Do you ever read a story or a parable in the Bible and go, “HUH?!??”
Some stories are more straightforward than others.
And today, as we continue in our series on the book of Luke, we come to a parable that many call one of the most difficult of Jesus’ parables to interpret.
The meaning is certainly there, but you might not see it just whizzing through as you sip your morning coffee.
So let’s take a minute today, to open up God’s Word and see if we can unpack it.
Go ahead and grab a Bible and open up to Luke chapter 16, verse 1.
(Luke 16:1-15) – NIV
Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 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.’
3 “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— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
7 “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.’
8 “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. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
This is a parable that causes many to do double take.
It almost seems like Jesus is commending the man for being dishonest…which isn’t what he’s doing at all.
So let’s start to unpack this:
There’s a rich man, who has a manager in charge of his affairs or money
The manager has wasted his boss’ money…and so he’s getting fired.
The rich man has basically told the manager, “Before you go, get the books in order…but, basically, you’re fired.”
But this manager knows…that there’s no way he’s ever going to get a great job like this in his industry again.
His boss is never going to give him a good reference.
He’ll be reduced to manual labor or begging.
And so he calls up some of people who owe his master money
And he says, “Oh you owe him 900, let’s make it 450” and so on and so forth.
Now, why is he doing this?
He’s plotting his next move!
We’re told in verse 4 that he wants to be welcomed into someone else’ house after he gets fired.
He’s trying to secure his next job.
And who is going to love him and give him a job?
Probably the guy that he just saved a ton of money!
He’s using his master’s money to help him in the next stage of his life.
And apparently his master isn’t even all that mad.
Verse 8 tells us that the master commended his old manager because he acted shrewdly
He was smart, savvy with his business and relational decisions.
You get the feeling that if you were to ask the rich man what he thought of his of his old manager…he would have said, “Can’t say that I trust him anymore, but boy, he’s a savvy business man!”
THE MAIN POINT
Okay, that’s interesting and all…but what’s the point?
What is Jesus trying to teach through this parable?
And why does Jesus use this man, of all people, as an example for us??
Jesus is not commending dishonesty here, but the shrewd, smart use of money.
Take a look at the second half of verse 8 and verse 9 again:
(Luke 16:8b-9) – NIV
For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
This is the point of the parable: Worldly people are often more much shrewd (smart, savvy) than Christians when it comes to boldly investing their money and seeing opportunities for their next stage of life.
But Jesus is saying:
Christians should be even more shrewd…but when it comes to investing our money for the real next stage of life…which is heaven.
UNDERSTANDING WHO OWNS YOUR MONEY
But here’s the thing…you can’t be obedient to Jesus’ teaching here if you don’t first understand where your talents, gifts, money, and life comes from…and who owns it!
Right out of the gate in this parable, Jesus wants you to see that what you have…isn’t really yours
You’re managing your master’s money.
Your master’s talents.
But as Americans who love our self-made independence….we want to rebel against this notion…that the money we have is God’s
We want to say, “Wait a second! I worked hard for what I got. I studied…went to college, went to graduate school…worked my tail off…”
But why are you even still breathing?
Because of God
And listen…yes, you may be a really hard worker…
But you could have been born in China 100 years ago…and died in the Great Chinese Famine in 1960 along with 30 million others.
Or lived in Europe during the Bubonic Plague.
Everything you have is from God.
And the manager in the parable knows this.
He’s going to have to give an account for what He did with his master’s money
And so will we.
When you meet God someday….
How will you answer Him when He asks you:
What have you done with all of the years I gave you?
What have you done with the gifts and talents I gave you?
What have you done with the money I gave you to manage?
Not that long ago, I read about a man who owned an oil field.
Well, one day, he hit a gusher, and suddenly he was worth about twice as much!
A few days later, his friend asked, “What’s it like to wake up one morning and have twice as much as you had the day before”
(and listen to his answer!)
This Christian man said, “My assets haven’t changed. I didn’t own the first money, so I own the same amount now as before, which is zero.
“I just feel added responsibility to God to manage this new asset well.”
MAKING ETERNAL INVESTMENTS
And so if your life is to be used for God’s purposes, and you are managing his money…how then should we use it?
Well, to start, the Bible talks of giving at least 10% to God’s work.
And, according to this parable, we should be using our money, shrewdly, and wisely, when it comes to investing in the next stage of life…eternity.
And…we were told it’s to gain friends…who will welcome us into eternity!
That means we’re to use our money to help people start a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Because that’s the only investment that’s eternal
You can invest in stocks…or gold…or even bitcoin…but none of them will last.
They’ll all fade away, or, your earthly life will first.
But those that you help lead to Jesus…will be welcoming you into heaven.
What a cool picture!
And Jesus isn’t just recommending this as some nice platitude…He’s saying he wants you to be shrewd about it.
