How Much Can God Trust You? Part 1

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

12-13-04


How Much Can God Trust You?
Luke 16:1-16:18


INTRODUCTION

The recent accounting scandals involving big business have shaken our economy to its roots; do you remember the ENRON scandal?
I read about a third-grade class in which the students were telling about the jobs their parents had.
One little boy shocked the class by saying, “My dad is an exotic dancer.”
After class, the teacher took the boy aside and said, “Now, son, is your dad really an exotic dancer?”
He said, “No ma’am, he’s an accountant and he really works for Arthur Andersen, but I was too embarrassed to say that.”
Today, we are going to look at Luke 16 to find one of the most unusual parables Jesus ever uttered.
Some Bible teachers merely skip over it or ignore it.
I call it the parable of the Crooked Manager.
It’s a story about an employee who “cooked the books” for his employer.
He used dishonest methods to give an accounting of his company’s assets.
It reads much like a deposition from the Enron or WorldCom hearings!
It’s a parable about money, which shouldn’t be surprising because of the 38 parables Jesus told, 19 of them dealt with handling possessions.
Baptism is important, but there are 16 times more verses in the New Testament on handling money than are devoted to baptism.
The Lord’s Supper is important, but there are 32 times more Biblical statements about Christian financial management than about the Lord’s Supper.
Since Jesus had so much to say about it, we’d better pay attention.
I hope you know you can trust God–but when it comes to handling God’s money, how much can he trust you?
Keep your Bibles open because we will read each section of scripture as we discuss it.
First, we will consider:
I. THE PARABLE: THE GOOD EXAMPLE OF A CROOK (1-8)
Let’s just read the parable beginning in Luke 16:1:
Jesus told his disciples, “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ The manager said to himself, ‘What will I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg–I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The manager told him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’ Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ The Master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.”
The “moral of the story” is found in the last sentence and it’s the key to understanding the parable.
The manager was a cunning, conniving, dishonest rascal–but you can’t help but smile at how shrewd he was.
When he learned he was about to lose his job (because he was dishonest and wasteful), he decided to cover his own assets.
He went to the best customers and gave them deep discounts on what they owed his boss.
Why?
Obviously, after he was kicked out of his company for mismanagement, he would go to one of those customers who “owed him a favor” and hopefully they would remember his action and give him a job.
When it came time to be fired, even his boss said, “I’ve got to hand it to you, you are a cunning, devious, despicable fellow–just my kind of guy–now get out of my sight!”
That’s how business is still done.
You hear expressions like, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. A tit for a tat. Hey, I owe you one!”
Jesus isn’t suggesting we use dishonest business practices, but He is suggesting we can learn something from the clever way cunning people operate.
First, notice that Jesus recognized there are only two kinds of people.
He divides the entire human race into these two groups.
Some are what He called, “people of this world” and the others are what He called “people of the light.”
Which group are you in?
People who do not have a personal relationship with God are “of this world.”
This present world is not all there is–there is another world.
This world is temporary, and the other world is eternal.
This world is physical, and the other world is spiritual.
Millions of people live their lives as if this world was all there will ever be.
They devote their entire lives to getting ahead in this world and accumulating all the toys that will make them feel comfortable.
On the other hand, those of us who are “people of the light” have a personal relationship with the God of the Universe.
The Bible says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (I John 1:5)
We are living in this world, but we know this world is not all there is.
We will never feel totally comfortable in this world because it’s not really our home.
Like Abraham, we are looking for a city not made with human hands.
In spite of this, Jesus said we should learn to be a little shrewder in the ways of the world without becoming like the world.
Sadly, Christians are some of the most gullible, naïve folks around.
Almost every week you read another story about how some trusting Christian was bamboozled by a scam where he gave away his life’s savings in some “sure-fire investment.”
When it turns out to be a scam, he says, “Why, he seemed to be such a fine Christian that I trusted him.”
Gullible Christians are the ones who have kept alive the old false rumor about how Madalyn Murray O’Hair has a bill before Congress that will outlaw all religious broadcasting.
It’s been around for twenty years and thousands of dollars of God’s money have been spent on paper and postage to write letters to the Federal Communications Commission and Congress to protest something that was always a rumor.
There’s an even an email version of the same rumor.
I would say Madalyn Murray O’Hair is laughing in her grave, but I don’t think she’s very jovial right at the moment.
Come on, Children of the Light, wake up!
The reason we all need a little dose of worldly wisdom is that we have to live and operate in a world filled with dishonest, crooked people.
If you aren’t shrewd, you’ll be eaten like a lamb in a pack of wolves.
That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 16:10)
Note the distinction.
The crooked manager in the parable was as shrewd as a snake, but he was as guilty as sin.
What can we learn from the Crooked Manager?
He knew he was facing a deadline; he formulated a plan, and he acted before the opportunity was gone.
We are also facing a deadline.
Do you have a creative plan to influence your world before that deadline?
Are you letting opportunities pass by?
We must learn to be wise in the ways of the world, but we must remain as innocent as doves–that’s hard.
In fact, like every other command in the Christian life, it’s impossible without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
That’s the parable and the “moral” to the story, but Jesus is just getting started.
Let’s notice:
II. THE PRINCIPLES: MONEY LESSONS FROM CHRIST (9-18)
Jesus used this unusual parable about a crooked man to launch into four practical principles about handling money.
We know these teachings are about money because of the reaction of the Pharisees.
Look down to verse 14: “The Pharisees who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.”
You may hear some Christians teach that money is evil.
I disagree.
Money is not immoral–it is amoral–morally neutral.
It’s what you do with the money that determines its moral value.
Money can be used to build a facility like this or to feed the hungry, or to educate people, or to take the gospel around the world.
Or money can be used to buy drugs, create pornography, or to pay someone to kill another person.
The Bible never says money is evil–it is the love of money, the craving for money that is a problem.
We read in I Timothy 6:9-10, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Isn’t that true?
We all know folks who have no time for God because they are busy making the almighty dollar or spending it.
Every now and then, even the Wall Street Journal gives some sound financial advice about money.
A few years ago, they ran this statement: “Money is an article which may be used as a universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and as a universal provider of everything except happiness.”
That’s what I call real financial advice.

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