"How should I use the money I have?" by Rod Bayley, 22 August 2010, Luke 16:1-15

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Danny

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Aug 22, 2010, 7:08:49 AM8/22/10
to Sermons from Wollongong Baptist Church
In 496 AD, Clovis, king of the Francs, because he believed that the
Christian God had given him victory over another tribe, was baptized
along with 3,000 of his army on Christmas Day. Now, there is a myth
without any historical foundation, which says that when they were
baptized they held their right hand, their ax hand, out of the water
so that it did not go under with the rest of their body. They wanted
to leave it free from Christian influence so they could fight and
battle as pagans as they had in the past. This illustrates an
important misconception, whereby Christians can wrongly think that
they can limit the Lordship of Jesus into some areas of our lives. As
someone has said, the last part of a man to be converted is his right
foot, which controls the accelerator, and his hip pocket nerve, his
wallet. I want to talk about the very practical issue of your
attitude to your money or wealth. How now as a Christian your
attitude to wealth has to be different from the world around you.

Two things we need to grasp before we look at our passage from Luke 16
today, is that 1) we are wealthy, and 2) it is not our wealth.
Firstly, whether we are single or married without children, or married
with children - whether we are a well-paid executive, just starting
our career, or even a so-called ‘poor’ student, we are wealthy.
Wealth is a relative thing, and if we compare ourselves with the rest
of the people on the planet we are wealthy. If you live in Australia
you are among the top 5 to 10 percent of the richest people in the
world on average. Secondly, we need to be clear that the bible never
suggests that this wealth is ours - it is not our money to do with as
we please. Everything that we have, including the breath in our
lungs, is a gift from God, and so we are merely stewards. Psalm 24:1
tells us for example, that “the earth is the LORD’s and everything in
it, the world, and all who live in it.” More specifically, King David
states in 1 Chronicles 29:14b: “Everything comes from you, and we have
given you only what comes from your hand.” So, when we give to God,
whether at church or to any Christian cause, we are actually giving
back to God what has come from him. It is required of stewards that
we be faithful - we’re not owners, we manage on behalf of God. God
loves generosity - both with our spiritual resources and our financial
resources - God loves those who cheerfully give his resources to the
work of the gospel, and the gospel is always the basis for Christian
giving - we give because we have received so much through Christ and
we want others to share in that (2 Cor.8-9). Now I don’t want to
speak specifically about weekly giving today - Matthew Meek will
address that in 6 weeks time. But I want to speak more broadly about
our attitude to money and our stewardship of it from Luke 16.

So the question I want to look at today, is ‘How are you using God’s
money? How are you being a steward of the great wealth that God has
given you?’ We are answerable to God for what he has entrusted us
with, and so we need to think hard about this issue, like many others.

Turn with me to Luke 16 if you don’t have it open already. Notice
from verse 1 that the context of this passage is the Lord Jesus
telling a parable to his disciples - he tells the 3 famous ‘lost’
parables in chapter 15, the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son; and
now goes on to tell two further parables in chapter 16. But we also
know from verse 14 that the Pharisees who loved money were also
present listening in. And this parable is all about a clever steward,
a clever manager, who assesses the situation shrewdly. Look at verse
1 again - he was accused of wasting his master’s possessions. And so
he assesses his situation in verse 3 in the light of his imminent
sacking:
“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.”

He’s basically saying, ‘I’ve got very limited job prospects when my
job goes.’ And so he determines in verse 4 what he will do in order
for people to welcome him into their houses, to help him financially
or give him a job so that he will avoid manual labour or begging. And
in verses 5 to 7 he carries out his plan. Look at verses 5 and 6 with
me:
“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first,
‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’
he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly,
and make it four hundred.’

He acts towards his master’s debtors so that they will owe him a
favour once he is fired. He calls in each one of his master’s debtors
to see him and cuts their debts, in some cases in half. And after his
great generosity with his master’s wealth, his shrewd actions which
will protect his future, we get his master’s assessment of this
situation in the first part of verse 8:
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted
shrewdly.”

