Let me encourage you to come to Luke 16. There are about 40 parables that our Lord gave, and nobody else in the New Testament gave any parables, so all the parables were given by our Lord. As we know, they were designed to hide the truth from unbelievers, but to reveal it to believers, those who have ears to hear. Parables were, in a sense, a judgment, a confirmation of rejection. At the same time, they were light to those who had the ears to hear. We find that this particular parable is designed to help believers, as they all are. At the end of the day, they are only going to help believers because only believers really understand them.
But this, in particular, is designed to speak to the sons of light. That would be all of those who are part of the kingdom of God. It is a parable that has to do with money, and that’s not odd because about one out of three parables will have something to do with money. That’s just the way life is. Somebody said if you live 80 years, you’ll spend 50 of those 80 years thinking about money one way or another.
Our Lord gets it. He understands that life in the world is dependent upon a form of exchange, and we live and breathe and move with those exchanges. So here is a story about money. It’s a really shocking story because the characters in this story are to one degree or another relatively bad. One of them is very bad. The rest are complicit with his evil. Even the guy who is supposed to be the hero in this story is really flawed because he commends this bad man and the people who were complicit in the badness.
All of this strangely becomes an illustration of how we should live, we as believers, God’s people. So let’s get the story in mind starting in verse 1 Luke 16.
“He was also saying to the disciples – .” Now I want you to know this is for us. This is for us as it was for His disciples. That is not to say that there weren’t others listening. Down in verse 14, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things,” and of course, they were scoffing at them. The word “scoffing” there, very strong word. In the middle of this word “scoffing” in the original Greek is the word for “nose”, the actual word for “nose.” It means to stick up your nose. Sneering is the way it’s translated in 23:35 and describes what they were doing when Jesus was hanging on the cross. So this is scorn. This is what we would expect from the people who didn’t understand this parable and who, in many ways, were defined by this parable because they were lovers of money.
So they’re in the crowd listening, but the direction of this parable, as always, is to hide the truth from them because of their resolute unbelief and to give the lesson to His disciple sand to us.
“There was a rich man who had a manager – ” steward “ - and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. And he called to him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to bed. I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first – ” This is a process that he goes through – “‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrews in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.”
That’s the story. A really strange thing in one sense to tell a story where everybody is sort of relatively corrupted, but that is exactly the point that our Lord is making. Jesus taught from sort of normal routine aspects of life. Once in a while He turned life upside down and said things that might have seemed strange. This is one of those. He also talked about an unjust judge as well as an unscrupulous steward. So there were times when He used evil people to make His point.
Keep in mind there’s nothing in this parable that’s secret or hidden or allegorical or mystical. It’s a simple story, but what bothers some people is Jesus commends the bad guy. Listen to His closing: “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly.” Then in verse 9 Jesus says, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness.” Wow! Do what he did? It is a problem for some people to have Jesus saying, “Follow the behavior of a wasteful, profligate, prodigal, deceitful, thieving, selfish, conniving, unprincipled person.”
By the way, this is placed here right after the story of the prodigal son because this is a prodigal manager. Prodigal means “wasteful.” The son wasted everything and didn’t provide for his future. Here is a man who wasted the assets that he had control of, but did provide for his future. Maybe that’s the link. The ending is a shock, a surprise ending. It becomes the point of the story. We’ll get to that in a minute, but let’s go back and kind of track a little bit with the story so you understand how they would have heard it when our Lord gave it.
“There was certain rich man.” Let me just say he was very rich because he is distant from this whole operation. He’s distant. We know he’s a significant man because people owe him massive amounts of money. They are in debt to him on a very large scale, and there are many debtors. You only have two illustrations here, but the verb in verse 5 means there was a process going on. Essentially, you have a couple of illustrations of what was probably to be imagined as a much more extensive list of debtors. So this is a very rich man, a very rich man.
What he has done is he has had to hire a manager, and put him in charge of all of the assets of this entire operation because he’s not there. We know that because he had to be called, a report had to be given to him, and he had to reconnect with the circumstances. This was pretty common in ancient times where people who were very wealthy had a lot of operations going on, a lot of agricultural operations going on, businesses going on, and they hired managers.
