USE WORLDLY WEALTH TO GAIN FRIENDS
Luke 16:1-13, Key Verse: 16:9
“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
From last Sunday’s message, we learned the heart of God for all sinners; the younger son represents a sinner who left his Father’s house and wasted his inheritance in sinful living but came back to Him through true repentance in humility. The older son represents a sinner who is in the Father’s house but still lost, not having a relationship with his Father as a son but as a slave, not accepting the compassionate heart of the Father but legalistic like the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. May God bless each one of us to have a relationship with our Father and deeply accept the compassionate heart of the Father as we remember His grace upon us when we were lost.
Today’s message is for the disciples and for the Pharisees. The Pharisees are supposedly spiritual leaders of the time but they loved money more than God, and the disciples will be spiritual managers in the future. Jesus is teaching how they should use worldly wealth to gain friends for eternal life while on earth. There are two parts.
Be a Shrewd Manager (1-9)
Jesus started his teaching with a parable. Look at verses 1-2. “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’” There was a rich man who hired a manager, but the manager was not good but wasting his possessions away. When the owner found out, he called him and basically fired him, telling him to give an account, his balance book, before he left. Now the manager was in big trouble due to his mismanagement. Have you been fired? I was fired when I was teaching in a middle school because one parent of a student in my class complained during the board meeting that I did not manage my class well, that I gave students in an honors math class too much homework and low grades, and she was one of the board members. Well, I had no chance to defend myself and got a pink slip. I felt so bad, doubting my teaching ability and style though more than half of the class received 12 grade level on the IL standardized test. I began to search for another job as a math teacher but God opened a door for me to get into PhD program by the grace of God.
What did the manager do? Look at verses 3-7. “And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’”
He made his own retirement plan, using his power as a manager before he had to leave his job. He realized that he was too weak to get a construction job and there was no place that would hire a fired manager. But he got a brilliant idea, bribing people using his master’s money. How? He decided to make a new balance book from the real one. He called the debtors and made deals with them under the table, cancelling some debts from them; nine hundred to four hundred gallons of oil. In today’s currency, he wasted about $12,000. 30 tons of wheat to 24 tons. He did that in order to prepare his future after losing the job. People who received such a sweet deal would welcome him to their homes after he lost his job as a manager. Wow! What a selfish and dishonest manager he was! He was wasting more property of his master! The master should have fired him a long time ago! What would you do with the such a manager? I would put him in prison.
Yet the master said something shocking! Look at verse 8, “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” Who is the master? Isn’t he our God who is the master of all our lives and righteous judge? Why did our master commend the dishonest manager who wasted his property? It was not because of his dishonesty but because of his shrewdness. We should not make use of this parable to be dishonest at our work but using our worldly means to prepare for the future by gaining friends. Jesus taught one thing that the children of light should learn from the children of the world. How do the worldly people use their unrighteous means to make friends for their future? They diligently make money through saving, investing and buying stocks for the future, and make linked-in connections so that they get a better job. They build a good relationship with people of positions, using all kinds of means, even bribing them, in order to get a higher position and/or bigger money.
Children of light, Christians, may make money, and there is nothing wrong with becoming wealthy. Jesus is teaching how we should use our worldly wealth. Look at verse 9, “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” Jesus is teaching us to use our earthly means to make friends. The means can be not only worldly wealth but also our time, knowledge, and anything given to us on earth. It is not just for the sake of having many friends but winning their hearts over to God. We may use our wisdom and knowledge to unburden their debts through an act of grace, sharing the gospel of forgiveness. In the Bible, Jesus is the best example, winning people over to God using all his means; his knowledge and wisdom of the Bible, his power to heal people, making food for thousands of people, and finally sacrificing his life even for his enemies to repent and come back to God. May God help us to use all our earthly means to win the hearts of people to Christ!
