YOUR LIFE IS A STEWARDSHIP
Stewardship Messages ❧ Part 1
Luke 16:1-13 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
This morning we’re going to take a brief pause from our series in Romans and do a short series on stewardship. Over the next several weeks we’re going to focus on what God says about balancing our lives; that is our time, our abilities, and our wealth. Some of you may be wondering why we’re doing this. Let me assure you, it is not because we are in a financial crisis or are trying to make a push for more money. Not at all. When you come here on Sunday morning, you don’t hear a weekly appeal to give. I’m convinced when we are faithful doing what God has called us to do, He will provide all that is necessary to accomplish it. Over the past twenty-seven years I’ve watched God faithfully provide in amazing ways.
Why talk about stewardship now? Because money is a test. It’s a spiritual test. How we use our time, money, resources are closely tied to our spirituality. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart. God knows the tremendous influence and power money has over our lives. He wants us to learn how to manage it, so it doesn’t manage us. He wants us to live every day of our lives with an eternal perspective. God doesn’t need our money. He owns it all. What God is interested in is what our money represents – us. The bottom line is stewardship is about Lordship – if Jesus is Lord of my life, then He Lord of my money, time, resources.
With that in mind, I want to ask you to do something I don’t do very often. Could you take out a little money? Whatever you’ve got. If you have a quarter, a dollar, five dollars, a twenty – it doesn’t matter. Take it out. If you don’t have any feel free to borrow from the person next to you. Don’t worry, you’re going to keep it. I want you to hold on to it until the end of the service. Now, let me ask you: how did that exercise feel? Some of you immediately felt a little nervous, suspicious, bothered. There are a wide range of feelings when it comes to giving our money. It’s the reason some people say they quit coming to church, because all they seem to hear about is money. What determines our reaction is our perspective.
Now, turn with me to Luke 16:1-13. This is one of those passages that a lot of people are troubled by. It’s about a shrewd yet crooked manager. When many people read this, they think that Jesus is commending dishonesty. But Jesus makes it clear He’s not commending but comparing. He makes this clear in verse 8. He’s saying the people of the world are wiser in using their money toward temporal ends than God’s people are toward eternal ends. Actually, it is a brilliant parable showing us how to wisely invest not just our money, but our lives. It’s also one of the few parables that Jesus carefully explains. His goal was to help us see our lives from God’s perspective.
To understand this parable you have to know whom Jesus is speaking. V. 1 says He’s talking to His disciples – they just happen to be new believers who in their former lives, no different from us, were struggling to make a living. They were tempted and controlled by the desire for material things just like us. Now, as believers, they were convinced that spiritual things were more important than material. And rightfully so. But they still didn’t have God’s perspective on the matter. We do the same thing. When we come to Christ, our tendency is to label material things as less than godly or evil, or less significant than spiritual things. Jesus tells this parable to show that as mature believers both the secular and the spiritual are important to God. He owns it all. The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it(Psalm 24:1). Alfred Edersheim To the spiritual nothing is secular. To the secular, nothing is spiritual. Seeing the need to join the two from God’s perspective Jesus tells His disciples this parable of the shrewd manager.
In this parable, Jesus is not condoning the manager’s sin, but He is commending his shrewdness.
Verse 1-8 tell us the story. Jesus says there was a very wealthy man, who has so much money he doesn’t want to deal with is anymore. So he hires somebody to run his estate and household; pay his bills, and to run his business so he can play golf and travel and just do things with his friends and family. One day someone walks up to him and informs him that his money manager is embezzling his funds, wasting his money. It seems the manager forgot he was a steward and began acting like the owner (much like we are prone to do). We don’t know if he was making bad purchases, or if he was spending too much on himself. We don’t what he was doing, but he was wasting his boss’s money. So this very wealthy man calls in the manager and says to him. I want you to close out the books, finish up whatever business you’re in the middle of, make a report and turn it into me, and from this point on you are no longer employed by me. You cannot be my money manager any longer. You’re fired!
V 3: 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 beg. He realizes he has to do something fast. I’ve got to do something and I’ve got to do something NOW! He has two things; I’ve got a little bit of time and a little bit of opportunity. Now he’s got to figure out how to leverage his time and leverage his opportunity, so he’ll have something to show for his life and he’ll have some place to go once his job is over. He realizesÖI’m not going to dig ditches, I’m not strong enough to do that, and I’m too proud to beg for money, so I’ve got to use my little bit of time, and my little bit of opportunity and I’ve got to come up with a plan, I’ve got to leverage what I have, so that in the future, I have some place to go.