The term “manager” oikonomos from the Greek, which means law and house. He had the law of the house. He was the one delegated the authority to act for the owner. He managed the land. He managed the crops. He managed the assets. He managed the debts. He managed internally the disbursing of the resources and the food and whatever was necessary for the servants and all the people who made up the core, who operated this particular enterprise.
So he had inside responsibility. He also had outside responsibility, very important guy. He has proxy to act on behalf of this very wealthy owner. He’s the administrator of the estate on the inside and on the outside, a position of high responsibility. A position of social status because he would be interacting with very important people, maybe even other land owners on behalf of his master.
Well, this manager has been wasting his owner’s substance, his possessions. At the end of verse 1, “It was reported to the owner that the manager was squandering his possessions.” Squandering is the same word used to describe the prodigal back in chapter 15, verse 13. He was disbursing. He was scattering, wasteful, like the prodigal. This is not necessarily embezzlement. This is not necessarily some kind of shrewd scheme to embezzle. This is just an irresponsible, incompetent person at this point in the story.
The rich man acts immediately. In verse 2, he called him and said to him, “What is this I hear about you? What is this I hear about you?” Well, what had he actually heard? Well, he’d heard some pretty severe things because the verb “reported”, the verb “reported” in the last verse, verse 1, the previous verse is the verb diaballō from which we get the word “diabolical.” So the report was not a benign report. It was a report that involved a serious and legitimate slander against the man.
By the way, diabolos is a biblical name for Satan, who is the slanderer. “Slanderer” was legitimate because the man had done what he had done. So he gets a very extreme report of the diabolical nature of this man’s function in the position of manager. So he calls him and says, “What is this I hear about you?” Then he does a foolish thing, this character that Jesus invents because it suits him, suits the story. “Give an accounting of your management for you can no longer be manager.” In the words of Donald Trump, “You’re fired!” But unlike any smart businessman, he says essentially, “Go back and get an accounting of what you’ve done. I want you to go back, and I want you to account for what you’ve done.”
The steward doesn’t defend himself. “Clean out your desk,” in a sense, “but you’ve got two weeks’ notice.” We’ll put it that way. You go back. You’re not going to save your job. That’s not possible. He knows that’s not possible, but the rich man wants an accurate record of his irresponsibility. He wants to know exactly what he’s done. That is a bad policy. That is a bad policy. If you have to fire someone, get rid of them that day. Let somebody else figure out the mess because if you put them back in, they’re going to back in with vengeance, and they’re going to go back in with a target, goal, objective of personal gain. That’s exactly what he did.
He’s losing his job. He’s losing his home because they lived in those ancient times on the estate where they served. He’s losing his income, and he’s losing his reputation because now everybody is going to know that he was incompetent. He is a mismanaging, irresponsible, incompetent, wasteful, prodigal manager.
So in verse 3, he says to himself – little soliloquy here. “What shall I do?” By the way, Luke loves that question. He uses it three times. Twice further in the book and once in the book of Acts. “What shall I do? What shall I do?” So that when I am removed from the management, when it actually happens and I’m terminated, people will welcome me into their homes. I’ve got to find a way to go somewhere else. I’ve got to have a place to live. I’ve got to have an income. I’ve got to have a future. What am I going to do to secure my future when my master takes away my stewardship, my management?
Then he says, “I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg.” This is a proud white collar worker. He’s not interested in picking up a shovel. He doesn’t want any manual labor. Hard work is not his thing. He doesn’t want even to step into the low status of a hard worker, let alone the low status of a beggar. Not going to do that. So what am I going to do? I’m sort of trapped. Then he has a eureka moment, as Jesus invents the story. “I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.” That’s exactly what he has to have. He has to have a future. He has to have a future that is beneficial. He has to have a future that is comfortable. He has to have a future that supplies all that he needs. “I know what I will do.” This is his eureka moment. This is his bright idea.
