February 18, 2023


Stewardship Messages ❧ Part 2

Luke 16:14-31 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney

If you were to take all of Jesus’ words and put them all together you would have about three- and one-half hours of the three and a half years of His total ministry.  Everything we know of what Jesus said is boiled down into a little more than three short hours.  Of those three plus hours there is one topic Jesus spoke on more than any other.  He spoke on it more than Heaven and Hell.  Over one half of His forty parables dealt with it.  One out of every ten verses in Matthew, Mark, and Luke deal with it. Do you know what IT is?  Money. Why? Because there is probably no greater test our spirituality than how we handle our money. 

Sadly, for a lot of people money is their god.  It is the source of their security, worth, and happiness.  That’s their perspective.  Money is not just important, it is everything.  Money is their god.  

Now, turn with me to Luke 16:14-31.  Luke 16 is made up of two parables, both about money.  Luke is careful to point out that while Jesus is talking about money, the pharisees were eavesdropping on Jesus words: Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and scoffing at Him (V.14).  They rolled their eyes at Him, dismissing Him as being completely out of touch with what is really important.  The sense you get is they shared mocking looks with each other while Jesus spoke.  The reason was simple.  Jesus was poor and His followers were poor.  Yet, He had the nerve to teach authoritatively about money!   When He said,You cannot serve both God and money (V. 13), they thought He’d made a mistake.  They were convinced they had money because of God’s blessing of their righteous conduct.  It was evidence that God was on their side and since Jesus was obviously poor. He clearly did not have God’s blessing as they did.  They were no match for Him with words, but in their minds, they were when it came to wealth. Here was the one place they could feel smug and superior to Jesus.  

So, Jesus tells them a story that jabs a sharp needle in their over inflated balloons of pride. He doesn’t pull any punches here.  But the Pharisees are not the most important listeners. As it turns out, their deaf anyhow.  The most important listeners here are the disciples. They need to hear Jesus’ response why being rich doesn’t necessarily mean you have God’s favor.  We need to hear it too.  There are many today who confuse wealth with God’s favor.  We think if we’re doing well financially that can only mean God is pleased with us.  God says, “You need to think again.”  Follow with me as I read Luke 16:14-31. 

Verses 14-18 are the jab before punch. The key to understanding these verses is Jesus’s statement in verse 15 You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God(V.15). They believed their wealth was God’s blessing in return for their smug righteous conduct. Their problem was not money in itself, but that they were lovers of money (V. 14). Their wealth gave them a sense of false righteousness, false security.  In doing so, they forgot God. But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18).   Worse yet, they not only forgot God, but they replaced His perfect standard of righteousness with their own.  That’s what Jesus means when He says they are trying to force their way into God’s Kingdom.  The only way into God’s Kingdom is by faith, not by our own works-oriented righteousness. They forgot Abraham was made righteous before God by his faith (Gen. 15:6).  They forgot God says Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith(Habakkuk 2:4).  They were trying to undermine the Word of God by making their own standard of righteousness in order to get into God’s Kingdom.  But Jesus says, God’s Word does not change. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail (V. 17). Then He uses an example of marriage. They tried to change God’s Word by setting up their own standards for divorce.  According to the pharisees if your wife burned your dinner, that was grounds for divorce!  But Jesus reminds them – God’s Word does not change! Then Jesus gives them a parable with a clear warning: Just because you’re a pharisee and you’re rich does not mean you have God’s favor.   Remember, this parable is really for the disciples more than the pharisees. 

Jesus gives us four warnings about money.  

  1. Don’t confuse your net-worth with your self- worth.  We confuse these two all the time.  We confuse our value with our valuables.  Have you ever noticed the difference in the way people treat you when you’re dressed up in your best verses when you have your work clothes on?  That’s what Jesus is saying in Vv. 19-21: Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores (Luke 16:19-21). 

Jesus carefully clothes the rich man as someone who essentially has it all – extravagance, excess was a daily occurrence for him.  He had a five-car garage, Olympic sized swimming pool, servants, the whole nine yards.   He wore the most expensive name-brand clothes.  His every day clothes were made out of the same material the High Priest’s garments were made of that he wore once a year on the Day of Atonement.  He had everything but a heart of compassion.  

