Sermon: Zealous for True Riches (Luke 16:1-13)

Luke 16.1-13 click for audio

Zealous for True Riches

Luke 16:1-13

Introduction

Jesus now turns and addresses His disciples.  He presents what many believe is a very difficult parable to understand and there are a couple of parts that tend toward difficulty.  However, this is God’s Word and we must seek diligently to understand it.  There are two main characters in the story: First is a manager who because of his dishonesty is about to be let go. Second is the master who has heard of the manager’s dishonesty and is about to remove him from his position.

Please Hear God’s Word…

Lk 16:1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.

Lk 16:2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’

Lk 16:3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.

Lk 16:4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’

Lk 16:5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

Lk 16:6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’

Lk 16:7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

Lk 16:8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

Lk 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Lk 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Lk 16:11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?

Lk 16:12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

Lk 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Father, May we be as diligent in seeking eternal things as this man was in seeking temporal things.

1. Children of this World Seek Temporal Dwellings (16:1-7)

A. What Shall I Do?

Lk 16:1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.

Lk 16:2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’

Lk 16:3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.

This manager was about to loose his job because he was cheating his master.  The only concern he had was for his well being here and now.  So he thinks to himself, what shall I do?  He had been in the social elite class for some time even as an indentured servant.  But he wasn’t naturally from the social elite group.  Once the master removed him from his manager’s roll, he would loose all social status and be returned to the working class where he felt he could not survive.

So, for him, the loss of position as manager entails a forfeiture of social status, with the consequence that, initially, the only options he can entertain are manual labor and begging.–Green[1]

Also, the loss of this position means he looses his house.  He has no place to live.

This manager is dishonest and shrewd; he knows the ways of the word.  He knows how things work.  He knows that because he has been the one managing debtors that he will have no friends when his manager’s position is taken away.  This was the point in having a manager in the first place, he was the bad guy and not the master.  He was the one the people dreaded to see.  He was the one they tried to avoid if possible.  When his position was gone so all his power and he had no friends to call on.

B. I Have Decided What to Do (16:4-7)

Lk 16:4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’

Lk 16:5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

Lk 16:6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’

Lk 16:7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

As he ponders his situation he comes up with a very shrewd idea.  Since no one likes him because he’s the debt collector, he decides that the best way to make friends is to reduce their debts.

In Hebrew tradition, it was wrong to charge someone interest on a loan.   In fact, if you were found to be charging interest, you could go to jail or at least be publically humiliated.  Rich businessmen did not desire to go to jail or be publically humiliated so they would employ servants to be the stewards or managers of their finances so that if they were caught charging interest it was the manager who was arrested not the master.

So, to gain outside friends the manager reduces the debt.  Probably what he is doing is writing off the interest.  This is a very clever move on the part of the manager.  It gains him friends on the outside that he will need and the master cannot say much because interest was illegal in the first place.  He doesn’t need the master anymore but does need friends.

Picture yourself owing the IRS a year’s wages and the agent sets up an appointment and declares your debt is cancelled.  He would be your friend.  He is given the authority do cancel or reduce your taxes and he becomes a friend.

Like the IRS agent, the manager’s decisions were binding until his position is taken away.  So the manager has done a favor to these debtors, one he will remind them of down the road, as he needs a favor from them.

This was the whole purpose of this man’s shrewdness…

Lk 16:4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’

This man was very clever with the people of this world.  He knew how things worked.  He no doubt would have made a good politician today.  He was wise in the ways of the world and manipulated the circumstances to his advantage.

The conduct of the unjust steward, when he received notice to quit his place, was undeniably dexterous and politic.  Dishonest as he was in striking off from the bills of debtors anything that was due to his master, he certainly by so doing made for himself friends.  Wicked as he was, he had an eye for the future.  Disgraceful as his measures were, he provided well for himself.  He did not sit still in idleness, and see himself reduced to poverty without a struggle: he schemed, and planned, and contrived, and boldly carried his plans into execution; and the result was that when he lost one home he secured another.

—J C Ryle[2]

His concern had to do with providing a house or dwelling for himself, because sinners seek temporal dwellings.  All their efforts are exhausted in the pursuit of worldly wealth and ease.  That’s why Lottery Tickets are so popular.  A person who thinks earthly riches will make them happy has a chance…one in 500 million…to be happy and wealthy.

