One day Susie’s mother sent her to the store to buy a loaf of bread. She gave Susie two dollars and told her she could keep the change. When Susie paid for the bread, the cashier accidentally gave her too much money back. Susie knew right away that it was too much money. What should she do? Should she tell the cashier that she had made a mistake, or should she just keep quiet? What would you do?
James was going through the cafeteria line at school and looked down to see a dollar bill on the floor. There was no way of knowing who had lost the money, and no one would ever know if he just picked it up and put it in his pocket. What should he do? What would you do?
Hector found a money bag containing $120 on top of a pop machine at his school. Wow! That is a lot of money. Just think of all of the things you could do with $120! What should Hector do? What would you do?
Every day we are faced with decisions which test our honesty. It may be a small amount of incorrect change, a dollar found on the floor, or a large amount of money such as Hector found at school. The amount of money is not important, it is a question of doing what is right.
In the passage we heard from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus told a parable about a rich man who accused his manager of wasting his money. He called the manager in and told to him give an account of the way he had been managing his money. Sure enough, the manager had been taking some of the money for himself and cheating his employer.
Since the manager knew he was going to be fired, he came up with a plan that would make a lot of friends. He called the people who owed his boss money and asked them how much they owed. When they told him how much they owed, he told them they only had to pay a much smaller amount. As you can imagine, the people were very pleased to only have to pay a fraction of what they owed. The manager now had plenty of friends to help him when he no longer had a job.
The steward hurt his master by stealing from him, and his theft was discovered. The steward was willing to take revenge on his master and secure his future at the master’s expense. From this we can learn three things:
- One sin leads to another, and that one act of dishonesty will be followed by many more if there is an opportunity.
- Men who commit one sin can’t get along consistently without committing many more.
- Sinners are selfish. They care more about themselves than they do either about God or truth. If they are looking for salvation, it is only for their own selfish ends, and because they want a comfortable home in the future world rather than because they have any regard for God or his cause.
Jesus told this story to show that “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 we make sure that we are honest in the small things, then we can be sure that we will be honest in the big things. If people know that they can trust us in small things, they will know that they can trust us in the big things too.
Jesus also used this parable to teach the disciples about the danger of the love of money. He wanted to show them that the love of money would lead to guilt, how it would drive people to act dishonestly and the necessity of using money properly. He also taught them that if they wanted to serve God they had to give up attachment to money. He also emphasized they had to serve God and use the resources they had wisely.
This passage reinforces a few themes that run across the Gospels:
- Wealth is both a blessing and a responsibility. We are blessed to be a blessing, and we are held accountable less for what resources we have accumulated than how we use them.
- Wealth, status, power and privilege are fleeting. One day the steward was on top of the world; the next he was faced with disaster.
- In times of crisis, God often appears where we least expect Him to be. He comes “from below” to give help.
- We are placed on this earth to love and care for each other, not to separate ourselves from each other with wealth, status or privilege. God gave us people to love and things to use, but we often love things and use people.
All of the characters in this parable are corrupt. Most unbelievers are wiser in the ways of the world than some believers. The steward used his master’s money to buy friends on earth. By reducing their debts to his master, the debtors would be indebted to the steward. They would be obliged to take him into their homes when the steward was put out of his master’s home. A faithful steward does not allow pride, greed or the desire to be popular to influence his motives. He will not be lured or tempted into disobedience. Believers are to use God’s money to buy friends for eternity by investing in God’s kingdom to bring sinners to Christ.
So why is the dishonest manager shrewd? Even though he is looking out for his own interests, he models behaviour the disciples can emulate-behaviour that we can also emulate. He changed a bad situation into one that benefits him and others. By reducing other people’s debts, he created a new set of relationships based not on the relationship between lenders and debtors but on something more like the equal relationships between friends. Old hierarchies were overturned and new friendships were established. Outsiders and people lower down on hierarchies have become the very ones we depend upon to welcome us in their homes in this life and in our eternal home.
How people handle money is a good indicator of the condition of their hearts and in part determines what kind of assets and responsibilities the Lord entrusts to them, both in this age and the age to come. Individuals who use money primarily to enrich themselves prove untrustworthy of the true riches of God’s kingdom and will not receive them. On the other hand, the wise and generous use of money yields much greater things in the future.
Jesus understands the power of wealth and our susceptibility to become slaves to it. What happens when we shift from serving the One God, our Creator, and instead serve wealth? We have bought the message that wealth, belongings, prestige and beauty deserve our worship. We have bought the message that it is our wealth, power and rhetoric that make our community strong. Instead of putting our faith in a God of promise and covenant, we put our faith in wealth. The more we buy into that message, the more God’s wisdom is foolish to us.