I need to be welcome by some people into their homes. Who are those people going to be when the whole community knows that I’ve been thrown out for my mismanagement? Ah, I know who it will be. It will be the people that I’ve been working with who owe my master debts. I need a place to live. I need food. I need a future career. I need status. I need to be where I am now. I need to be in important places and in the homes of important people. So I have a plan. I’m going to contact all the people who owe my master debts, and I’m going to through them all one by one by one by one by one, and I’m going to discount all their debts. Pretty shrewd.
I’m going to discount all their debts so that they will be obligated to me, right? Now, if he only did this for one guy, there wouldn’t be any peer pressure on the one guy to reciprocate. But if he does it for everybody in an honor society where everybody is concerned about his honor, they’re all going to put peer pressure on everybody else. He’s not only going to have one home to go to, he’s going to have a whole lot of homes to go to because they will want to maintain their honor.
So, verse 5, “He summoned each one of his master’s debtors,” each one and he began a process. And there’s a couple of illustrations of it, what it would have been. The first one he says, “How much do you owe my master?” And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.” And he said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.” Wow, 50 percent discount. That’s pretty good. He owes a hundred measures of oil. This could be 900 to 1,000 gallons of oil. This would be worth three year’s wages in money, and this would be the product of at least 150 olive trees. This is a big debt, significant amount of debt. “I’ll just whack it in half and, oh, by the way, could you please sit down quickly.” Thieves always in a hurry, you notice. Con men always in a hurry, “Sign here, sign here, sign here, sign here.”
The discount is huge. The deal is truck. No questions are asked about whether this is the wish of the owner. The guy who is getting the 50 percent discount doesn’t want to ask that question. Why? Because he doesn’t want the answer to that question. He wants to sign and get out quickly because this is a deal he never could have hoped for.
Another illustration in verse 7, “How much do you owe?” And he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.” And he said to him, “Take your bill and write eighty.” That would be some estimate about 1,000 bushels of wheat, taking 100 acres to produce and maybe eight to ten years of labor. Huge amount. He discounts it 20 percent. The man can’t sign quickly enough either.
Look, debts were discounted in the ancient world like they’re discounted today if there’s a famine, if there’s an economic downturn. That’s part of life, but none of those are elements of this. There are no external circumstances. This has nothing to do with the depressed economy. This has nothing to do with the limits of food. This has nothing to do with somehow disasters happening in the debtor’s lives where they’re unable to pay and some compassionate person is lessening the debt in order to serve them. This is purely a shrewd way to embezzle his master in such a way that secures the obligation of all these people to this manager so that he can go back to them and say, “You remember what I did for you? You need to give me a room. You need to give me a job and a place. And if you don’t, I’m going to tell the rest of the people for whom I did the same that you’re a dishonorable man.”
Everybody in this thing is twisted just a little bit. You say, “Well, it’s not a lot.” No, because this is how people in the world are. This is how it works. This is exactly how it works. This is the kind of Machiavellian maneuvering where he outwits his owner, and he secures his future. He literally secures his future in this way.
So in verse 8, his master – and here I told you Jesus sticks a shock element in His parables very frequently. Here’s the shock. “His master praised the unrighteous manager.” Whoa! What is he praising him about? He’s not praising him about his incompetence, his prodigality. He’s not praising him about his embezzlement and deception of the owner. He’s praising him because he acted shrewdly. His owner praised him because he acted shrewdly.
Now, here again I say, this is just the way the world works. Everybody is relatively corrupt. They’re all part of how the system works. This is how life is. You secure your future any way you can, and the people who are part of the system even are prone to commend the shrewdness and conniving of a clever person. Well, Jesus’ comment on this is pretty amazing. Verse 8, “The sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” What? Jesus is commending the guy? This is what has troubled some people. We would understand the owner commending the manager. He’s applauding his shrewdness. We get that, but why is Jesus commending this?