Look at verse 9b again. Here “when it fails” may mean that when we fail our poor management of our life and die. When we die, we have no more need of worldly wealth in order to sustain our life but eternal life is waiting for us. Though we are not saved by our works but by faith in Christ alone, how wonderful it will be that we are welcomed by innumerable people whom we used earthly means to win their hearts over to Jesus as we enter into our eternal dwellings! Your small serving in music or in food may open someone’s heart to Christ. Your small offering can be used to share the gospel through a charitable organization to bring people to Christ. Your prayer can be used to protect people from the devil and even attack the evil spirits to save lives. Your time to preach the gospel and raise disciples are counted well for your eternal dwellings. Even if no one may know your sacrifice, God knows and even a cup of cold water will be counted. At that time, we will sing the wonderous love of Jesus with all of them, walking the streets of gold and praising God and our Lord Jesus Christ forever! Amen!
Be Faithful Manager (10-13)
Jesus used the parable of unfaithful manager in order to emphasize how sons of God should use their earthly means to gain friends for eternal dwellings. In this part, Jesus teaches how to be a faithful manager. In these verses, Jesus is teaching four fundamental principles. 1) Be faithful in a very little. Verse 10, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” If a person is faithful with a small amount, we can entrust him or her with more things. Who is going to trust on a person who is dishonest with a little? We know that the person will be more dishonest with much. Who is going to entrust a person with a lot of things when the person is unfaithful to a small thing, beginning from keeping an appointment or small promise?
2) Faithful in the worldly wealth. Verse 11, “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” Future spiritual leaders should be faithful managing their worldly wealth. When he or she does not know how to manage his own wealth, which is tangible, how can God entrust the person with the true riches, intangible spiritual and eternal riches?
3) Faithful to another’s property. Verse 12, “And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?” This is the hardest of all. How can we faithful to another’s property? In order to be faithful to another’s property, we must be faithful before unseen God even if the owner of the property is not present. Here is the strong point; if you are not faithful to another’s, God will not give you your own property. Why? It seems too harsh and someone said that God should give each one a small property first, whether he is faithful to it or not. But Jesus is not talking about different cases but the principle of living before God. When you take care of another’s property, especially when it is spiritual, if you are not faithful before God, you will not be faithful with your own either because God who gave it to you is unseen. 1 Co 4:2 confirms, saying, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”
Here is a faithful servant in Genesis. Joseph was faithful to his ungodly and unrighteous master, Potiphar. Even though his master’s wife tried to coax him into bed, he refused. Joseph said, “My master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care…. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him and his master put him in a dungeon. In the dungeon, however, Joseph was faithful to the warden who made him in charge of all the prisoners. While taking care of the prisoners, he did his best, even checking on their mood. Among them, God used the cup-bearer to bring Joseph to interpret the dream of the king Pharaoh, who asked him to interpret his dream, but he was faithful to God, saying, “I cannot do it but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” In the end, Pharaoh made Joseph the manager of the entire country, prime minister of Egypt. Yet we know it was not the king but God who saw his faithfulness and made him to be the prime minister of Egypt in order to save many lives, including the 12 Patriarchs.
4) Serve God only. Look at verse 13, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Whether we like it or not we can have only one master. When two masters, God and money, tell us to do two opposite things, we have to choose only one of them, which shows we hate the one and love the other. We can either serve God or money. How can we serve God first more than money? Who do you listen to first? When we live according to our human calculation, we are listening to money. But when we live according to the word of God, dealing with money or job or future security, we are loving and serving God.
One missionary family went a mission field without much preparation especially with money. At that time, they had to make a choice which way to turn, either money or mission. At that time, God helped them to hold on to Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When they decided to seek God’s kingdom by staying in their mission field, they had a hard time financially at first, but God opened one door after another, providing all their needs. Thus, they said that God taught them how to live by faith according to the living and active word of God. May God bless each one of us to be proven faithful before God, especially living according to the promise of God.
Through today’s passage, Jesus taught us how we should use earthly means to gain friends, winning their hearts over to God for eternal dwellings. Moreover, Jesus taught us 4 principles of how to be a faithful manager; 1) be faithful to small things, 2) be faithful to worldly wealth, 3) be faithful to another’s property, and 4) serve God only through living according to the word of God. As we examine ourselves and grow to be a faithful servant of God, may God bless each one of us to learn of Jesus’ faithfulness, looking forward to seeing all those friends we made on earth in Christ. Amen!