We can put economic security ahead of our relationship with God, the well-being of our neighbours, and the survival of the planet. Money can’t be the centre of our lives. It can’t get in the way of our obligation to God, our care for ourselves and our friends and family and our care for the earth. The use of our wealth must be subservient to our commitment to God.
We have seen that shrewd actions are commended and ultimately rewarded. Jesus is nudging us toward the wisdom of living in this world, even though it is evil and corrupt. Being shrewd is how we survive in this world. We are only here for a short period of time, and God has given us gifts to use and opportunities to take advantage of. Will we use these gifts and opportunities wisely and shrewdly? Being shrewd in this life is not the point but being shrewd means that we will be able to work toward the higher goal of eternal life in heaven.
People serve money when their sole aim is to live as comfortably as possible, with little concern for the poor or disadvantaged. The world operates this way, and if God’s people choose to operate in the same way, they cannot serve Him. The two ways of living are diametrically opposed to one another.
Money can’t buy security. Its value fluctuates. For example, in Germany after World War I people traded wheelbarrows full of money for a loaf of bread. Money is meant to be a source of blessing. It’s to be used to bless our neighbours and the world. The question is this: Do we own our money or does our money own us?
If we want to be used by God, we have to be willing to do the little things first. We can never be too small for God to use, but we can be too big for God to use, especially if we think that doing small things is beneath us. If we are faithful in the small things, God will give us greater opportunities to serve in greater, more influential ways. If we are faithful where God puts us, He will do great things in and through us. In other words, we are to “bloom where we are planted.” The seed will not grow overnight, but it will grow in time.
Everything we have belongs to God. We are only keepers and custodians of what He has so generously given us. When we give, share and give back, God will bless our lives with more. We don’t have the same talents, spiritual gifts or financial means, but we do have the same number of hours in a day. How will we invest the most precious resources God has given us? Will we spend our lives on things that matter both for this world and the next, or will we waste them on things that have little or no real value or meaning? Desiring “stuff”, wealth and the admiration that comes from being seen to have lots of really nice stuff can make people do crazy things. It makes them cheat and lie. The choice we make will affect our eternal destiny. One day God will judge everything that we have done to see what value it holds and if we have used the resources God has given us to do His work in the world.
Whether we have a lot or a little, we have to be aware of what tempts us to be selfish, have more stuff or limit our vision to just our own blood and friends. The best use of our resources is to use them to benefit us and others. We are placed on this earth to love and care for each other, not to separate ourselves from each other with wealth, status or privilege.
The church will also be called someday to give an account of how it has used its resources. Have we understood that we are blessed to be a blessing? As we pour money into buildings for our own comfort, do we ask ourselves what we should be doing for churches in undeveloped countries? Have we asked ourselves what we should be doing for the less fortunate in our communities?
Here are five principles in which God will test us and then bless us:
- God gives to generous people.
- Obeying God’s vision will bring God’s provision. If we do what God tells us to do, God will give us the resources we need at the right time.
- When we do all that God tells us to do, He does what we can’t do. He often asks us to do the impossible to stretch our faith. When we give what little we have, God multiplies it and makes up for it.
- When we have a need, we should sow a seed of faith.
- There’s always a delay between sowing and reaping.
Life on earth is preparation for eternity. We won’t take our careers with us to heaven, but we are going to take our character. While we are here on earth God is developing our characters and testing our faithfulness. Will we be faithful to do the right thing, even when we don’t feel like doing the right thing? God is watching us so that He can determine what kinds of jobs He is going to give us in eternity.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.1418)
- “The Dishonest Manager.” Retrieved from www.Sermons4Kids.com
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- Larson, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 239-242)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Kim Potter, “Morning and evening, God is Faithful.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Paul Chappell, “Proper Priorities.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Pastor Rick Warren, “God Uses Your Work to Develop Your Character.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “A Faithful Steward.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Bayless Conley, “Faithful to Another.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Bobby Schuller, “Give, Share and Give Back…” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 25th Sunday, -C-.” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- Arthur Schoonveld, “When Time Runs Out.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Pastor Greg Laurie, “Faithful in Small Things.” Retrieved from www.harvest.org
- Berni Dymet, “Made to Win.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pastor Rick Warren, “Faithful People are Generous.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- The Rev. Bruce Epperly, “The Adventurous Lectionary-the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost-September 22, 2019.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2019/09/the-adventurous-lectionary.com
- David Lose, “Pentecost 18C: Wealth and Relationships.” Retrieved from www.davidlose.net/2016/09/pentecost-18-c-wealth-and-relationships/
- Lois Malcolm, “Commentary on Luke 16:1-13.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacehr.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1783
- The Rev. Dr. Christopher Girata, “Shrewd Faith.” Retrieved from www.day1.org/8425-christopher_girata_Shrewd_faith.print