He acted shrewdly. Let’s just make sure we get that. Phronimōs is the word. It means providently, considerably. It was a well-devised scheme. He took careful advantage of an opportunity. He worked the situation to secure his future, benefit his future comfort. By reducing the debts, he indebted everybody to him. He had done them immense good, I mean immense good. They are now obligated for his great generosity. There are many of them who are obligated. They are all concerned about their own honor. They are all concerned about reciprocation for somebody who does good to them because it’s part of the social requirement and the culture. The point is direct. Here it is. Sinful people act to secure their own future benefit in very clever and ingenious ways. They use the resources they have with shrewdness, whether honest or dishonest to secure the best future they can secure. This is how the sons of this age operate. That’s what Jesus says.
He made the most of his opportunity. Pretty impressive plan, pretty well-designed. The sons of this age. Who are they? Sinners, this age. They’re not in God’s kingdom. These are unbelievers. That’s how the passing world works, doesn’t it? Every imaginable clever scheme to make money, to secure your future and the future of the people that you care about is concocted, devised, and entertained whether it’s honest or dishonest. It’s rarely a question of whether it’s honest or dishonest. It’s mostly a question of, can I get away with it? Every scheme to secure the future. Investments of all kinds, strategies of all kinds to secure the future. Schemes of all kinds, every kind of ingenuity is used and applied. Every imaginable and unimaginable kind of device to guarantee future wealth. It’s going on all the time.
This is how the world operates. This is how it operates. There are people at the top of the legitimate banks and the legitimate enterprises of the world who are corrupt and using every device that they can use to get what they want to get. There are crooks who create their Ponzi schemes and use every device. There are people who don’t ask very many questions, but when they’re told something is going to be lucrative, they can’t sign fast enough. They get sucked into the schemes because everybody in this world is trying to take what they’ve got and multiply it to secure their future. It’s just how it works, and they’re good at it. They’re shrewd at it.
The governments of the world have to have all kinds of agencies and all kinds of people going through books and all kinds of auditors. All kinds of operators, and all kinds of agencies, both public and secret, to sneak around and find out all the schemes that are going on as people work to secure their future. And Jesus says, “They’re more shrewd than the sons of light.” What can that possibly mean? Sons of light, believers. They’re called sons of light in John 12:36, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:5. We’re sons of light. We’re not in the darkness. We’re in the light. This generation, the sons of this generation, the sons of this age, non-believers. In fact, in Luke 9:41, it’s called “this perverted generation.” In Luke 11, it’s called this “this wicked generation.”
So this perverted, wicked generation, the unbelieving world operates with these kinds of machinations. Honest or dishonest, whatever it takes to secure the future. They’re more shrewd than we are, the sons of light. What could Jesus possibly mean by that? Verse 9, “I say to you – ” and here He interprets this for the disciples and us. An interpretation, by the way, that the Pharisees completely missed, of course. “Make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
What did this guy do? What did this manager do? He used what he had, his assets, the wealth of unrighteousness to purchase dwellings for his future, temporal future. That’s what the perverted, wicked sons of this age have always done and always do. “You,” He says, “You need to be at least as shrewd as they are. By the way, this is an old rabbinic approach, reasoning from the lesser to the greater. If the perverted, wicked sons of this age use every imaginable approach to secure their temporal future, shouldn’t you be careful how you act in regard to your eternal future? That’s the point. “Make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness.” Again, this is a very classic rabbinical style of teaching from lesser to greater.
Use your money, your possessions, your wealth even though it’s part of the unrighteous system, in the Old English, the mammon of unrighteousness, kind of an ominous term. Unrighteous wealth is part of the passing world, and He even says it. “It will fail and when it fails,” as stated in verse 9. So take money, wealth – which will fail. You can’t take it with you. We all understand that – and use that unrighteous wealth, that wealth that has in itself no virtue, no righteousness, and purchase friends with it who will receive you into the eternal dwellings. Buy friends for heaven who will be standing at the gate welcoming you when you arrive.
Earlier in the gospel of Luke there’s a very dramatic story that most people remember if they’ve heard it. It’s in chapter 12. It’s another parable. Verse 16, “The land of a rich man was very productive, and he began reasoning to himself saying, ‘What shall I do since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and big larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods, and I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come. Take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” He was probably a prosperity gospel preacher.
