We grappled with The Parable of the Dishonest Steward (Luke 16 1-15) in my small group.
The Steward soon to be dismissed, too old to dig, and too proud to beg, leverages the last thing he has–his connections– to make friends knit to him by gratitude once his job is over.
He is commended for this intentionality and foresight, just as the man with five talents is commended for using them well.
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And then Jesus goes on to tell us what we should do with worldly wealth, and how to handle a financial surplus.
I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. (Luke 16:9)
Use a financial surplus “to gain friends for yourself!!”
Except when he was clearly using hyperbole (if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off), I believe Jesus meant the things he said quite literally. So when he told us to consider the ravens who do not gather into storehouses and barns, but who are looked after by their Heavenly Father, he meant that.
So, a good use of a surplus is to spend it on “friends,” both real life friends, and friends not seen whom we have helped with our money, who will welcome us into the eternal habitations. In Luke 14 12-14, Jesus speaks more on wealth and friends. If we use our wealth to invite our rich neighbours who will invite us back, we will have our reward. If, however, we use our wealth to be a blessing to those who cannot repay us, we will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
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Jesus goes on to say Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. If you handle worldly wealth well, God will entrust you with more wealth (but without the stress which grabbing wealth can bring). To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. Ecc 2:26. Or, “The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.” Proverbs 10:22.
Jesus continues–So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? How we handle worldly wealth determines whether we can or will be entrusted with “true riches:”–spiritual wisdom and insight and peace and joy.
Who would have thunk? How we handle money determines our spiritual life. If we can handle money as a steward, viewing ourselves as managing wealth entrusted to us, sharing with “friends” seen and unseen, we will not only be entrusted with more, but also with “true riches,” spiritual treasures.
If on the other hand, we allow ourselves to become obsessed with money, or allows ourselves to sin through greed, or dishonesty or ultra-selfishness in our pursuit of money, we will be cut off from acquiring spiritual treasure—wisdom, insight, joy, peace, happiness.
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“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money,” Jesus goes on.
We cannot have two objects of utter devotion. One of them will captivate our hearts.
“Money” is, of course, important to us—and it should be. A large proportion of our adult lives is spent earning money, investing money, looking for deals and sales and ways to spend it wisely, looking after the houses and gardens and cars and furniture and clothes and stuff our money has bought.
Jesus says: The North Star of our lives, by whose light and direction we make decisions, becomes either Christ or money (and the things it buys, or the things we do to make it, such as careers). We cannot whole-heartedly both pursue wealth and Christ.
Luke 16: 14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. Of course, they loved money. The social respect they craved (they loved praise from men more than praise from God. John 12:43) would have been elusive in the absence of money.
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