Where do you spend most of your energy and thoughts?  Is it in acquiring worldly wealth and security?

Jesus told about 40 parables and about a third of them deal with wealth or money.  It’s very important that we get a handle on how to handle money for God’s glory.

2. Children of Light Seek Eternal Dwellings (16:8-9)

Lk 16:8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

Lk 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

What may seem somewhat out of place is the master’s commendation of the steward’s shrewdness.  First, he doesn’t commend him for his dishonesty but for the fact that he can appreciate his cleverness in dealing with the debtors, working things to his advantage.  In a way, Jesus also commends the shrewdness of the dishonest manager, but not his dishonesty.  In fact, this manager is used as an illustration for his disciples at how diligent they should be in seeking an eternal dwelling.

Jesus through observation has seen “sons of this world” chasing harder after worldly goods that believers chase after treasure in heaven.  If his disciples understood the ways of heaven as well as this steward understood the ways of the world, they would be much more diligent in laying up treasure in heaven and seek an eternal home there.

This steward’s ambition was to make money work to gain him friends.  This is clearly the term mammon…mamona, wealth gained dishonestly or money used dishonestly.

Jesus’ point to His disciples is simply this: Followers of Christ can use worldly wealth for eternal things.  If used correctly worldly riches can equal treasure in heaven.  If one uses the money God has entrusted to you for godly things, earthly wealth can become eternal wealth.  However, the key is earthly wealth only becomes eternal wealth if it is given away.  We give abundantly as God’s people because we truly see that it’s more blessed to give than to receive.  We don’t give to make friends and to secure our future on earth but as we give we are laying up treasure in heaven.  Our giving is not to make someone indebted to us but because God would have us to do it.

Lk 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

Lk 6:33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

Lk 6:34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.

Lk 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

3. Two Uses of Wealth (16:10-13)

Lk 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Lk 16:11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?

Lk 16:12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

Lk 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

As disciples we too are in the middle of currency/money to buy and sell.  Money is neutral.  It can be used for righteous things or unrighteous things.  It can be spent to gain earthly goods or eternal goods.

Jesus’ point here to His disciples is that if you are faithful with a little—earthly wealth then you will be faithful with true riches in the world to come.  However, if you can’t handle unrighteous money for God’s glory why would you ever be entrusted with true riches…eternal things?

Who is your master?

Do you serve money or do you serve God?  Is unrighteous wealth the end of all things to you? Or is God’s glory the end of all things to you?  Look at your checkbook to see if you pattern of spending brings you earthly comfort and happiness or eternal happiness.  It’s a very simple thing to determine. All you have to do is look.

Jesus has made a contrast here in this text between unrighteous wealth/true riches.  He shows that both can spring from the same dollar bill.  I can use money to serve me or to glorify God.

In our story this steward was not even faithful with someone else’s money.  No doubt he would not have been faithful with his own either.

Lk 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Lk 12:33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

Lk 12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 

If God has given you the kingdom, then the kingdom of this world really should be unimportant.  We should not be unfaithful when handling the riches of this world.  However, if God has not given you the kingdom, then the wealth of this world should be hoarded and used to one’s advantage.

Are you a follower of Christ? How close do you follow? One way to tell is to look at how you use unrighteous wealth…mammon. Do you serve it or does it serve Christ?

The connection between this week and last is that the Prodigal Son believed the wealth of this world was all he needed to be happy.  He squandered it on reckless living.  When it was all gone, his life was at an end.

What about you? Are you laying up treasure in heaven?  Are you being shrewd for eternity?  Do you think about what you can do with your money that will bring the most glory to God?  Do you plan and scheme for eternity?

To borrow from Ryle again…

He did not sit still in idleness, and see himself reduced to poverty without a struggle: he schemed, and planned, and contrived, and boldly carried his plans into execution; and the result was that when he lost one home he secured another.

Can we say this about the way we use money?  If I have one dollar, I should be thinking how it could best be used to serve Christ. Plan and scheme for eternity. To God be the glory!


[1] Gospel of Luke by Joel B. Green

[2] Expository Thoughts on the Gospels “Luke” pg. 197

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