). The steward tells him to make a new bill in the amount of 50 measures.
The second owes 100 measures of wheat (approx. 1,000 bushels; yield from 100 acres; 8 years’ wages). The steward tells him to make a new bill in the amount of 80 measures.
These were large amounts that equaled considerable debts owed to the master.
The parable presents us with a steward who, faced with the loss of his employment, protected his future by calling in the loans and getting the debtors to rewrite them so that they no longer carried interest.
Ancient Israel operated on the basis of reciprocity – “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” The steward’s move gave him a claim upon his master’s debtors that was much more secure than any written contract.
Public honor required that they make some appropriate return to their new benefactor.
He looked to their gratitude to express itself by their taking him into their homes. He would not be homeless after losing his job which included room and board.
This action put the master in a difficult position. He could no longer establish is claim to the original amounts now that the first bonds were destroyed. Neither could he criticize the steward’s actions without exposing himself of charging interest.
It would be extremely difficult to obtain his legal rights, and, in the process, he would convict himself of acting immorally. Stuck.
So he put the best face possible on the situation and commended the steward. When he did so, his own reputation improved!
Luke 16:8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.
Why does the master applaud his manager after he fires him? What is commendable about what this steward did?
Simply put, the master is not congratulating him for his dishonesty (that’s what he fired him for!), but for taking resolute action in a crisis.
For high level employees entrusted with significant resources to manage, decisiveness is a virtue. Executives want that quality in their upper management. The ability to make sound decisions is a reason someone climbs high on the organizational chart.
When even dishonest worldly people know how and when to take decisive action, how much more should those who follow the Lord?
Remember, there is a world of difference between, “I applaud the dishonest steward because he acted cleverly,” and “I applaud the clever steward because he acted dishonestly.”
Matt 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.
Jesus observes that children of this age understand how the world works and use it to their benefit. Why do children of the light not understand the ways of the kingdom of God?
(2) Prepare specifically for the inevitable future
Luke 16:9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.
Luke now applies the challenge of the parable of the steward to the realm of handling wealth. Our money and wealth should be dispersed in our everyday lives with two eyes on eternity.
Mammon is everything we have that we cannot take with us. Money has limited value that ends with our death or the coming of the next world.
Jesus’ followers must use their money for their spiritual purposes just as wisely as the children of the world do for their material aims.
Make friends by using your wealth is Jesus’ counsel to His disciples. This might take the form of giving to those in need or even cancelling debts when it is in your power to do so.
Use some of the slick steward’s ingenuity to figure out how you can use earthly resources to benefit God’s people. Then, they will be overjoyed to welcome you into eternity.
illus: Two members of the same church have $30k to spend. One buys a new truck, fully loaded trim package. The other gives $15k to a group that translates the Gospel of John into the language of a newly discovered village along the Amazon River, and the other $15k to Life Choices of Memphis (crisis pregnancy center). Each of these brothers goes the heaven within one month of each other. The first guy enjoyed the common grace of God in this life. He never invested in the next one. The second was pleased to drive an obsolete 4-door sedan with 250,000 miles while giving away the Lord’s money to South America and to women with at-risk or unplanned pregnancies. How do you think the welcome into glory might have gone? Now put yourself in the illustration. Will a group of Brazilian villagers welcome you into heaven because you gave money to get them there? Will another man thank you or your church for pouring funds into the crisis pregnancy center? It was a worker there who convinced his mom to keep her baby – him. “They may receive you into an everlasting home.”
Time is running out for us, as it was running out for the steward; only what we will lose is not just a job – we will lose life itself.
“when I am put out of the stewardship” (v.4) = “when you fail” (v.9) WHEN.
Take no chances with heaven!
Jesus did not say “when it fails,” but literally “when you fail.” None of us are getting out of this world alive.
Everyone must be prepared to leave it all behind, and in the meantime, we are expected to use our wealth in a way that shows we have the right eternal priorities.
Are you willing to act decisively in your spiritual interests, the way the steward acted in his financial interests?
J.C. Ryle – A right use of our money in this world, from right motives, will be for our benefit in the world to come. It will not justify us. It will not bear the severity of God’s judgment, any more than other good works. But it shall be an evidence of our grace, which shall befriend our souls.
Luke 16:10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
The life of a disciple is one of faithful attention to the frequent and familiar tasks of each day, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem. The one who is faithful in today’s nickels and dimes is also the one who can be trusted with the big account.
illus: John’s gospel provides a dramatic illustration of the negative side of this principle. In John 12:6 we learn about Judas’ relationship to mammon.
John 12:6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
Should we be surprised that a far more devastating betrayal followed?
John 13:27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him.
What you do with the small things of life you will also do with the bigger things. You are either faithful or dishonest.
illus: The simple truth is that life consists of a series of seemingly small opportunities. Most of us this week will not write a book, sign a peace treaty, appoint a cabinet of leaders, dine with the queen, christen a ship, or be burned at the stake. More likely the week will present no more than the chance to write a thank-you note, visit a lonely friend, cast a vote, serve coffee at church, tell a child a story, share a meal, or feed the neighbor’s cat. You would not excel more in writing a novel than a simple thank-you note. You cannot dine with the queen better than you can visit a lonely friend. You cannot lead a city better than you can lead a small group.
Moses the Lawgiver and David the King chased sheep around before they were ready to rule God’s people.
The sum of the small things is what you will do with the big things in life
Luke 16:11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
Luke 16:12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?
Jesus sets “unrighteous mammon” against “true riches.” True riches are heavenly resources that only God can give.
Money, by nature, is a treasure of this present age. It tends to seduce us into false values and regrettable actions.
According to the principle laid down in the previous verse (v.10), anyone who uses money in the wrong way shows himself unfit to handle more important things. He should not be surprised when God withholds them from him.
And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?
Whether we have a little or a lot, the money we have is a sacred trust, and our destiny depends on what we do with it.
We are using borrowed goods, and we are living on borrowed time.
Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
A slave with two masters is a slave with unsolvable problems.
No one can give his full devotion to two masters at once. He may try, but only one will be central for him. So it is with God and mammon. You can devote yourself whole-heartedly to either, but not both.
The children of the world work under the strong delusion that they are free and independent in life. But everyone who makes accumulating and enjoying material wealth the main object of their lives is under the dominating power of Mammon.
We all prefer to think that we have a mature, measured response to the claims that wealth makes on us.
But money cries out to be a lord and master, and all too often we are quite ready to comply.
Psalm 62:10 …if riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so.
The man who sets his heart on the money that is in his hand, and therefore finds it annoying to be asked to give to the needy, has deluded himself that he is master over his money. He has convinced himself that he does not need anyone.
But in fact, he too, is a slave of Mammon.
Conclusion: The parable of the clever steward says to Jesus’ disciples that for all the inherent dangers found in possessions and worldly wealth, it is possible to manage goods in ways that are appropriate to life in the kingdom.
Do we use our worldly possessions in such a way that there will be persons in eternity who will be glad to receive us? Or will there be numbers who will point accusing fingers at us because we neglected or injured them through our unfaithful actions connected to the earthly goods entrusted to us?