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you, and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” ‘You are a fool! You have all that money, and you will die and leave every cent of it and every possession that you have. You fool!”
But that’s what the sons of this age do with the wealth of unrighteousness. They try to secure their temporal future, and it can do that. It can secure a temporal future until they die, until they die, and then it fails, and it will fail. You cannot take it with you. It belongs to this temporal world. It is, again, the wealth of unrighteousness. It doesn’t go anywhere. And yet in a most amazing and gracious and merciful manner, the Lord says, “You can take that wealth that isn’t going with you and while you’re here, you can make friends that will welcome you into heaven.”
How do you do that? It’s pretty simple. You invest in kingdom enterprises that bring about the salvation of sinners. That’s what you do. You use your money to purchase friends for eternity. This is exactly what our Lord was talking about in Matthew chapter 6 in the familiar statements in the Sermon on the Mount. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Anybody have a problem understanding that? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal.” They could even be cyber thieves these days. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” How do you do that? “Where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Or you can flip that, “Where your heart is, that’s where you’ll put your treasure.”
But the question is, how can I put my treasure in heaven? How can I put my treasure in heaven? How can I take the wealth of unrighteousness and put it in heaven and purchase friends that will welcome me when I arrive? Answer: invest in what proclaims the gospel and brings people to salvation. Invest in the kingdom enterprises.
That’s what you do with your money, with your wealth so that you’ll have a welcome when you get there. What an amazing, amazing thought isn’t it? How good is God?
Look, life is pretty short – for me. I don’t have a whole lot left. Eternity is eternity! This thing has flown by in a blink in this world. The longer I live, the less meaning anything has that is to be left here. The more meaning everything has that purchases friends for eternity. So on the final day when my life ends and I’m separated from everything I have, I’m going to find out who is standing on the edge of heaven welcoming me as a friend. What a gift the Lord has given us.
You invest in those who preach the gospel, those who teach people to preach the gospel. You invest in missionaries and those who send missionaries. You invest in every gospel enterprise that multiplies teachers and preachers and evangelists and the spread of the Word and the spread of the truth around the world and you are purchasing friends for eternity. Endless personal accumulation is meaningless. Life is short and you don’t know how short. You don’t want to waste it. There isn’t much you can send up. You can’t send your house up; you’ll have a better one. You can’t send your car up; you’ll fly everywhere. You don’t have anything you’re going to send up. Whatever your little treasures are, they’re staying here and somebody else is going to figure out what to do with them. But there is one thing you can send up; isn’t that amazing? It is your wealth if it’s invested in the proclamation of the gospel and in the preparation and training of those who proclaim the gospel.
What an amazing thing to be a part of something like this where we’re all doing this. What we could never do individually, we can do beyond our wildest imagination collectively. So, you say, “Well, I don’t give much, but I don’t have much. If I had more, I’d give more.” No you wouldn’t. No you wouldn’t. No if you had more, you wouldn’t give any more. You say, “How do you know that? You don’t know me.” Well, Jesus does. Verse 10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”
I told you. It’s not about how much you have. It’s about who you are. It’s about what your priorities are. It’s about whether heaven is where your heart is, right? That’s what it’s about. This is what we call an axiom or an axiomatic statement, a truism. It’s self-evident. It’s so self-evident that it doesn’t have an explanation. It doesn’t have a defense. It is obvious that faithful people are faithful people whether they have little or much; and unfaithful people are unfaithful whether they have little or much. It’s never a question of much you have. If you are concerned about the advance of the kingdom and you are committed to making friends for eternity, you will give what you have generously and joyfully.
You say, “Well, I’ve been hoping to win the lottery.” Well, look, if you won the lottery – don’t buy those lottery cards. I’m not saying that – but if you did win the lottery, it wouldn’t change your heart. The lottery won’t change your heart. Only God can change your heart. If your heart is not towards heaven, then the lottery is going to conflict you even more. You are right now exactly who you are.
