You've successfully subscribed to With Christ on the Mountain Top
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to With Christ on the Mountain Top
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Billing info update failed.

Dishonest Wealth & Eternal Homes: Long Term Investment (2)

. 6 min read

Luke 16.1-12

George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin

           
fund raising for an orphanage in Georgia

           
copper, silver, gold

           
never bring money to a Whitefield event again

Consecration Sunday?

           
A time to twist arms to get people to do what they don’t want to do?

                       
Pray now, decide this week, be ready to celebrate on Sunday

           
All about money?

                       
No, all about people, all about souls

Luke closes this parable with a proverb, a verse that
immediately follows today’s reading:

Luke 16:13  No slave can serve two masters; for
a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one
and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Luke uses this proverb to sum up the choices we must
make.  Wealth is not simply a material thing.  It is also a spiritual
thing.  For many of us, it is a god, an idol, competing for affection,
loyalty, and service with the God of the universe, our Lord Jesus Christ. 
The reality is that Jesus rules, that Jesus owns everything, that all we are
and have is his gift.  If we fully embrace this reality, then wealth has no
power over us.  And, its only value is how it connects us with God and
with those in need.

           
And that’s what we see in the story of the dishonest manager.  It is a
unique story, a bit problematic and frustrating, but pay attention to the
manager’s plan and to the final line of the parable itself:

Luke 16:4  I have decided what to do so that,
when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.

Luke 16:9 I tell you, make friends for yourselves by
means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into
the eternal homes.

The only value to wealth is how it connects us with God and
with those in need.

Now, let’s take a few moments to talk about the difficulties
in the story.  The biggest problem is that the master – and, by
implication, the story teller Jesus – commends the shrewd and dishonest manager
for his quick thinking.  Please note that this does not mean that the
master, or Jesus, commends dishonesty, incompetence, or negligence in
management.  In fact, the master seems never to have gotten a course in
how to hire and fire staff.  He is the one who gives the dishonest manager
a window of time to determine the terms of his own termination, rather than
marching him out there and then, taking his keys, removing his name from the
accounts and the company database.

Instead, the commendation of the dishonest manager is
focused on two insights that can powerfully transform our lives.  The
first is that the value of wealth lies in connecting us to God and to those in
need.  The second is that it is not ours.  It belongs to someone
else.

           
The manager had lost sight of the last fact.  He viewed his master’s money
as a way to enrich himself, as a way to expand his own ownership stake. 
In his greed, he forgot that none of it belonged to him.  But once he
realized that none of it belonged to him, he didn’t need to worry about losing
some of it, about reducing the debt owed to the master.  He wasn’t going
to feel the pinch, because it belongs to someone else.

What would you do if you had access to a fortune that wasn’t
yours?  If you could use it any way you wanted, what choices would you
make? 

I love the 2004 film Millions, a British comedy-drama
for the whole family.  The main character, 7-year-old Damian, has an
active religious imagination and prayer life, is grieving the death of his
mother, and withdraws regularly to a cardboard box fort in a remote field, near
the train tracks.  Someone throws a duffel bag full of money from a
passing train, and Damian, in his box, finds it.  He receives it as a gift
from God, buys birds at the pet store to set them free, takes homeless folks
out to dinner at Pizza Hut, stuffs money in the mail slot of some local
missionaries.  His brother Anthony, with whom he shared the money, hires
the elementary school thugs as his posse.  Things get interesting when
they hear that the money was one of many bags from a recent bank robbery, and
one of the thieves tracks them down.

           
I love the basic question: What would I do if I had access to a fortune that
wasn’t mine?  If everything I have isn’t mine anyway, if it is all God’s,
well – it’s not a fortune – but I could have some fun with it!  I like
Damian’s approach: care for God’s creation, care for the poor, introduce people
to Jesus “so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into eternal
homes”.  What we do here matters for eternity.


If you are a fund manager today, your company gets a
percentage of the fund each year in exchange for your management.  That’s
the way it was supposed to work with the dishonest manager.  Only, he
seems to have been taking more than his share.  Some folks suggest that
when he reduced what people owed his master, he was simply giving up his
commission, his fees, that were part of the transaction (Fitzmyer 1098),
investing for the long-term, not the short term.  He probably did that,
but it appears to me that he gave up his master’s wealth too.  After all,
according to the beginning of the story, he was “squandering his master’s
property”.

           
The Kiplinger Top 25 no-load mutual funds for 2013 are low-expense funds. 
The diversified stock funds returned 20% or more this year and charged 1% or
less.  We don’t know the expense ratios for a manager in the ancient
world.  What we do know is that the basic expense fee for our management
of the resources God invests with us is 90%.  God gets 10%, we get the
other 90.  If we look at our giving in these terms, as a management fee
for someone else’s fortune, we’re getting really good terms.

           
  I realize that many of us are not tithing, the traditional biblical
starting point for generosity.  We’re not talking about this to make you
feel guilty.  We’re doing it to set our generosity, and our entire
financial life, under the lordship of Jesus Christ, and to grow in our
discipleship, to take the next step together.

Back to the story before us.  The manager plays
fast and loose with the master’s money, because he has nothing left to
lose.  He is a desperate man hoping to get his next job offer through the
favors he gives out, and he’s hoping no one checks his references.  Only
now does he think about the future, only now does he look ahead with clarity on
the consequences of his dishonesty and failure.  We’ve all been
there.  Trying to get a major paper done at the last minute, reading those
Cliff Notes instead of the actual assignment, cutting corners in the work
place, trying to repair a breach of relationship because we were too impulsive,
struggling with a bill that we cannot pay – because we already spent the money
on something we don’t need.  If only we had been thinking long term, we
wouldn’t be in the fix we’re in. 
           
But though this man is looking to the future, it is still a limited time
horizon.  He’s only worried about the next job.  The urgency and
desperation overwhelm him and longer-range planning is simply out of the
question.  He is commended for his foresight.  And, Jesus’ commentary
is powerful: Live today so that you can be welcomed tomorrow into “eternal
homes”.  That’s true long-range planning.  That’s a reminder that the
value of wealth lies in connecting us with God and with those in need. 
And, it has this value, this power, because it is not ours.  It belongs to
someone else.

Our first four-letter word – Mine: Jesse and
the lollypop.