Notice that there is a world of difference between this statement and
what I am about to read now: ‘The master commended the dishonest
manager because he had acted dishonestly’ - No! It’s not the
dishonesty which is being commended here. The Lord Jesus makes it
clear that the master is commending the quality of ‘shrewdness.’ A
dictionary definition of the word shrewd would be ‘crafty’, ‘clever’
or ‘astute’, and that is the meaning here. That is what is being
commended - his astuteness. There is no sense here that this makes up
for his dishonesty, or that he is a commendable person - this is a bad
man, a dishonest man. But even such a bad man offers an example to
us. I think Christians struggle with this passage because of this
aspect - how can Jesus point us to a dishonest pagan as an example to
us? Well, sinners can still demonstrate a good quality from which we
can learn - remember that this is a parable, a constructed story, and
what we need to do is wait for the punch-line that Jesus is about to
give, and grasp this quality of shrewdness with money which Jesus is
teaching us. Notice what the punch-line is in the remainder of verse
8 and verse 9:
“For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their
own kind than are the people of the light. 9I tell you, use worldly
wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you
will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Jesus is effectively saying, learn from the shrewd managers - look at
the Packers or Murdochs today - what can we learn from these people
who manage wealth well, who use resources effectively, who do not
waste assets. The people of the world are never off-duty - they are
always thinking about the next deal. Now, again, we’re not talking
about their love of money, or their service to the idol of materialism
- simply their management, their stewardship of resources. Notice in
verse 8 that Jesus is stating that Christians are not as shrewd - the
inference is that we are clumsy or less effective in the management of
the resources that God has given us.

Jesus tells us what we should be doing in verse 9 - he gives us the
application of verse 8. We should be very generous with our master’s
wealth, the wealth that God has entrusted us with. Like the servant,
the money we are stewards of is not ours - it is our Master’s or
God’s, who dwells in heaven. We are to use God’s resources that he’s
blessed us with to win people for the kingdom of God, to see people
hear the gospel so that we will be welcomed into heaven by God - ie.
we will hear the words ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ Please
note that we don’t earn our way to heaven by being generous with our
money, or by helping win others to Christ. The point is that Jesus’
followers must use their money for their spiritual purposes just as
wisely as the unbelievers do for their material aims. We don’t want to
be welcomed into an earthly house like the dishonest servant, we are
awaiting our welcome into heaven which has been secured by faith. But
how many people will be there who benefitted from our stewardship?
Sadly, I believe we often waste the great wealth that God has given us
on ourselves, rather than using it wisely for the extension of God’s
kingdom. How can we not use our resources to extend God’s kingdom,
because it’s His money. As Job says: “Naked I came from my mother’s
womb, and naked I will depart” (1:21a). We bring nothing into this
world, and we’ll take nothing with us. Consider the future, when at
the point of death such worldly wealth is of no value - what good will
it be then if you have hoarded the money God has entrusted you with?
You will have missed the opportunity to use it for the sake of the
gospel. When you’re entering into eternal dwellings it won’t matter
how many BHP Billiton shares you have - you can’t take it with you!
The only thing you can take into eternity is a person - only people
are eternal. Make sure that people are benefitting from the generous
use of the wealth God has given you.

I get regular emails from a number of couples serving overseas as
missionaries, and I got one a few years ago from a couple who were
serving in Bangladesh, and who still are today. It really made me
stop and think about wealth, and how much I could do with every spare
dollar I have. They wrote: “In Australia your small change doesn’t
buy that much. But here it is a different matter. For $2 we can get
an umbrella, or 50 cups of tea, or a taxi fare across town, or our
ironing done, or our veges for the week, or a New Testament. We hope
this list encourages you that your giving, no matter how small, is
going a long way in supporting us as we serve the people of South
Asia.”

Just imagine the people that will be in heaven that you will have
helped through gospel giving - those who got bibles and became
Christians because you gave money to the Bible society, or the
Gideons, or the Bible League. Those who heard the gospel through a
missionary you supported in some far-flung place you had never set
foot on. Those brothers and sisters in Christ who received your help
after the Boxing Day Tsunami, or the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile,
or the flooding in Pakistan (Matt.25). I could go on and on, but the
more Christian agencies and mission organisations I name, the more
chance I will have of leaving one out that is important to you.
That’s not even mentioning giving to the local church which supports
local and overseas evangelism - not only this one, but the ones you
have been linked to the past and may well be linked to in the future.
The opportunities are endless, aren’t they? You are going to have
countless people streaming up to you in heaven from tens of countries
that you don’t even know - or are you? Can you relate to the picture
that Jesus is painting in verse 9?

