WHERE ARE YOU INVESTING GOD'S MONEY?
SERIES: JESUS, SAVIOR OF THE LOST
By Ron Ritchie
We have lived in Half Moon Bay for the past 18 years, and Fall is probably
my favorite season in that farming area. The scents of autumn are in the
air, the frost has literally fallen on the pumpkin fields, and the local
farmers try to outdo each other to grow the biggest pumpkin in the country
each year. Many of you have enjoyed going to our annual Pumpkin Festival.
Your children have picked pumpkins from the fields and perhaps visited our
local "haunted house." It's a lot of fun right up through Halloween.
The day after Halloween, however, the whole scene changes. You would think
someone threw a switch. The nurseries begin selling Christmas wreaths and
flowers, and the farms open up so that people can cut their own Christmas
trees. Soon the mail order catalogs begin to arrive. The stores change their
windows from fall to Christmas colors, and the race is on to get as much
of our money as they can before December 25th. The pressure is on to buy
things we or our family and friends don't need, with money we don't have,
in order to keep up appearances. What should we do? Surely the bottom line
for each of us is to go to the Lord first and ask him how we should invest
his money during this Christmas season. This will be the subject of our
text this morning as we come once more to our studies in the gospel of Luke.
So let's turn to Luke 16:1-18 and ask ourselves the question: "Where
are we investing God's money?"
I. Invest in eternal ventures, 16:1-13
Now He was also saying to the disciples, "There was a certain
rich man who had a steward, and this steward was reported to him as squandering
his possessions. "And he called him and said to him, 'What is this
I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer
be my steward.' "And the steward said to himself, 'What shall I do,
since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong
enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. 'I know what I shall do, so that when
I am removed from the stewardship, they will receive me into their homes.'
"And he summoned each one of his master's debtors, and he began saying
to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' "And he said, 'A hundred
measures of oil.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly
and write fifty.' "Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?'
And he said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill,
and write eighty.' "And his master praised the unrighteous steward
because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd
in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. "And I say to
you, make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness;
that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. "He
who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he
who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. "If
therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who
will entrust the true riches to you? "And if you have not been faithful
in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your
own? "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the
one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon."
Our Lord is still in the region of Perea, and he is involved in teaching
his disciples spiritual insights about the Kingdom of God. Surrounded by
a group of grumbling Pharisees, who are upset that he eats with sinners,
he has just finished encouraging his followers that in the same way that
a shepherd rejoices over finding a lost sheep, a woman rejoices over finding
a lost coin, and a father rejoices over finding a lost son, so they too
should rejoice over one sinner who repents on earth. "I tell you there
is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,"
said Jesus (15:7; 10). He was teaching that his Father was willing to forgive
a tax-collector or a Pharisee who truly repented of his sin and his wasted
life and would welcome them back into fellowship with a heart of love (Luke
On the other hand, as we will see in this second parable in Luke 16, wasted
lives do have some eternal consequences, for just as the prodigal son squandered
his inheritance, so a steward who squanders his master's riches will suffer
loss. Jesus was reminding his disciples, as well as the sinners and the
Pharisees, that they all were stewards of God. This meant that their lives,
their time and resources were all his, and they needed to be wise in how
they invested his possessions, for one day they, as well as all us, will
have to give an accounting.
Thus, Jesus begins this parable with the words: "There was certain
rich man who had a steward" (V.1-2). In this context, the word "steward"
is referring to a manager of a household or estate who was hired to arrange
a house and property for his master. He was given responsibility to oversee
the activities of the master's home and his servants, and the financial
resources to accomplish those tasks, to the honor and glory of his master.
But the steward in this story was an unrighteous man who squandered his
master's possessions. Before long, the Master received a report that his
steward was wasting his possessions, so he called the man to give an accounting
of his stewardship.
Now the "shrewd" steward knew he would immediately be dismissed
from his position. So he took stock of himself and realized that he was
too old to dig and too proud to beg, thus, looking to the future, he made
his plans. He summoned each of his master's debtors (who who unaware that
he was being fired) and sought to make friends with them by reducing their
debts. In doing so he put them in debt to himself so that when he was fired,
they would welcome him into their homes.
Jesus said that the master praised the unrighteous steward because he had
acted shrewdly-"for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation
to their own kind than the sons of light," said our Lord. Notice that
it is the unrighteous master who is amazed at the unrighteous steward's
action in light of his uncertain future. He called him "shrewd"-he
had keenness of mind in practical things, in other words. Now Jesus is not
calling on us to copy this unfaithful steward's unrighteous methods to cover
our uncertain future. What he is saying is that the steward was part of
the group that he calls "the sons of this age," for they are more
shrewd in relation to their own kind; whereas the sons of light (the children
of God) are not as shrewd in thinking about their present circumstances
in relationship to the future-eternity itself. This unrighteous but shrewd
steward, a "son of this age," had 20/20 vision when it came to
his immediate circumstances as well as his immediate future, but, unfortunately,
the tragedy was that he was totally blind when it came to thinking about
Robert Maxwell, the publishing magnate, was head of the renowned Maxwell
publishing empire, headquartered in England. We have seen him featured on
the TV show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, with his unseemly
wealth-houses, planes and boats, and his many business ventures. He appeared
to be a very shrewd businessman-a genius, if we are to believe the published
accounts. In early November, Maxwell ordered his beautiful private luxury
cruiser with a full crew to take him out alone along the coast of the Canary
Islands. Next morning, he was discovered to have mysteriously fallen overboard.