Smart, dedicated, savvy, determined.
It should bring us great sadness that more people in the world know about Coca-Cola and McDonalds than they do about Jesus Christ
Jesus is telling us that we’re not being shrewd enough with how we invest our money for the next stage of life.
He’s telling us that we can, oddly enough, learn something from the people of this world on shrewd investments
But what does that look like?
Well, if someone gave you $5,000 and said you could only spend on it something that would help show Jesus to people…how would you spend it?
Start shrewdly thinking about this…because realize God has already lent you some of HIS money…for that exact purpose.
There are a thousand ways you can use the Master’s money to help with the next stage of life.
It’s as simple as giving to your church.
If you haven’t started, start there.
Start giving online today.
For those of you who have given to our building project for all of these years, the money you gave is going to help A LOT of people go to heaven…
That’s an eternal investment.
It’s a shrewd…smart investment on your part…because it’s an eternal investment.
But applying this passage goes beyond simply giving to your church.
It’s in how your handle ALL of your money.
I don’t know what it looks like today, but in the 1970’s the city of Cairo Egypt had its own unique version of poverty called “Garbage City”
Each morning at dawn some seven thousand garbage collectors on horse-carts left for Cairo, where they would collect the garbage left behind by the city's seven million citizens.
After their day's work, they would return to Garbage City, bringing the trash back to their homes, and sorting out what's useful
These were the poorest of the poor—outcasts among outcasts.
Well, in 1972, a young Egyptian businessman lost his wristwatch, valued at roughly $11,000.
But to his surprise, one of the poor outcasts of Garbage City, who happened to be a follower of Jesus Christ, saw the man’s name on it, tracked him down, and returned the expensive watch.
As he returned it to the rich man, he said, “My Christ told me to be honest until death."
Because of the garbage man's act of honesty & obedience to Christ, the Egyptian businessman later told a reporter, "I didn't know Christ at the time, but I told that man that I saw Christ in him.”
“I told him, 'Because of what you have done and your great example, I will worship the Christ you are worshiping."
And that business man, true to his word, studied the Bible and grew in his faith.
Soon he and his wife began ministering to Egypt's physically and spiritually poor.
In 1978, he was ordained and now leads a church that meets right outside of…Garbage City.
That poor man could have seen the watch as an incredible investment for his own life…but instead, he saw it, not as his own, but as a way to invest in friends for the next life.
I pray you see your resources in the same way.
Use your resources to bless others in need
Be of special help to unbelievers
Reach out to your friends and family that don’t know Christ.
Invite them out to eat with you (and pay)
Invite them to go to a Vikings Game (in 2021 ☺) and pay
When I was a Youth Pastor, we’d sometimes have kids that didn’t know Christ, but were interested in going on a retreat or missions trip with us…but, they couldn’t afford to go.
And there would always be someone in the church that would say, “I’ll pay their way. 100%.”
And some of those kids come to Christ on those trips!
That’s what this passage is talking about!
That reminds me of one of the ways that my wife Lindsey and personally apply this teaching, which is by strongly believing in the need to financially invest in our own children’s eternal destiny.
Now, I can’t purchase anyone’s salvation, but I can prioritize my spending so that I can do everything in my power to help my kids have as many positive experiences with Jesus as possible
So here’s what that looks like, and will look like, for us.
We invest in spiritual things.
We buy our kids a brand new, and different kids Bible every single year.
We invest to send our kids to VBS every summer
Now that they’re old enough, we’ll invest to send our kids to Christian Camp, every summer.
It’s not cheap…but don’t we all spend the same amount of money (or more) on our kids athletic camps and activities?
And will they even care about soccer or volleyball or band camp by the time they’re 25?
Jesus wants us to prioritize eternal investments over the things that have such short-term payoffs.
When your kids are in Youth Group, send them on every single retreat, conference, or missions trip.
Invest in it.
You want to provide them every possible opportunity for them to meet Jesus.
Prioritize the eternal over the temporary
Or here’s an interesting one…
What if instead of taking a big trip to Hawaii or to Disney World again…you saved up to take your family to the Holy Land…to walk where Jesus walked.
Do you see what we’re talking about?
How did our passage end today? Do you remember?
It’s the end of Verse 15
(Luke 16:15) – NIV
What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
That’s a shocking verse.
But all of the things and experiences that our world seems to value so highly are “detestable” to God…
Don’t read that lightly…
They’re detestable because they end up being a short-term investment that amounts to nothing of eternal value.
So, I want you to take this passage to the Lord in prayer this week.
And say, “God, what do you want me to do with this?”
“How can I (or how can we…talk about it if you’re married)…use what YOU gave us…to invest in the next life…not just the things that will fade in this life.”
And I pray God leads you.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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