So he comes up with a plan. Vv. 4-6 ‘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, ‘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.’
And the man who owed it said, “excuse me?” He says, “Yea, we’re gonna just cut this in half.” “Really?” “Yea 50% off today only.” “Thank you so much, if there’s anything I can ever do for you please let me know.” To which the shrewd manager thinks, “Don’t worry, I will.” And the story goes on. V. 7: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. The debtor said, “But I owe a hundred.” “I know but says the manager, but today, eight hundred,” “Really?” “Yea that’s 20% off today only.” “Thank you so much, if there’s ever anything I can do for you please let me know.” “You can count on it,” thinks the manger.
In Jesus day, the Law did not permit interest to be charged to fellow countrymen. So, clever businessmen would hide the interest by raising the price. The manager probably just removed the hidden interest in the debt owed to the rich master. A couple of interesting observations: the debtors were rich in their own right even though they were debtors: to owe 100 measures of oil (about 800 gallons) would equal some 150 trees. The 100 measures of wheat represented the yield of about 100 acres. Second, to owe someone a favor was a big deal. This manager was setting his future well. The story continues and of course the master, eventually found out.
In V. 8 his master praised the unrighteous manager, why? because he had acted shrewdly. Why did he say that? Because, by reducing the debt, he not only helped himself out, but he also made his master look good too. He improved his master’s reputation as well as his own. Stuart Briscoe points out, had the owner objected and had the manager alter the bills back to their original figure, he ran the risk of being exposed for having charged interest when the Law prohibited it (Briscoe, Parables of Luke, p. 140). The master was saying, “You took your little bit of time and your little bit of opportunity, and you leveraged it in such a way, that now that you have no job, people will welcome you into their homes. You took care of yourself, even though you did it under the table.”
Now, it seems, Jesus’ disciples are confused at this point, they’re saying, “Wait, now good is bad, and bad is good? What is Jesus saying?” Without warning, Jesus explains the parable. Look what He says in the middle of v. 8: for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. What was Jesus saying? He’s saying, we need to be like this shrewd manager; we need to look ahead, plan ahead while you have a little bit of time and a little bit of opportunity. The sons of this age are experts in the here and now, but not in things of eternity. Because believers live with an eternal perspective, they should recognize the importance all the more of the value of their limited time and opportunity. He goes on to explain what this looks like in Vv. 9-13. He tells us three important stewardship truths: Everything you have is a tool. Everything you have is a test. Everything you have is a trademark. A tool, a test, a trademark. He’s saying this is what you need to know if you’re going to wisely invest your life as God’s steward – you have a little bit of time and a little bit of opportunity to invest in the future.
- Everything I have is a tool. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings(Luke 16:9, NAS). What is Jesus saying here? The wealth of unrighteousness is the temporal wealth of this world. It cannot buy your way into Heaven. The Bible says salvation is a free gift. What Jesus is saying is the greatest use of your money is to invest it in getting people into Heaven. Everything you have is a tool to help get more and more people into heaven. Use your money to build relationships that are going to last forever.
When my wife and I give to a ministry, we look for two things happen: One – for people come to know Christ, and two – to make friends not only on Earth but in Heaven as well. We get eternal rewards and eternal friends. You’re going to spend a lot more time on the other side of eternity than on this side – so it’s best to invest your money where you’re going to get the most out of it. Jesus is saying that one day you’re going to go to Heaven, and someone is going to walk up to you and say, “I know you don’t know me, but I want to say thank you. Because of you I heard about Jesus Christ and asked Him to come into my life. Do you remember that time you gave money to the mission team, well thanks to your giving, I heard about Jesus.” Someone else may come up and say, “Do you remember that time you invited me over for dinner or took the time to help me – well thanks you to I gave my life to Christ.” But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:20-21). Things don’t last. They rust, mold, deteriorate, get stolen, given to someone else when we die. Things don’t last, only people do.
It’s not just your money Jesus is talking about, it’s your skills, your intelligence, your time, everything. I remember a number of years ago going to a Carman Concert in the old Spokane coliseum. I could hear before I went there, but not afterwards. Carman did something I’ll never forget. In his presentation of the sharing Christ, he asked what would some famous entertainer’s lives like Elvis, the Beatles, and others, look like or sound like if they had given their lives to Christ? Then he masterfully impersonated what their music may have sounded like had they used their talents for Christ. Everything we have is a tool for eternity.
