Luke 16:1-9 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ “‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’ “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
An Odd Story
It’s an odd story isn’t it – a man rips of his boss – gets fired – devises a scheme to rip off his boss some more – succeeds – and gets commended for it. And then Jesus says Christians should be like the man! It comes as a bit of a shock all things considered.
What’s a modern example of the shrewd manager? What about ex president of the USA Bill Clinton – last hours in the oval office he apparently provided pardons to a couple of allegedly criminal businessmen – in return for favours. You can bet, and the reports at the time indicated as well, that he didn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart – he wanted to be remembered financially and materially once he was out of the oval office. He was surely expecting a return on his investment – just like the shrewd manager.
Money and property! Money makes the world go round? The stats tell us that almost 90% of money and wealth in the world is possessed by 10% of the world’s population – which is a frightening sort of statistic. Though as I look at my own life I wonder whether I’m meant to fit into the 10% or the 90% – or maybe I’m somewhere in the middle.
- A reporter with the Getaway program was asked in by Money magazine (Australia) to finish this sentence: “Money makes…?” and she said: “money makes life easier – ultimately it can offer you choices – even though it can bring out the foulest qualities in some people.”
She’s right – on so many levels. Money is opportunity – for good or for evil. It gives you choices. And – it certainly can make people turn foul. Take 9/11 – money and religion = the worst terrorist activity – the destruction of thousands and 10’s of thousands of lives, pain that will linger for years, the changes to international travel, loyalties, revenge that has been meted out, ongoing hatred it has caused – not simply due to religion but due to money. Without money it would not have been possible. The Muslim terrorist was a multi-billionaire – money can bring out the foulest qualities in some people. I realise this is a pretty extreme example but that doesn’t mean it ain’t true!
The story Jesus tells of the Shrewd manager is a story about the opportunity of money. It’s a story about a man who sees his world with a startling sense of reality.
Here is a man caught out – he’s stuffed up big time and someone’s dobbed him in. He’s been foolish with his masters money – he’s meant to manage his masters affairs with sense and integrity – honesty and transparency – but instead he wastes his master’s possessions. Obviously we are not talking small scale – the sorts of sums involved are big business. And his world starts to crumble. He’s not going to be able to get another job in the same position once people find out about his mismanagement. There’s no social security, there’s no other avenues for employment – what’s he to do?
Luke 16:4 “I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.”
He calls in the people he normally deals with – they haven’t heard that he’s had the chop – think ‘window of opportunity’. And he carves up their bills – “take off 50%”, “take off 20%” – just examples probably of the many debts that changed in size that day. What is he expecting to get by ripping off his master?
He’s ensuring that he has rich friends who will put him up – maybe not forever but for a while – maybe give him time to sort out his life in comfort rather than on the streets. It’s a very smart move.
Luke 16:8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.”
Why does the master commend the manager? If someone in your employ ripped you off… and then did it again you would hardly say “well done”. Well he’s probably not saying thankyou to his manager – he’s not offering him his old job back – but when the circumstances were against him he found a way to keep himself out of the gutter – he saw his situation for what it really was, he found a way to make it work to his advantage and he acted. Smart guy!
The Punch Line
Now here’s the kicker. Jesus says…
Luke 16:8b-9 “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
What Jesus is saying is use worldly wealth to make friends for the kingdom of God – so that when this world passes away and God’s kingdom comes we will be standing there with many, many people – eternal friends. Instead of using money for things that can only pass away use it for eternal rewards. Jesus words are almost a plea for seeing and acting according to the truth – people in this world can act shrewdly – can act wisely and sensibly according to the reality they see – if only God’s people would see this world for what it truly is and act accordingly.
Jesus is talking to the Jews – but it applies even more to Christians. The Jews were meant to be God’s people living God’s way in God’s world – which is also a description of Christians. If anyone should understand the true situation of the world it should have been them – and us. If only we who know the truth about Jesus, who know the coming judgement to be real, who know the wonder of God’s love in Christ – who see the real problems in trying to serve both God and money – if only we would act according to the reality of the world from God’s point of view and use what God has given us to further the cause of the kingdom of God. See the world with God’s eyes – act in the world according to God’s plans.
The thing is we are good at spending money on ourselves – we even dress it up as wisdom and sensible stewardship. We buy and sell with the best of the world – we are entrepreneurs when it comes to using money and worldly goods – we scrimp and save, we take on debt burdens, we lock ourselves into wage structures, we spend up big on our kids or our spouse, we provide the best we can get for our families. We know all about using money to mould our world around us, to fill in the gaps and make life as comfortable as we can make it. Just like the Pharisees – perfect according to the law and yet lovers of money – in fact as Jesus declares not only do they love money but money has become their master. Instead of money being an opportunity we have become slaves to the love of money and what money can do.
Making Friends for Life
What is the opportunity of money? Jesus says simply that the opportunity is to use money to make friends for the kingdom of God.
Here’s a question. Why do we have what we have?
- We live in a rich society and in comparison to many people in the world we are well off. Why?
As we read in Corinthians riches are to enable generosity – in Christians in any case.
2 Corinthians 9:11 “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
The end result of generosity is thanksgiving to God. That is – what we sow with what God has given us will produce a harvest. If we sow our money and life into worldly pursuits then we will harvest a worldly crop. We may well have everything this world says we should have – education, home, cars, holidays, shares, big superannuation, lifestyle etc – but that is all we will gain – and we may not gain that because as we know this is a dangerous world. One minute you can be a multimillionaire and the next a terrorist can park a plane in your office. God says to us store up riches in heaven.
Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
If we sow what God gives us with an eye to eternity then what we will reap is God’s riches for ourselves – and thanksgiving to God. When we arrive on heavens doorstep there will be all those we invested in there giving thanks to God. As Paul says to the Thessalonian church;
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.”
The opportunity of money is you can take it with you – if we spend what God gives us on heavenly treasures, if we put it to work for the kingdom then the harvest will be those who join us for eternity – the friends we make for God.
How can we spend money for an eternal harvest? Well we can take the example of the shrewd manager – he used worldly goods to make friends – he saw his situation and the reality of his world and he acted accordingly. Jesus says to us that we need to be like that – not dishonest but using what we have to make friends for God.
How do we make friends by using money? Well I can think of a couple of possibilities. We could pay people to come to church. Hmmm? Better still we could use our homes and hospitality to build relationships – having non-Christian friends for meals, spending money and time to build those relationships so that we can be witnesses for Christ. When you buy presents for people buy Christian books or give people a Bible and offer to help them read it.
We can give to the poor and the needy through various Christian agencies who intentionally seek to address people’s spiritual as well as physical needs. Sponsor a child in the third world – $40/month through a group like World Vision – they feed and educate and address spiritual needs. Even more – the child’s family probably praises God for the help they receive. Imagine if every Christian family in Australia sponsored just one child each – $1 a day… it’s not a lot of money but it’s an amazing opportunity.
We can learn to be generous towards each other so that people give thanks to God for what they receive from us. Christians praise God when they receive help from God’s people. What we do even in small way can bring praises to God.
Our world is moving towards a day of judgement – that is the reality that we have learnt from Jesus. Our world is in the grip of two enemies – sin and death – that is the reality we have learnt from Jesus. And we know the solution – the opportunity of money is that we can use it to sow a crop that will be harvested in eternity – if only we will see the world and our situation with the same clarity that the shrewd manager saw his situation; if only we will use what God has so generously given us to make friends that will stand for all eternity.
Wow! Thank you! I permanently needed to write on my blog something like that. Can I include a portion of your post to my site?