Today, the very first sermon you will hear in this gymnasium worship setting, is about money. And, no, it’s not because I’m hoping you’ll give more to make sure our two building projects are a success. And, no, it’s not because I believe many of you are scrooges who are unwilling to give a dime to help run this place. No, the reason that we are going to talk about money today is because our God is talking about money today. I mean just listen to these lines from our three lessons. In our first lesson from Ecclesiastes, we hear this, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.” In 1 Timothy, Paul writes, “…godliness with contentment is great gain…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” And then in our gospel lesson – the lesson we are focusing on today – Jesus himself says these words, verse 13, “No one can serve two masters…you cannot serve both God and money.”
So, today we really have no choice but to talk about money. And often when the topic of money comes up, it’s hard not to also include a conversation on greed – You maybe know this, but greed is one of the seven deadly sins that Pope Gregory the Great worked out in about 600 AD – Now, what’s interesting about greed is, well, who often do we consider to be greedy? On the news and on social media, who is often portrayed as the big greedy evil people? One, people who have a lot of money, you know, those rich selfish billionaires, like Elon Musk. And two, the big corporations and their greedy CEO’s who rake in millions while the working man suffers. Those are often considered to be the greedy people of this world, and it’s easy to point fingers at those people and say they’re greedy, but really, what makes them greedy?
My point is this: when we talk about money and greed, the conversation needs to start here with ourselves, because it’s easy to point at others far away and to accuse them of greed, but it’s much harder to say, “Lord, forgive me for my own greed.” You see we often don’t see the greed in our own lives, partly because we maybe don’t fully understand what greed is. So, what is greed?
Is it greedy to want to make money? Is that bad? Absolutely not! In fact, I would encourage you to make as much money as you can. Go for that promotion if it’s what you want, build up that business if you see the opportunity. Be successful, build up your family’s financial security, use your money to see the world and experience all that God has to offer on this earth. Because none of this is greedy! None of this is wrong! And if you go back and reread the three lessons for today, you will see this.
None of our lessons today said that it was wrong to have or to make money; None of them said you can only have so much. Instead, what’s the message? Well, let’s look at our lesson for today from Luke 16. In Luke 16, Jesus uses a very thought provoking and dare I say it, strange, story (a parable) to get to a very personal matter. The story starts in this way. A manager, a steward, is overseeing a wealthy owners land and possessions; he’s running everything. But then he’s accused of mismanaging things, maybe even stealing, and so the owner calls him into his office and says, “What’s this I hear about you? Give an account! Let me see the ledger, let me see all my stuff, all my accounts, and after we go through these things you’re out of a job. You’re fired.” This leads this soon-to-be-out-of-a-job manager to ask a question (vs. 3), “Well, now what do I do?”
You see this manager quickly realized that all the resources, all the stuff that he had been using and enjoying, it wasn’t actually his. I bet all of us in this room have a lot of stuff. Maybe it’s not all name brand, maybe you don’t drive a new Lexus, but you have stuff, probably more than you need. But how much of that stuff is truly, really, yours? None of it.
We are only stewards; managers of the wealth and the possessions God has entrusted to us. And those things are not necessary for our salvation – we don’t take our toys, and our homes, and our cash with us into heaven. No, we only have and use those things because God has given all of that to us. We are managers, nothing more, and, at some point, we must give an account of how we used what God has given us to manage. So, how well have you been managing what God has given to you?
You see I think this is very often where you and I get tripped up. We look at the things we worked for, the stuff we have, the money we’ve earned and saved, and we think, “This is mine. Now, how can I best use it to serve my needs and my wants.” And, again, there is nothing wrong with having money and using it for yourself in a variety of ways, but all of this becomes an issue when? Timothy doesn’t say that money is the root of all kinds of evil, no, it’s the love of that money. It’s when you and I start to become greedy, and that wealth, and that money it, as Jesus says, becomes the master, rather than God – you can’t serve both.
Now keep that thought in your mind for a few minutes and let’s turn back to Jesus’ parable in Luke. That manager who realized he’s in trouble and asked, “Now what do I do.”, he came up with a shrewd plan. We see it there in verses 5-7. This manager he calls in his master’s debtors and, while he still has the authority, he makes some deals. He cut their debts – 800 gallons of oil? Make it 400. 1000 bushels of wheat? Change it to 800 bushels – and what was his goal? Self-preservation. He used his master’s resources and his master’s wealth for the sole purpose of making sure that those debtors would owe him one.
Now, how did all this play out for that manager? Actually, it worked out pretty well. Look at vs 8, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly….” This might surprise us but keep reading. Jesus provides commentary on his own story and connects it to our own lives. “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.”
Do you see what Jesus does here? He points to an unbeliever, some dishonest manager, and says to you and me, “Take notes. Look at how the people of this world use their resources, their money, their property, their stuff, all to win friends and influence people. See how shrewd and resourceful they are as they try to achieve their own personal goals.” And then he, Jesus, turns and says this to you and me, “I wish that you would use the things you have and be like that because you know what really matters; you know what’s at stake in this life and the life to come.”
That’s what Jesus does in this parable; he sets us straight. He gives us a far greater goal than earthly wealth and success. He says it right there in verse 9 “I tell you (YOU), use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Jesus wants us to use our resources and gifts, the things he has given us to manage in this world for eternal purposes and for eternal friends. This is the point of the parable. God has given us stuff and he wants us to use it. Yes, of course to take care of ourselves, to feed our families, to clothe our children, to live a little, but don’t settle only for what is temporary.
Think of Jesus. Imagine being God and having access to everything, all the riches of the universe, and choosing to set that aside…for you. That’s what Jesus did. He set everything aside so he could win someone like you for himself. Jesus used his time, he gave up his glory, he sacrificed his life, everything, so he could welcome you into that eternal dwelling. Throughout his life we find Jesus prioritizing our eternity. For all the times we put our now life over our new life, Jesus gave his life. He put us first. In Christ Jesus, God served you. He made you spiritually rich and gave you a retirement plan that is literally out of this world.
Now, do we do the same? Do we use our wealth in the same way, to gain friends, to win souls for Christ? Or is our master our money and our stuff? Am I greedy? You know if you’ve been pointing at others and calling them greedy, maybe this is a good time to self-assess. Ask yourself, “Am I content or am I consumed with always wanting more?” That’s a warning sign that you might be struggling with greed. Another thing you can ask, “Am I stingy? Is it hard for me to share, am I terrified of someone taking my stuff, am I generous with God? Does God get a respectable honest portion back from me, or do I tip my waiter better than my Lord? These can be difficult questions for us to answer, but it’s necessary to answer them.
It’s necessary because if you and I are focused on what we have here and on not losing it, or trying to hoard it, we are not being faithful managers of what God has given to us. But, if you and I are focused on the spiritual riches and that eternal dwelling that is ours through Christ, Jesus, that allows us to then turn to all the other things we have and to say, “These things are gifts from God. Here for me to enjoy and use as I walk that path to heaven. And also here for me to use: to save souls and to gain friends, who, once everything on this earth is gone and dead, will be there with me in that eternal dwelling.
You see the attitude here? We don’t love those things, the money, the job, the stuff. Those things aren’t our master; it’s just another blessing from God, which means, whether you have a lot or a little, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because your hope, your security, your happiness in life, rests not in what you have, but in the one who has you. And, with Christ front and center in your life, with him as your master, you will be a faithful manager of all that he has given to you. You will use your many and varied gifts for what matters: the saving of souls. And, one day, when it is time you will be welcomed into that eternal dwelling prepared just for you, and you will hear your Father say, “Well, done, my good and faithful servant.” Amen.