- Everything I have is a test. 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. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? (Luke 16:10-11). Jesus is saying that one day we’re going to stand before God and He’s going to ask us, “So, how did you invest all the blessings I gave you in your life?” Notice Jesus considers money a little thing. God doesn’t care how much or how little we have. He’s more concerned about how we used it at all. If I can trust you in handling something well that has temporal value and is not even yours, then I will trust you with things that have eternal value. The point is that everything is not only a tool, but it is a test as well.
Everyday God watches to see how we handle our time, our money, our abilities, to see if we are investing them in His Kingdom or our kingdom. It’s a test. How we handle what we have now will determine what we can handle later. It’s not about Heaven or Hell. It’s about being faithful with what we’ve been given.
Someday we’re going to have stand before God and give an answer for how we invested our lives. What did you do with all the things I gave you? He’ll ask. How did you invest it. Were you more interested in what hung on your walls, the car you drove, the clothes you wore than you were in the Kingdom I sent you to invest in? I recently read about a man who arrived in Heaven and was being guided by an angel through the streets of Heaven. Everywhere he looked he saw large mansions. Finally, the angel stopped in front of a small shack and told him this was his new home. Shocked, the man asked why he got a shack when others had mansions. “This is all we could do with what you sent ahead,” replied angel.
What if we began to live like everything we have comes from God, belongs to God? Everything we have is a tool or a test? And we begin to say, How can I use it for Your Kingdom? Not just how I should give money, but how can I use all that I have for Your Kingdom, because one day I will stand to give an account for all that You put on loan to me. Imagine what would happen if you thought that way! Can you see how that when enable us to give, as Paul says, with a cheerful heart? Our response wouldn’t be, “Well here we go again.” But, “Wow, Lord, I’m looking forward to how You’re going to use this for Your Kingdom!” All that we have is a tool and a test.
- Everything I have is a trademark. A trademark the mark of ownership; it says who owns you. What you do with your stuff does more to indicate to God, whose you really are more than anything else. From God’s perspective, everything you own is a statement of who you belong to. Listen to what Jesus says in v.13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth(Luke 16:13). Jesus says it the way it is. The heart of the problem is really the heart. You can’t be devoted to two masters. Whichever one you serve will be your trademark (mark of ownership) in your life.
I think there are two conclusions we can make from this verse. One I must choose what I will love most in this life. It’s a choice. You can’t love two masters. Am I going to love money more than God or God more than money? A lot of people think the Constitution says “Life, Liberty and the Purchase of happiness.” Don’t buy it. Money makes a great servant but a lousy god. If you love it, it can’t love you back. It will only use you like a slave.
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with money. Some of the greatest people in the Bible were very rich: Abraham, Job, Solomon, David, Joseph of Arimathea. There’s nothing wrong with money, but there is something deceptively wrong with the love of money. Money is not evil, but the love of money is. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10, NLT). The problem with much of society today is that we love money and use people. That’s what causes so much of the unnecessary hardship in the world. Medical bills are astronomical. Medicines needed on poor countries held back because of a love for money – people unnecessarily die of hunger, disease, abandonment.
How can we know if God really has first place in our lives? Is there a verse in the Bible that helps us know? Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:27, NAS). Giving needs to first come from a heart for God. It’s not because God is poor, or that He even needs it, or He wants to keep us poor. Where your treasure is there will be your heart also(Matthew 6:21).
The bottom line is money is a tool, a test, a trademark of who we really belong to. There are more promises in the Bible about giving than any other. When we give to God, even when it seems scary, risky, sacrificial, He will be faithful to provide for us. I’m not saying He’ll make all of us millionaires. I am saying in if you want to be a wise steward with your life, first begin by recognizing where your wealth comes from – God. When you start giving so that God is first in your life, you will see Him provide spiritually and materially in ways you can never imagine. In Malachi 3:10 Test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it (Malachi 3:10).
Now let me tell you what you and I have in common with the unjust steward. Get out that little bit of money, a quarter, a dollar, five dollars, a twenty, whatever you have, and put it in the hand opposite of where your watch is, cause here’s the point, hold it up like this. Do you know what you have? Do this with me: You have a little bit of time and a little bit of money.
Here is God’s challenge: Will you use the little bit of time and the little bit of money you have left? You say, I have a lot of time left. Not from God’s perspective. O’ I’ve got a lot of money. Not from God’s perspective. You have a little bit of time, and you have a little bit of money, and like the dishonest steward, you have an opportunity to leverage your little bit of time and your little bit of money for something that has eternal consequence.
The point of the parable: I only have a little bit of TIME and a little bit of MONEY to invest wisely NOW in order to make an eternal difference later.