You’re not all of the sudden going to get a whole lot of money your old aunt – you’ve got an old, old aunt. She’s near death’s door and you’re praying the Lord will pull her through. She’s got a lot of money, and you say, “If my old aunt dies – ” Some of you are just getting that. “If my old aunt dies, I’m going to give it all.” If you’re not faithful in a little, you’re not going to be faithful in much. It’s about faithfulness. It’s about where your heart is.
The amount you possess is not the issue. Your character is the issue. Your commitment is the issue. Your love for heaven is the issue. You are either unselfish, humble, generous, non-materialistic, committed to the kingdom with all your heart or you’re not. It’s not a question of an amount. No, it has nothing to do with an amount.
Jesus isn’t finished with us. He says in verse 11, so let’s say you haven’t been faithful. You’re one of those who has been self-indulgent, accumulating, and spending all your money on things you’re going to leave here. If you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteousness wealth – talking to sons of light, believers, disciples – who will entrust the true to you? Literally, the true to you, the true things to you? If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous, who – meaning God – is going to give you things that are spiritual and eternal?
So what happens is as you demonstrate unfaithfulness in the use of your unrighteous wealth, you forfeit spiritual and eternal blessings; both now and forever. You may buy yourself endless stuff, creature comforts, all the shallow things, all the corrupting things, all the temporary things, all stuff that burns up, but you will not receive the real riches, the things that will last forever. Do you remember Luke 6:38, “Give and it shall be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together, and running over”? You can’t out give God. “Sow sparingly - ” Paul says to the Corinthians “ - reap sparingly. Sow bountifully – ” what? “ – reap bountifully.” You can’t out give God.
There’s another sting about to come in verse 12, “And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” What do you mean the use of what is another’s? Well, He’s been talking about the wealth of unrighteousness. The use of unrighteous wealth in verse 11 corresponds to the use of that which is another’s. Guess what? The wealth you have isn’t yours. Like that steward, right? He was profligate with somebody else’s resources.
You say, “Wait a minute, what I have is mine. I earned it. I worked hard for it.” Well, that may be true. You worked hard for it, but it’s not yours. The sons of this age live in indulgence, exploitation, selfishness, hoarding, conspicuous consumption, waste, et cetera, and think that it’s all theirs. We know better. The prophet Haggai says, “The silver is Mine,” speaking for God, “The gold is Mine,” all Mine. Psalm 104:24, “The earth is full of your possessions.”
Do you remember – I’m sure you do if you’ve been around the Word of God very long. Do you remember David’s blessing in 1 Chronicles 29? “So David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the assembly and David said, ‘Blessed are you, O Lord, God of Israel, our Father forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty. Indeed, everything that is in the heavens and the earth, yours is the dominion, O Lord, and you exalt yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from you. You rule over all. In your hand is power and might and it lies in your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now, therefore, our God we thank you. Praise your glorious name.” It’s all yours.
The Psalmist says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” It’s all His. You don’t have anything that really is yours. You really don’t. As a believer, it’s all a test of your devotion. It all belongs to Him. Everything we have is a stewardship. Remember the parable in Matthew 25 where the master doles out the talents and they belong to him, and all the servant can do is manage or fail to manage the privilege he’s been given? So if you’re squandering what is God’s – I’m not talking about a tenth of it is God’s. It’s all HIs. If you’re squandering what is His, then He will not entrust the true riches to you. Well, what could that be? Things that have eternal significance.
If you fail the test of stewardship, you lose significance in the kingdom, and you lose eternal blessing, eternal reward. You waste your money on things that are going to perish, you waste God’s money on things that are going to perish, accumulate things for yourself, and you’re just inversely cutting into your spiritual blessings and eternal reward. Again, eternity is a very long time, very long time. You might come to the conclusion that you could do without a whole lot for a few years if you could have vast eternal reward that would expand your joys everlastingly and allow you to worship Christ and the Father and the Holy Spirit with a capacity that would be massive.