The following day this formerly shrewd businessman's nude body was found
floating in the ocean. Now the reality of his life is coming out in the
press. He had been draining hundreds of millions of dollars away from his
companies and their pension programs Maxwell arrived in eternity in the
same state he was discovered in the ocean-nude. He had brought nothing into
the world, and he certainly took nothing out of the world with him. But
he had to give an accounting to the Judge of all the world about how he
invested his life on earth.
In verse 9, Jesus begins to evaluate the story of the unrighteous steward.
He turns to his followers and encourages them, as well as us, to do three
things with our lives, our time and our resources. First, he says, "make
friends." On a spiritual level, make friends by taking your "mammon
of unrighteousness," the same money that the unrighteous use for selfish
gain, and use it for righteous causes. We came into this world with nothing
and we are going to leave this world with nothing, for we are simply stewards
of our Lord and his resources. But while we are living in this household
of God on earth, we have in our control the "mammon of unrighteousness."
In his book, According to Luke, David Gooding wrote: "...we are to
use it, not indeed in order to gain salvation, for nothing can buy that;
it is a gift, but in order to make friends. Not fickle friends of the sort
that the prodigal son is said to have made; but friends who will welcome
us in the eternal world and remain our friends eternally." These friends
will meet us as we enter eternity because they became believers through
our spiritual, emotional or financial investment in their lives on earth.
Secondly, says Jesus, "he who is faithful in a very little thing is
faithful also in much." Begin where you are and share what the Lord
has given you at this time with the people he places around you. He is interested
in your heart, not in how much money or time you give. In any given day
you will have opportunities to be faithful in a little thing; perhaps sometime
during the day you may be called upon to be faithful in a much larger opportunity.
So, keep alert. At times you will discover you are being asked by God to
become involved materially in his kingdom, and at other times he will ask
you to invest in his kingdom on a spiritual level.
Thirdly, said Jesus, "he who is unrighteous (dishonest) in a very little
thing is unrighteous also in much." The other side of the coin is just
as clear: If in small things you are dishonest with God's resources that
were entrusted to you, you will also be dishonest with larger opportunities.
Again, out of the the heart comes the essence of a man or woman.
The Lord has opened up all kinds of opportunities for us to invest our resources
and money. We can invest to send Bibles to Russia, or to send our students
to Indonesia and Mexico. We can invest our money to support missionaries,
Discovery Publishing, our building and staff, our need fund, the East Palo
Alto ministry, Green Pastures, and the prison ministries. We can choose
by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to lay up for ourselves "treasures
in heaven," which in this immediate case will be all the "friends"
we made on earth who will one day greet us in heaven and thank us for investing
in their lives on earth.
Jesus now concludes his story with three warnings. First, he says, "If
therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who
will trust the true riches to you?" Now he reveals the spiritual consequences
for each one of us who many be tempted to ignore his advice. The Holy Spirit
is the "who" in this passage. He will not entrust the true riches
to you. And what are these? Well, we already know that part of these true
riches are his character: The fruit of the Spirit-"love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control"
(Gal 5: 22-23). Paul would later remind the Romans: "...for the kingdom
of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace and joy
in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). And to the Ephesians he wrote that
"in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our
trespasses, according to the riches of this grace, which He lavished upon
us" (1:7). And: "I pray that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened,
so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches
of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and what is the surpassing
greatness of His power toward us who believe" (1:18-19.) Look at all
we could be missing at this moment because of our unfaithfulness to our
stewardship! Let us therefore invest wisely, with eternity in mind.
Here is Jesus' second warning: "If you have not been faithful in the
use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?"
If you and I who are called to be stewards in God's household have not been
faithful with his responsibilities and material, how in the world will he
or anyone else give you or me something to call our own so that we can invest
it? A good example of this will be seen in Luke 19, when the Lord tells
his disciples the story of the rich nobelman who called his servants to
himself and told them he was going away on a journey to receive a kingdom.
While he was away, he gave each of them a certain amount of money to invest,
hoping for a good profit on his return. One took the ten talents and made
ten more; one took the five talents and made five more. But the third servant
said: "Master, I kept your money in a handkerchief for I was afraid
of you..." Then the master said: "By your own words I will judge
you, you worthless slave."
