Faithfulness with Money

Faithfulness with Money January 16, 2024

Photo by Faith Crabtree on Unsplash

In Luke 16, Jesus teaches about faithfulness with money. He says to use it so that when it’s gone, God will welcome us. How do we do that?

Scripture:       

Genesis, chapters 39-41; Luke, chapter 16

Luke 16:1-13 (CEB):

Jesus also said to the disciples, “A certain rich man heard that his household manager was wasting his estate. He called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give me a report of your administration because you can no longer serve as my manager.’ The household manager said to himself, ‘What will I do now that my master is firing me as his manager? I’m not strong enough to dig and I’m too proud to beg. I know what I’ll do so that, when I am removed from my management position, people will welcome me into their houses.’

One by one, the manager sent for each person who owed his master money. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil.’  The manager said to him, ‘Take your contract, sit down quickly, and write four hundred fifty gallons.’ Then the manager said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘One thousand bushels of wheat.’ He said, ‘Take your contract and write eight hundred.’ The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted cleverly. People who belong to this world are more clever in dealing with their peers than are people who belong to the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.

Serving God and Wealth

Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much. If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? If you haven’t been faithful with someone else’s property, who will give you your own? No household servant can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Observations:

Faithfulness with Money

It’s interesting that this passage is titled “Faithfulness with Money” in the CEB text, because the lead character in the story was not faithful with money. When his master told him to make his final account, he conspired with the master’s debtors to reduce their debts. Jesus says that the man was protecting himself. When I am removed from my management position, people will welcome me into their houses. It’s also interesting that Jesus says the master commended the dishonest manager because he acted cleverly.Think about that: he was firing the manager because the manager was wasting his estate, yet he commended him for acting cleverly.

Even more surprisingly, Jesus makes this manager as an example for us, at least on some level. People who belong to this world are more clever in dealing with their peers than are people who belong to the light. Previously, I failed to understand the true thrust of Jesus’ comments. The NASB, NIV, and NLT all translate the word clever as “shrewd.”  “Shrewd” has a bit of a negative connotation to it for most people – something like “sneaky” or “sharp.” The Greek word actually means “the wise, prudent and sensible manner in which one conducts himself and his affairs” (Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament).

Faithfulness with God’s Money

In this case, as surprising as it may be, the sense of the CEB text is more accurate: people of the world are more “prudent” in dealing with others than are “people who belong to the light.” Verse 9 makes Jesus’ point: I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.

Jesus’ point goes deeper, though. Who is it that can welcome us into the eternal homes? God – the One whose home it is. “My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2, CEB). Those who are spiritually “clever” or “prudent” use whatever resources God has given them to demonstrate their friendship with God.

Jesus sums his point up in verses 10-13, which end with the familiar phrase, No household servant can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and wealth. Those who are “prudent” in the worldly sense use their wealth for their benefit. Jesus calls the people of the light to use their wealth for the benefit of God and his kingdom.

Application: Faithfulness with Money

Jesus asks, “If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” That makes clear that his message is to use worldly wealth faithfully. What does that mean? It means that people of the light recognize that they don’t “own” their worldly goods. Everything we have belongs to God (“the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,” Psalm 24:1). God has entrusted those possessions to us. Using them faithfully means we use them according to His standards and directions.

Jesus’ statement in verse 9 grabs us. Use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes. It also enlightens us on Jesus’ next story, about Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man used his worldly wealth inappropriately – for his own pleasure. When he died, he was “tormented in the place of the dead” (verse 23).  The rich man didn’t do anything to help Lazarus – to “make him a friend.” When he died, God did not welcome him into the eternal homes.

Faithfulness with money. It means more than just giving to the church. Jesus says we should use our worldly wealth – however little or much we may have – serve God, rather than wealth. That’s the “clever” way to live!

Prayer:

Father, it is easy for us to get consumed with the things of this world. That leads us to adopt the priorities of the world. It’s surprising for us to hear Jesus tells us to be clever in how we use our worldly wealth, until we realize what he’s really saying. Help us to see today how you want us to use the gifts you’ve entrusted to us. Open our eyes to the Lazarus who is sitting outside our doors. We cannot serve both you and wealth – so help us to serve you.  Amen.

 

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