I put big question marks in my Bible as I read Luke 16: 8-13. I read two commentaries and my ESV Study Bible comments to get to the bottom of Jesus’ statements.
So, here goes. I have four major takeaways from this section:
1. Why did Jesus quote the master praising the dishonest manager? (Note: the dishonest manager unethically reduced debts owed to his master in order to get favors from the debtors – so he’d have a place to stay with these “friends” after he lost his job)
ESV says it well: “… the main point is that the manager had great foresight to anticipate his financial needs after his dismissal, thus using his financial expertise to make friends for himself.”
2. Jesus tells us (vs. 8-9) – the “sons of light” – that we need to be as shrewd with the money (“unrighteous wealth”) entrusted to us as the manager was. We need to invest with financial wisdom in spiritual things the way the manager took care of temporal things.
We need to make wise decisions with “our” wealth (it’s really His wealth!) in order that our new “friends” will “receive us into eternal dwellings.” Our wealth will “fail” to truly deliver anything of importance in this life, so we need to invest wisely in spiritual pursuits. This passage doesn’t mean that we will buy our way into heaven, but that our financial decisions will make us new friends who will welcome us when we get to heaven.
We must therefore invest our money in ETERNAL enterprises. From what I read, this most specifically means that we invest in Gospel ministry so that when we arrive in heaven, we are welcomed by those whom are THERE in part because of our investment in ministries that share the Gospel. Wow. Convicting!! But it can also mean that any monetary investment in the lives of others will return to us when we meet in heaven those we helped with our wise investments in ministries that meet others’ needs.
3. Verses 10-12 tell me that God won’t entrust us with more serious spiritual activities on earth (and in heaven – ? – according to the ESV Study Bible) until we prove by our wise and faithful financial investments that we are good stewards of what God’s given us financially.
4. “You cannot serve God and money” sums up vs. 13. If you love money, if you find your sense of worth in making money or what money provides (e.g. lifestyle, power, even love), then you will have put money (or what it provides) above God in your heart – as an idol. If you love money, you can’t truly love God and vice versa. Of course, we will continue to fall into the sin of idolatry due to our fleshly leanings, but we need to always battle the urge to raise money and its pursuits above our love of God. And when God has first place in our lives, money will be directed to the right purpose (see 2 and 3 above). One measure of our money idolatry is if we refuse to invest it in God’s kingdom… or invest too little.
By God’s grace – truly – I have always loved to invest the money God has entrusted to me in His kingdom work – some in my local church, some in Gospel missions, and some to care for those in need.
A number of years ago, I was tapped to lead the stewardship team at our church, to work on ways to increase giving. I was stunned and shocked to discover that on average Christians donate 2.5% of their income to their churches. This article says 2.43%! Wha?? What’s that about a TITHE?
On the other hand, the article says evangelicals give 4% to their churches – and if, like me, this “subset” of Christians also gives to other causes (e.g., missions, compassion ministries), then the total may well rise to near 10%.
I’m convicted as I write this that maybe I need to give even more than I do now. After all, what did Jesus give me?
Dear Lord: Thank You for the opportunity to better understand a passage that I normally glaze over when I read. Thank You again for the friend who urged me to blog my devos this year. And, Lord, if I need to invest more and more wisely in Your kingdom work, please let me know. Amen.