Just outside his private gate was a beggar named “Lazarus” – from Hebrew “Elazar” meaning “God has helped.”  He was tossed aside like trash outside the wall – gaunt, starving, crippled with open sores that seeped.  He was unable to help himself.  You get the sense he is able to look through the rich man’s gate and see the luxurious food heaped on the rich man’s table.  Jesus says, he longed to have just the crumbs that fell.  The very wealthy used bread to wipe their hands during a meal. The crumbs from that bread is what Lazarus longed for.  The word for “longing” (v.21) means he was in bodily misery. He was literally starving to death.  To make matters worse, Jesus says stray dogs (unclean animals) came along and liked Lazarus’ open sores – which were probably bleeding swollen abscesses.  This is no comfort!  It is adding insult to injury!  It was torture!  In the Jew’s eyes this was equivalent of rats crawling on you and licking open painful sores on your body.  Lazarus so weak with starvation he could do nothing but hope to die.  Jesus is intentionally and painfully graphic.  The worst part of this grotesque picture is that the rich man doesn’t even lift a finger to help!   

Jesus points out that the crime of the rich man is not that he is rich, but that he is immoral and uncompassionate.  He saw Lazarus as having no value.  He confused wealth with worth.  He loved money more than God.  

Jesus is showing that all people, regardless of their status in life, rich or poor, are made in the image of God and therefore have intrinsic worth.  Proverbs 14:31 says, He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.  

One day a very wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country to show his son how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on a farm of what would be considered a very poor family.  On their return trip, the father asked the son, “How was the trip?” “It was great, Dad.”  Came the son’s reply.  “Did you see how poor people can be?” He asked his son. “Oh Yeah,” said the son.  “So, what did you learn from the trip?” His father pressed.  The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog, they have four.  We have a pool that reaches the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.  We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have stars at night.  Our patio reaches the front yard, and they have the whole horizon.  We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.  We have servants to serve us, but they serve others.  We buy food, but they grow theirs.  We have walls all around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”

With this the boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are.”  Precaution number one: Don’t confuse your net-worth with your self-wort.  

  1. Don’t allow money to consume your compassion for others. Live with the end in mind.  Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom (Vv. 22-23).

Lazarus dies first probably because he starved to death.  The moment he dies he has a heavenly funeral procession; the angels come and carry him to Abraham’s side, a Jewish idiom for paradise, or heaven.  Then, the rich man dies.  Notice Jesus points out that only the rich man is buried.  No mention of Lazarus burial is given.  This adds even further to Lazarus’ degrading.  

The rich man though, was buried and received all kinds of great eulogies – one person got up after the other and lied about how great he was.  Then Jesus masterfully paints a vivid picture of shocking contrast.  He says Lazarus was carried to Abraham’s side – heaven’s overflowing banquet table in the most honored seat!  The rich man, though, finds himself in a place he ever expected to be when he died – Hell. Instantly he realizes he is in a place of overwhelming torment.  It gets worse when he lifts his eyes and sees Lazarus in overwhelming delight. 

We need to remember; Jesus is not condemning the rich man for being rich.  No where does God condemn the rich for being rich.  Some of the godliest people in the Bible were incredibly wealthy.  Abraham, Joseph, David – just to name a few, were rich.  What Jesus is denouncing is the rich man’s immoral use of his money and that he made money his god.  Money is blind to morals.  You know money is your god when you are blind to the needs of others God has placed at the gate of your life. Nor is He saying being poor somehow makes you righteous.  God says we’re saved by faith in Him. Lazarus was a believer.   Precaution number two: Don’t allow money to consume your compassion for others.   

  1. Don’t confuse ownership with stewardship.  We don’t own anything.  It’s all on loan.  It’s a test.  When John D. Rockefeller died someone asked his chief accountant, “How much did he leave? We know he was an immensely wealthy man.”  The accountant answered: “Everything.”  What are you going to leave? Everything. What are we going to take with us? Nothing. 

God wasn’t interest in the rich man’s wealth.  He didn’t want the rich man’s wealth; He wanted the rich man’s heart.  God doesn’t need your money.  He owns it already.  What He really wants is for us to not confuse ownership with stewardship.  And because He owns it all, He gets to say how we’re to use it.  How does God want us to use the wealth He’s given us?  Generously.  Why? Because it is for our benefit; it makes us more like our Heavenly Father.  

The rich man and the Pharisees could never understand this.  They, who were the keepers of the law, guardians of orthodoxy, held the package of God’s truth but didn’t understand its content.  

