A young woman – mid-20s – had about a month ago given birth to her first child. She hadn’t been out of the house much since the birth and so her husband, being the nice guy that he was, took off work in the afternoon so she could get out of the house and have some alone time. The woman used this time away for a variety of things and ended up at a department store. As she was standing in line to purchase a new sweater, the lady behind her smiled and politely asked her, “So, when are you due?”
Oooh, that’s a dangerous question. You don’t ask a woman that question, and why not? Well, there is the obvious reason. The woman might not be pregnant! But there is probably a better reason why you don’t ask a question like that, it’s personal. Personal questions are personal. People often don’t like being asked what their age is. They don’t like being asked why they are single and not married. They don’t like when others wonder why they don’t have kids yet. Those things are personal. Do you know what one of the top personal questions is that you should never ask someone? It’s this, “How much money do you make?”
Money is personal. What I have in my bank account, what I make, that’s none of your business. But, you know what’s interesting, money is absolutely Jesus’ business and he’s not afraid to talk about it. So, today, we’re going to talk about money. But really, even as we talk about money, we’re going to take time to look at our attitude toward money more than the money itself. And this all starts then with our story, the story before us.
Here 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 owner’s 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?” That’s our question today too: Now what do I do? But back to the manager…
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. Jesus makes this connection almost right away after his parable in verse 12. He says, “And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” Now, we might ask what is Jesus talking about here…” trustworthy with someone else’s property”…what does he mean? Well, answer this question for me. How much do you own?
Back in 2017, my wife and I purchased our first home and as soon as I was done signing the paperwork as soon as I got the keys to my home, I had to immediately attend a board meeting here at church. At the meeting, I excitedly told one of the board members next to me how great it was to finally have a home that was mine. Do you know what he said to me? Nothing is ours. That kind of sucked the wind out of my sails, but he was right.
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 that question, how much do you own?… Nothing.
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?
That’s a difficult question to answer. And it’s personal because who are you to judge how I’ve been using my things, but there it is again, it’s not your stuff and I’m not the one you must give an account to, we give an account to the owner, to God.
Go back to that woman who recently had a baby. Why do you think it would bother her so much that someone asked when she was due? Well, okay, it’s a personal question, but also because it means there is some post-evidence of her being pregnant, a few extra pounds that she knows are still there, enough that someone said to her, “Hey, lady, you look pregnant!” Naturally, that would make her uncomfortable and prick her conscience.
Maybe one of the reasons we don’t like talking about money or better how we use our time and our possessions is for the same reason, it pricks our conscience. We know that we don’t always use what God has given us wisely. And it’s easy enough to hide that guilt from each other by saying “It’s personal”, but someday we must give an account. That’s a hard message for us to hear. It was hard for this manager in the parable too. He realized time was short. The vast resources of the owner were about to be lost. That’s why he wondered aloud, “Now what do I do?” Well, he came up with a plan.
We see it there in verses 5-7. This manager 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? 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, says 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.”
So, now what? Now, what do I do?
I got to tell you. I’m only 31, but every once in a while I like to think about what retirement will be like. A little golfing, maybe a warmer climate, and I’m planning for it, right? My wife and I are setting aside money so that, Lord-willing, one day we can retire. That’s the goal. But on average how long does a person get to enjoy their retirement? Ten years? Twenty? Retirement is so temporary yet many often will spend most of their lives trying to achieve it.
In this parable, Jesus gives you and me a far greater goal than just retirement. It’s there in verse 9, “I tell you (YOU), use worldly wealth to gain a friend for yourselves so that when it is gone, you 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, live a little, but don’t settle only for what is temporary.
Think of Jesus. Jesus had access to all the riches of the universe, and you know what he did with that wealth? He set it aside. He came and dwelt among us, and here he is in our lesson telling a story. Why? Because this is what truly mattered, saving souls. Jesus used his time, he gave up his glory, he sacrificed his life, everything, for what really matters, you. Throughout his life we find Jesus prioritizing our eternity. For all the times we put our now life over our new life, he gave his life. He put us first. He remembered our eternity when often all we can think about is how to enjoy our best life here and now. Jesus literally saved us from ourselves.
So, now what do I do? What do we do? We get to do that too. We get to be creative and resourceful with what God has given us – all for one purpose – to save souls like Jesus. To gain friends, who, once everything on this earth is gone and dead, will be there with us in that eternal dwelling. That’s what you get to do with the time and the gifts, and the money and the stuff that God has given to you. And, in the end, that’s what really matters. So, today, get a little personal with yourself and think about how you can live that life, a God-lived life, one that is shrewd. One that doesn’t just live for the here and now, but lives now, right now, for Christ and his glory and the eternity that awaits us all. God then bless you as you learn to be that faithful manager of everything that he has given to you.
God grant it. Amen.