Jeremiah 8:18-9:1               Luke 16:1-13


As I read and reflected on the parable in Luke’s gospel…I reflected on some of the people with whom I have the opportunity to interact daily.  You see…in my role as fundraiser for the college…I must find and interact with people who have or control substantial funds.  They are the people with the capability to give substantial funds for the work of the college…or to other ministries in our community.  And…I also reflected on those at the opposite end of the wealth spectrum…those who barely have enough to survive.

The story of the shrewd manager speaks to basic attitudes in how we handle the resources we’ve been given.  Jesus made it clear that money and other material resources we possess are not really ours…to be used how we please.  Rather…Jesus’ point is…they have been placed in our care in order to meet the needs of others around us.  We earn resources in order to help the needy and to share with them.   Paul made a similar point in his letter to the Ephesians.   (Eph 4:28)  “… use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.” (NLT)  Not all of us are capable of work, but all of us are capable of helping those in need.

This understanding of resources runs counter to the values of many in our culture.  They have the idea that what we have earned is ours and that we can use it as we want.  Jesus makes the point that what we have is entrusted to us…and God watches how we use it.  When you look at it as Jesus did you see something that is above the debates about which economic system is endorsed by Scripture.  Instead we are told to reflect on what God does when he gives us our resources and encourages us to consider how to direct their use. God has entrusted us with His resources.  Are we trustworthy…faithful managers?

The value Jesus wishes for his disciples has to do with service…generosity…and people.  Resources ought not to be counted and hoarded but planted for a harvest of generosity that serves others and meets their real needs.  The stewardship of money is not an end…but a means…where others can see acts of caring from those who say God cares.  However…check and you will find that greed and selfishness still have a deep home in the human heart.

There are three lessons in this parable.

Jesus said “…use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9 NIV)  What is clear here is that our wealth and possessions are to be used to win eternal friends.  This is the proper use of what we have.  We must give generously of our resources for the furtherance of the gospel.  If we are not doing so…we are not making proper use of what God has given us and we are not enhancing our eternal friendships.

It is not enough to give money…we must devote our personal resources to the making of eternal friends as well.  Eventually…our worldly wealth will go somewhere.  How are we choosing to distribute it?  Do we have an estate plan…a will…for the use of our resources when we’re gone?  Do we have a plan and are we taking action for Godly use of those resources today?

Jesus…in his telling of the parable…next taught that we must be trustworthy with our resources…”Whoever can be trusted with little can also be trusted with much…” (Luke 16:10 NIV)  We are merely stewards of our material wealth.  God is the true owner.  How are we…all of us who claim to be Christians…rich or poor…managing on God’s behalf?

In his “Commentary on Peter and Jude”…Martin Luther put it this way…”…we must use all these things upon earth in no other way than as a guest who travels through the land and comes to a hotel where he must lodge overnight.  He takes only food and lodging from the host, and he says not that the property of the host belongs to him.  Just so should we also treat our temporal possessions, as if they were not ours, and enjoy only so much of them as we need to nourish the body and then help our neighbors with the balance.  Thus the life of the Christian is only a lodging for the night, since we have here no continuing city, but must journey on to heaven, where the Father is.”

Luther would probably ask whether we are one who fills our suitcase with towels, soap and shampoo when we leave the hotel.  There are those among us who would do so and not give one thought to sharing the resources they have been given by God with those who are needy.

Jesus’ third lesson was pretty clear.  It’s impossible to serve both God and Money.  There is no middle ground.  If we are devoted to money, we will despise God with our intellect and hate him with our emotions.

Now…we all go through times when a material focus is required.  We live in a material world…which requires attention.  Also…the possession of wealth…even great wealth…does not make one a materialist…though it greatly increases the danger.  There are wealthy people who live very well and are not materialists…and there are wealthy people whose only love is money and what it will buy for them.  I encounter both routinely.  Furthermore…if you lived in Uganda you could easily say “all of you Americans are wealthy.”

I am sure however…that many of us attempt to serve both God and money.  Some of us are good at it…so good that we think we are serving only God.

But…often we are failures.  And…we know it because of the way we talk about these things with our spouses and friends.  Is the conversation about your house…shopping…a new car…about the church building or…is it about using our wealth to build the church’s ministry…using our resources to serve God’s purposes?

Like all of Jesus’ teachings…this parable has been around for a couple thousand years.  How faithful are we in managing the resources God has given us?

Let me share some data and ask you to answer the question for yourself.

Consistently…the annual research by the Barna Group has shown that only five percent of those professing to be Christians tithe to their churches.

And…consistently again…the annual research by Giving USA…shows that roughly two percent of the income received by Americans has gone to all charities….religion, education, human services, arts and humanities and others.

How faithful are we in managing the resources God has given us…serving God not money?

In their new book “Public Faith in Action,” a Harvard University professor and Harvard researcher, ask voters and candidates to consider these questions and points both before and after the election.

“Is it actual wealth that we are creating?  What passes for wealth in some cases is illusory, no wealth at all.  For instance, the bundling of life insurance policies into marketable bonds puts the bonds’ buyers and sellers in the position of betting on the deaths of other people and rooting against unforeseen improvements in public health.

Are we creating wealth without relying on exploitation or oppression?  Goods that originate in the exploitation of others via unfair wages, harsh labor conditions, and the like are corrupt and corrupting.  Ill-gotten goods may appear to promote the flourishing of those who oppress and exploit.  But no one can truly flourish while wronging others.

Is wealth creation environmentally sustainable?  Any supposed wealth creation that relies on the unsustainable degradation of the natural environment is actually wealth destruction.

Do our ways of creating wealth leave space for proper rest?  Given that humans are co-creators with the God who rested on the seventh day, human beings are made not just for creative work but also for celebratory rest.

Are there ample opportunities for all to be involved in creating wealth?  Because we are created to be creators and not just beneficiaries of created abundance, it is important that our societies create wealth without excluding large portions of the population from the productive work.

Is the kind of wealth we create broadly accessible so as to potentially help life go well for all people?  Giving more people access to genuine goods is important because God intends for all human being to enjoy creation.”

As we think and act in public and in private…how faithful are we in managing the resources God has given us?

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