What happens next reveals the startling degree in which selfishness can blind the human heart.  The rich man looks around and does the only sensible thing he’s done yet – he calls on Abraham (v. 24).  But it is not with a heart of understanding; he still doesn’t get it. He asks Abraham to send Lazarus to help him in his misery.  You know what’s astonishing about this?  The rich man still sees himself as superior to Lazarus by asking him to come and serve him!!! He can’t see his own selfishness and pride for the nose on his face!  

Notice Abraham’s words: But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony’ (V. 25).  He says, “You had your chance.  You failed the test.  You forgot you were not the owner, but the steward of all I gave you.  Now, you’re receiving your due reward.  You received good things, but you didn’t share them with Lazarus whom I put at your gate to help.” Our wealth is a test of our where our true trust lies, in God or in money.  

How we handle our wealth tells others whether Jesus is Lord of our lives or not. I don’t think we’ll ever experience how good and how great and how generous God really is; how much He really loves and cares for us, until we see ourselves as stewards and not owners. 

Jesus is saying, “Remember, you’re not the owner but the steward: live generously.”  Money is like manure. If you spread it all around, it does a world of good.  But, if you pile it up, it stinks to high heaven.  Precaution number three: Don’t confuse ownership with stewardship.  Precaution number four: Don’t forget to put God first in your life. 

  1. Don’t forget to put God first. You have to decide what is going to be first in your life.  If you say, “I want God to be first in my life.”  He will test your words.  He’ll ask you to be like Him and give away something that is important to you.  Jesus said, Where your treasure is there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21).  You will never become a mature Christian until you settle the issue of who is Lord of your life.  The temptation is for us to say, “God, I don’t know enough.” Or “I don’t understand.” 

That’s what the rich man does.  He says in effect, “I didn’t know enough. I didn’t understand.”  He makes an appeal to Abraham (v.27) to send Lazarus (there’s that sense of superiority again), to his five brothers to warn them so they won’t make the same mistake he made.  When they see someone from the dead, it’ll scare some sense into them. Spurgeon says, “Although a churchyard should start into life, and stand up before the infidel who denies the truth of Christianity; I declare I do not believe there would be enough evidence in all the churchyards in the world to convince him. Infidelity would still cry for something more.” 

Send someone form the dead! Pleads the rich man.  Suddenly he sounds like he’s an evangelist!  But what he’s really trying to do is justify himself, “You didn’t give me enough of a warning.  At least give my brothers a fair warning.”  Listen to Abraham’s response: But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead (V. 31).  That is: You had more than enough warning!  No less than four times Jesus refers to the Law and the Prophets and Moses.  This is a way of summarizing the whole OT, pointing out that God has been more than fair by giving a thousand years of indisputable warning.   Even if Abraham did send Lazarus, they still wouldn’t listen.  

Jesus is obviously saying the rich man is the Pharisees who wanted signs, so clear they would compel people to believe.  But, Jesus points out that if they refuse to believe what God’s Word already says, they wouldn’t believe a sign no matter how great.  In fact, only a short time later, Jesus does raise a man from the dead and did they believe? No! 

Bible scholar David Guzik points out: With this story Jesus showed the weakness of trusting in signs to bring people to faith. It is easy to think that if people saw a spectacular enough sign, they would be compelled to believe. But what creates faith unto salvation is hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17); a sign may or may not have a role in that work. God, working through His word, has power unto salvation. “He declares that the sacred writings are in themselves as powerful as anything like the delivery of their message by one risen from the dead.” (Morgan).

I don’t want to leave you thinking, “Okay, I know we’re in a recession (even though some say we’re not by redefining the word).  Inflation is a reality.  Money is tight for everyone.  The reason your speaking on money is because giving is low.”  The answer is: No.  The truth is, Americans are the most generous people in the world.  According to Adam Meyerson, President of The Philanthropy Roundtable, last year Americans gave $300 billion to charity – that’s more than $1,000 per American (1/3, $100 billion to religion).  To put this in perspective, that’s twice the amount we spent on electronics equipment – cell phones, iPods, and DVD players.  Three times as much as we spent on gambling and ten times as much as we spent on professional sports.  We are, by far, the most charitable country in the world. 

The reason we need to hear money is because the Bible tells us that with great blessing comes great temptation as well as great responsibility.  God has blessed you greatly.  But, if we’re not careful we can become like the rich man and misuse this blessing.  We can ignore those God has put at the gate of our lives. So Jesus gives us four warnings: 1) Don’t confuse your net-worth with your self-worth.  2) Don’t allow money to consume your compassion for others.  3) Don’t confuse ownership with stewardship.  4) Don’t forget to put God first in your life.

error: Content is protected !!