Now Jesus concludes with a further important point in verses 10 to
13. Earlier in Luke’s gospel Jesus has said that the tongue is the
best indicator of the heart, he now tells us what the indicator is for
a person to be considered ready to be a good steward of the spiritual
riches of the gospel? Look at verse 11 with me:
“So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who
will trust you with true riches?”

The way you handle your money is indicative of how you will handle
spiritual riches - namely the gospel. And then he goes on in verse
13:
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and
love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the
other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

You can’t serve them both - you cannot serve God, and the great God-
substitute money. Money is the great God-substitute - it not only
buys food and shelter, it buys influence, it gives status and power.
And the Lord Jesus says you cannot serve it and serve God as well.
You must rule it - don’t let it rule you. Be generous givers - show
your money who is in control. So be careful not to buy into the
consumer culture of our day - don’t buy the lie that more is always
more - I have to have everything, or worse still, the latest of
everything. Less is more. There is a car sticker which has been round
for at least a couple of decades which says: ‘Live simply so that
others may simply live.’ Of course it’s focussed on the imbalance of
wealth in the world and the eating up of resources by rich people like
us in developed countries. I think we could make it a Christian
slogan by changing it to ‘Live simply so that you can simply give.’
Therefore, be careful when you’re swallowing financial advice without
thinking. Think about the eternal welfare of others - don’t just
think, ‘oh it’s a good investment to get another one of these’, or ‘I
must put more money into superannuation because otherwise I won’t be
able to live on $50,000 a year when I retire and travel wherever I
like and indulge myself.’ Now don’t get me wrong - it’s nice to have
a holiday, and we need to be prudent and shrewd. We need to also
provide for ourselves and our family - this is an obligation clearly
laid out in 1 Timothy 5 and elsewhere. But don’t be duped into the
world’s endless pursuit of pleasure, whereby money and the possessions
it can buy become the great God-substitute. This is the selfish
idolatry of the world - don’t be drawn into this kind of thinking as a
Christian.

Finally, in verses 14 and 15 we see that it is not impossible for
God’s people to be drawn into the love and service of money, if we
needed any convincing. Notice what is written:
“The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at
Jesus. 15He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in
the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued
among men is detestable in God’s sight.”

What an irony, that the followers of God, the Pharisees, sneer at God
for saying these things, because they loved the God-alternative more -
they loved money. Rule your money with a view to eternity - you are
accountable to God. Jesus says earlier in Luke’s gospel, in Luke
12:48b: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded;
and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be
asked.”

So how are you using God’s money in the light of heaven? That’s the
question for us all. Be careful, remember that the seed of the word
was sown into the various soils in Mark 4 - and one type of soil was
full of life’s worries over wealth, and choked out the seed of the
gospel. We need to reign over our money or it will choke us. There
are lots of debates today about singing - whether we should use hymn
books, there is often debate about which translation of the bible we
should use, the good book. But from this passage I think it is clear
that God is interested in our cheque books - that is a far more
pressing concern.

Maybe you do think it is an issue, but you just can’t address it yet.
You have such financial obligations for your family that you must
address them first, and then in a few years you’ll think about
generous giving. Or you’ve got lots of repayments for your car or your
house, so once this debt is under control you’ll think about this
issue. Or you are not really settled here in Wollongong, and so once
you move back home or decide to stay, well then you’ll get into a
settled routine about using God’s resources for eternal ends. Again,
don’t get me wrong - these are legitimate concerns, and we need to
meet our debts and we all have living costs that must be met. But I
hope you can see the poor logic of this kind of thinking. God knows
your needs, it’s his money that you have - He’s given you resources to
be a good steward of them. Now is the time to start the practice of
being generous with God’s money for His kingdom and the many in
desperate need in our world. Now is the time to set the pattern for
your life - there will always be further pressing needs and issues in
the next stage of your life, in every stage of your life. So I leave
you with the questions that we started with: ‘How are you using God’s
money? How are you being a steward of the great wealth that God has
given you?’
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