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Luke 16:1-17: God or Money Print E-mail
Sunday, 11 August 2013

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One of the best people in your life to ask about where you will spend eternity could be your banker.  That may sound like a ridiculous claim, but it seems to be valid in light of what Jesus teaches us in Luke 16.  What you do with your money in this life is a real indicator of where you stand with the Lord.  And this is not the first time that He has made this connection in Luke.  Remember the story of the man who planned to build bigger barns in Luke 12:13-21?  Before the day was even over the man died and lost all.  Jesus concluded that story with the caution about dying and not being rich toward God.  He says that whatever we treasure is where our hearts will be (12:34) and encourages us to labor for heavenly reward (14:12-14).  We might think that how we spend our money is not that big of a deal, but Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Luke does not agree. 

Our passage this morning and the passage next week (16:18-31) are two more examples of Jesus teaching us about money and its connection with eternity.  I think we can summarize what He is saying here (and elsewhere) with this statement: We should use our money for eternal purposes.  Instead of spending our money on ourselves (like the man with the barns) or using it on people who can pay us back, Jesus teaches us to use our money in the service of God and others.  We are not to use it for just earthly purposes but for eternal ones.  In our passage He gives us some reasons why we should use our money in this way.  What are these?

You cannot depend upon money (v. 1-9)

All of my commentaries noted the difficulty of interpreting Jesus’ parable of the dishonest manager.  It is probably the most difficult of all of the parables to understand.  Yet, we can make sense of it if we look at it closely.  So let’s walk through it.  Look at verses 1-3.  The situation is pretty clear.  A rich man has a manager of his money who has been wasting, or squandering, his possessions.  The rich man confronts him, tells him to turn in an account of what he’s been doing, and essentially fires him.  What will the manager do?  He is losing his job and he does not want to dig or beg.  He needs a plan.  So he comes up with an idea.  Look at verses 4-7. 

While he is still in charge of the rich man’s accounts, he will reduce people’s debts so that they will be kind to him after he loses his job.  People debate about whether or not the manager was reducing interest or taking off his on fee, but Jesus does not answer that question.  We can only speculate about that.  Yet, either way, look how the rich responds in verse 8a.  Why would the rich man commend this guy?  I mean, didn’t he just steal money from him?  This is what has caused people to speculate about what the manger did.  But we are actually told why the rich man commended him: his shrewdness.  The rich man was not necessarily pleased with the man’s dishonesty and stealing of the money, but he was impressed with the plan.  He wasn’t happy, but he had to give credit where credit was due.  The manager came up with a plan to secure his future. 

Jesus adds a comment in verse 8b.  Look at that with me.  Jesus notes that lost folks (‘the sons of this world, or age’) are more shrewd in dealing with earthly matters, or matters of this age, than ‘religious’ people (‘the sons of light’) are.  We can be naïve at times when it comes to the stuff of earth.  Jesus uses this point to make an application of the parable in verse 9.  Look at that with me.  This can be a difficult verse.  What exactly is Jesus saying?  We are to use the money and resources we have in this life, what He calls unrighteous wealth, or ‘worldly wealth, to make friends who will welcome us into eternity.  These ‘friends’ could either be the poor and needy that we help in this life or it could actually be a reference to God (Father, Son, and Spirit).  Either way, the point is that we should use our money and resources in this life for eternal purposes.  Why?  Because ‘worldly wealth’ will eventually fail.  You cannot take it into eternity.  It will not last into eternity.  What will last is how we use it in the service of others.  Thus, like the shrewd manager, be wise in how you spend your money.  Use it for eternal purposes.  Use it to be rich toward God.  It will not get you into Heaven, only belief in Christ can do that, but it will evidence if you have truly placed your trust in the Savior.

You cannot be unfaithful with money and faithful with true riches (v. 10-12)

Whatever people do with ‘little’ is what they will do with ‘much.’  Jesus states this principle in verse 10.  Look at that with me.  If you are faithful with little then you will be faithful with much.  In the same way, if you are unfaithful with little then you will be unfaithful with much.  This principle applies in many areas of life.  We need to be people who are characterized by our faithfulness in all actions, whether they are big or small.  Some people think (teenagers surely among them) that they will be faithful with big stuff even if the are not with small stuff.  They might argue: ‘Sure I let the fish and the hamster and the rabbit die, but I will take of this puppy.’  What you do with the small stuff is a good indication of what you will do with the big stuff.