And now the third warning: "No servant can serve two masters; for either
he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to one and
despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Our Lord has laid
down an eternal spiritual principle that cannot be violated. If Jesus is
our Master, then we are free to serve him and love him and use his money
for his glory and our joy. But we cannot turn this principle around and
serve money and think that we are loving God. The royal commandment is:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor
as yourself" (Luke 10: 27.) If you do this, you will be found using
his resources faithfully. Paul wrote to Timothy in the city of Ephesus:
"Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited
or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches but on God, who richly
supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich
in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves
the treasures of a good foundation for the future, that they may take hold
of that which is life indeed" (1 Tim 6:17-19.)
Last week, a family came to me to say they were available to invest some
money in a needy family for Christmas. Another family called me and said
they wanted to give some items to refurbish the homes of needy people. I
have been given checks and cash and asked to invest them in the lives of
those who have special needs at this season. And the people who gave the
money want to do this in a quiet way; they don't want any recognition. They
are free to do that because they are serving one Master. They know they
are his stewards and they desire to be faithful in that calling.
Where are you investing God's money? Jesus says we should invest in eternal
II. Not temporal ventures
Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening
to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him. And He said to them,
"You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God
knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable
in the sight of God. The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John;
since then the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one is
forcing his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away
than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail. Every one who divorces
his wife and marries another commits adultery; and he who marries one who
is divorced from a husband commits adultery.
The Pharisees were known as lovers of money rather than God. Jesus had been
teaching these spiritual truths to the disciples, but apparently the Pharisees
(who had earlier been grumbling among themselves because he was eating with
sinners) had overheard his teaching on the unrighteous but shrewd steward,
so they began to sneer at him. The Jews believed that money was evidence
of God's blessing on them as a people, especially because they were faithfully
keeping the law and the traditions. We must remember that there is nothing
wrong with money. The question is, whose money is it anyway? And how do
we use it-for ourselves or for our Master?
God sees the heart of every man. Jesus said to them: "You are those
who justify yourselves in the sight of man, but God knows your hearts: for
that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God."
He took on the Pharisees, saying they spent time in the presence of the
common man, justifying their love for money, but God knew their hearts,
and they had been found wanting. They could fool the people of the community
about their view of money, how they spent it and how much they gave to the
treasury of the temple, but all the while they were justifying themselves.
God saw through to their hearts, however. Jesus was unmasking these hypocrites.
In Matthew's gospel, our Lord said to them: "outwardly you appear righteous
to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (23:28).
I read the following in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday:
"Former Lincoln Savings and Loan Association boss Charles Keating Jr.
and four others were indicted yesterday on 77 federal counts of fraud and
racketeering." The article goes on to say that the failure of this
man's savings and loan association cost the United States $2.6 billion.
If convicted on all counts in the criminal case, Keating and his co-defendants
each face a maximum penalty of almost 500 years in prison. I saw this man
on 60 Minutes once and he walked around like a peacock, bragging about his
enterprises, but now it seems everything was a scam. Let's hope he finds
a new Master before long, because money was his master and it failed him.
At this point the Lord confronts the grumbling and sneering Pharisees, saying
they were wrong to think they could enter into the Kingdom of God by working
around the heart of law, by adding to the law certain traditions or even
watering it down. He then reviewed the plan of God for salvation and warned
them that unless they changed their minds about who he was, they would never
enter that kingdom.
First, he spoke about the value of the kingdom: "The Law and the Prophets
were proclaimed until John; since then the gospel of the kingdom of God
is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it." ("Strive
to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and
will not be able" 13:24.) The law and the prophets were instituted
by God in his plan of salvation as preparation for his Son's first coming.
Once John the Baptist arrived, all of this was fulfilled. The kingdom of
God was now in their midst, a kingdom where God desired to rule in human
hearts-a kingdom within the heart of mankind. When God wants to change a
man or woman, he starts from the inside and works out. The people who were
forcing and pressing their way into the kingdom were the tax-gatherers and
sinners, for in our Lord's message there finally came a voice of hope to
their sinful condition and they recognized its value. On the other hand,
most of the Pharisees refused to believe Jesus was the Messiah, so they
sneered at him and thus automatically excluded themselves from the kingdom.
Then the Lord showed them the value of the law, saying that every word still
stands. When sinners enter into the kingdom by placing their faith in him
as their Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit creates a desire in their hearts
to keep the moral law of God. The Pharisees, however, were always trying
to water down God's moral law, especially in the area of marriage and divorce.
How are you and I as servants of the Lord Jesus investing our money, time,
and assets for the glory of God and his kingdom, and for our joy? Hopefully,
this passage will help us to see beyond mere temporal investments and encourage
us to become "spiritually shrewd" with the resources our Lord
has entrusted to us. We can be encouraged by the spiritual reality that
one day when we enter eternity, many of us will be met by friends in whom
we invested on earth. Then we will hear our Lord say, "Well done, thy
good and faithful servant." And all our friends in heaven will cry
Catalog No. 4262
Ron R. Ritchie
December 15, 1991
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