What is eternal reward? It is a capacity to worship. Well, He’s not done. He boils it down to one statement in verse 13. “No slave can serve two masters.” You can’t be bought and owned and obligated to two masters. You could work for two bosses. You could have two jobs. Some of you have ten bosses. In fact, everybody around is your boss. That’s not what it’s saying. It’s saying in a slave world, you can only be owned by one person. You have to decide. There are two possible owners that you can have. You can have God or you can have wealth. If you do that, if you try to have two masters as a slave, and you try to serve God and wealth; then you’re going to hate one and love the other, or you’re going to be devoted to one and despise the other.
That is a very clear point to anybody in ancient times, fitting analogy. God wants single-minded focus, loyalty, fidelity, and faithfulness to Him. It isn’t as if somehow it’s a punishment that’s offered here if we don’t do that. It’s a forfeiture of blessing and a forfeiture of reward. It isn’t negative consequences that motivate us in this. It’s positive ones.
Conflicting demands, I mean if you’re caught between money and God, you’re a conflicted person. You’re experiencing antagonism. Some of you are feeling antagonistic right now with me talking to you. That’s what happens in your life is this conflict goes on. I’m not saying you can’t richly enjoy the things that the Lord has richly provided for you. But I am saying you cannot be a slave to God and a slave to money. Being a slave to money is really a very serious condition.
Listen to the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6, “We brought nothing into the world, so we can’t take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering with ease we shall be content. But those who want to get rich, fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Wow. “For the love of money is the root of all sorts of – ” what? “ – evil.” It’s not money that’s the root of evil. It’s the love of it. You can have a whole lot of it and not love it, and you can have none of it and love it like crazy.
“Some people who have loved their money and been slaves to their wealth have wandered away to the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” You can’t love God with a whole heart and love wealth with a whole heart. The language is very strong and very clear. John Calvin said, “Where riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost His authority. Covetousness makes us the slaves of the devil.”
One of the writers who affected me a lot when I was young in ministry and in doing some reading to try to orient my theology was Arthur Pink. Pink writes this, and I think it’s worth reading. He says, “These orders are diametrically opposed. The one commands you to walk by faith; the other to walk by sight. The one to be humble; the other to be proud. The one to set your affections on things above; the other to set them on the things that are on the earth. The one to look at the things unseen and eternal; the other to look at the things seen and temporal. The one to have your conversation in heaven; the other to cleave to the dust. The one to be careful for nothing; the other to be full of anxiety. The one to be content with such things as you have; the other to enlarge your desires. The one to be ready to distribute; the other to withhold. The one to look at the things of others; the other to look at one’s own things. The one to seek happiness in the Creator; the other to seek happiness in the creature. Is it not plain? There is no serving two such masters.”
So the possession of wealth is a means God has employed for you to secure eternal reward and heavenly friends. Pretty good offer? You’re going to be there forever. Your capacity to worship, praise, and enjoy God and eternal glory is bound up in what you do with the wealth of unrighteousness. The world’s people? Hey, they’re acting shrewdly, conniving to secure their temporal future, and they have none beyond that. What are you doing to secure your eternal future?
You know these words. Words by M.E. Burn, “Riches I heed not, not man’s empty praise. Thou my inheritance now and always. Thou and Thou only first in my heart. High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.” Let’s pray.
The wisdom, the grace, the mercy that is contained in this parable flowing out from the infinite mind of our blessed Savior has gripped us. What is especially wondrous is that this is a parable of vast, infinite, everlasting promise. Friends for eternity. Eternal reward, eternal bliss, eternal joy, enlarged capacity to worship and praise and serve forever. Help us to reconfirm in our hearts that you, O God, are our Master. We serve you with a whole heart. To use what we are given in this world as stewards, what we really manage of your possessions to purchase friends for eternity and eternal reward.
Give us a heavenward look. Let us set our affections on things above, not on things on the earth. Father, we thank you so for your salvation granted to us in Christ. That would be one thing, to just save us from hell. We would go to any Spartan place just not to be there, but you have said, “I’m giving you heaven and all its possessions, and I will give it to you in a measure related to your stewardship of the things that you possess.” Just an incredible offer. Lord, may we be faithful stewards who enter into the full joy that heaven promises. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.
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