Jesus applies this principle to money in verses 11-12.  Look at verse 11 with me.  If we cannot be faithful in the riches of this world, then why would we be entrusted with the riches of the world to come?  If we cannot handle money in a faithful way in this life, then it indicates that we are not ready for the treasures of Heaven.  Notice too what Jesus is equating with the little.  People spend their lives on that which will not last.  They spend their lives on worldly wealth and they neglect the true riches that are to come.  He goes on in verse 12.  Look at that with me.  The money we have in this life is not our own.  We are just stewards.  We will have it today and we will be gone tomorrow.  We should steward our money in a way that is faithful with the reality that one day we will receive that which is our own.  All of this should loosen our grip on the stuff of earth.  We should gladly use our money and resources to serve others because we believe in the promise of eternal life with Christ.  We should use the little, the wealth that will not last, for that which will not end, the true riches.

You cannot serve God and money (v. 13)

All of this teaching leads to the well-known statement that Jesus makes in verse 13.  Look at that with me.  The principle is plain: you cannot serve two masters.  You cannot truly be devoted to two things or two beings.  Yet, people constantly try to be devoted to God and something else.  Maybe it is a relationship that they should not have.  Maybe it is a sin that they will not let go of.  Maybe it is sin in general.  Or maybe it is money.  But Jesus makes it clear: You cannot serve God and money.  You have to choose.  You can try all you want to be devoted to God and something else, but it will not work.  Your devotion to Him cannot be divided.  It is either all or nothing.  Money is a difficult and touch subject at times.  It is hard to know where and how to draw the lines.  But Jesus wants us to know that we cannot be devoted to money (making it, spending it, saving it) and be devoted to Him.  You must serve one or the other.

You cannot fool God (v. 14-15)

And don’t think that you can somehow deceive God.  He is not mocked.  The Pharisees tried to do this, but God was not fooled.  Look at verses 14-15.  These men were lovers of money and they ridiculed Jesus for His teaching.  They thought they could serve God and make a lot of money doing it.  They justified their actions and felt good about their profits.  But God knew what was going on because He knew their hearts.  When it comes to money, you can hide from men, but you cannot hide your heart from God.  The Pharisees loved the things that men exalted, the things that money could buy, the stuff of earth, but God sees it as an abomination.  Again, we might be tempted to think that loving money is not that big of a deal, but it is an abomination to the Lord.  These Pharisees thought that they had figured out how to love money and God at the same time, but Jesus reminds them, and us, that God is not fooled.  He knows your heart.  And this is not a sentimental statement.  We sometimes say to people after we have disagreed with them or wronged them: ‘Oh, well you know my heart on that.’  That is not what Jesus is saying.  We cannot be selfish with our money and spend it ourselves and then say to God: ‘But Lord you know my heart, you know I love you more than anything else.’  The Lord really knows our heart.  He knows what we truly value and He sees through any deception that might justify us before me.  No matter what, He will not be fooled.

The Pharisees may have just dismissed Jesus at this point.  They may have thought to themselves again: ‘This guy is crazy, he’s healing on the Sabbath, calling sinners to follow him, and now teaching us crazy ideas about money.  Why should we listen to him?’  Perhaps this is why Luke includes verses 16-17 at this point.  Look at those with me.  These verses do not seem to fit the context.  It is hard to know why Luke included them (and verse 18 as well) here.  Yet, it could be that Jesus is simply showing the Pharisees again the significance of His coming. 

Before the ministry of John, which was to announce the coming of Jesus, the Law and the Prophets were the final Word of God.  Yet, when John came, all that the Law and the Prophets had said about the coming Kingdom of God began to come true.  John preached the good news of the Kingdom, calling people to turn from their sins and believe in Jesus.  Likewise, Jesus preached the good news as well.  And people were doing all that they could to be in the Kingdom.  They were ‘pressing into’ the Kingdom, as Paul tells Timothy: Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).  This does not mean that the Law and Prophets are now void, it simply means that with the coming of Jesus they are being fulfilled.  Much of what is taught in them still stands, like what they say about marriage and divorce, which we will look at next week.  Yet, the Kingdom has come with Jesus.  Things will never be the same again.  The Pharisees can continue to dismiss Him and ridicule His teaching, but they do so at their own peril.

Jesus calls us to radical obedience with these verses.  The Kingdom has come and He is the King.  As King, He is not looking for half-hearted followers, but true servants, those who recognize that all they have belongs to Him.  He calls for His followers to use their money for eternal purposes.  Why should we do that?  Because He spent His blood on eternal life for us.  He gave His all to secure our redemption.  And when He returns He will give all of those who repent and believe in Him true riches: eternity in Heaven with Him.  We could spend our lives on other things, but it would be a bad investment.  Give your all for the Treasure that will last.  Amen.

~ WIlliam Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 08 November 2013 )

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