Today we begin the home stretch in our series from the book of Luke! We have a lot to cover today, so if you would, please open your copy of scripture to the book of Luke, and we’ll be in chapter 16 today.
But before we dive into this scripture today, please pray with me and for me. PRAY
 Now he said to the disciples: "There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions. So he called the manager in and asked, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be my manager.’”
When you hear that phrase, “squandering his possessions” does that sound familiar? Any other parables come to mind? Yeah! Prodigal son from ch 15.
Like the prodigal son, this manager is in a major crisis where he is losing everything. In those days, it was a very prestigious position to be the manager for someone’s estate, because it often included living with that person at their estate. It’s a good way to level up. So, for him to be fired means he will lose his social position and a roof over his head. So he’s forced to scramble a little bit.
 I know what I'll do so that when I'm removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.'
Again, just like the Prodigal Son, this manager starts to formulate a plan in his mind about what he’ll do so that he is welcomed by others instead of turned away. He’s thinking “I’d really like people to be happy to see me when I show up on the porch and need a place to stay for the night.”
So before he goes to see the boss, while he still has the authority to do this, he visits the people who owe money to the company, and tells them to cut their bills in half. Based on cultural information from that time, these are huge debts owed by the customers – 100 measures of oil is about 875 gallons, which would cost the equivalent of 3 years wages; 100 measures of wheat is 1100 bushels, which would cost the equivalent of 7 ½ years wages. So he isn’t just giving them a $50 gift card, he is canceling years of debt at his boss’s expense.
And the goal is that when he comes knocking on their door looking for a bed and breakfast, they will gladly welcome him in.
- If you go to pick up some new shoes at Foot Locker, and the woman who helped you says, you know what, I’m about to get fired anyway, instead of $80 for these shoes, make it $40, you’d probably say, “okay, wow, thanks. You didn’t have to do that… seriously, thank you. That means a lot.” But you wouldn’t probably think much further than that.
- But if you were buying a new car, and the salesman said, “Your new car costs $36,000, but I’m about to get fired anyway… I’ll ring it up for $18,000.” And you’re floored, right? You’re like, are you good for Christmas Dinner? You need a place to go? Any plans for New Years Eve? We’d love to have you over, and feel free to bring a friend or two.”
- But if someone from the bank stopped by and said, “The remaining mortgage on your home is $167,000… I’m about to get canned anyway… I’m going to make it $83,500 and call it good.” You’d be like, we’d like you to be IN our Christmas cards this year.
We laugh at a hypothetical situation, but do you see the manager’s thought process here? The greater the debt you’ve been forgiven, the more welcoming you will be. I mean that’s what he is hoping for. And maybe to your surprise, and probably to his, when the master found out what he did…
 "The master praised the unrighteous (or dishonest) manager because he had acted shrewdly.
The master slow-clapped the employee he was getting ready to fire – not because he was morally pure (even Jesus calls him unrighteous or dishonest) but because this manager had acted wisely, by using what was available to him, to prepare for and provide for his own future, even as he was losing everything. And the master said, wow, hats off to you, pal. I mean you’re fired because you squandered my stuff, but that last move was genius even though it’ll cost me dearly.
And here is Jesus’ application of his own story. …The children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people.
- First of all…
- Ephesians 5:8-9 CSB – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth…Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness…
- 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 CSB – …but you brothers and sisters… are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness.
Jesus basically says in verse 8 that very often, the people who don’t have an eternal perspective and only have eyes for this life, like this manager, do a better job planning for the future than the people who know they will stand before God some day! It’s not a compliment to the Church, honestly. The manager knew judgment was coming, so he used the resources, the system, and the authority available to him to prepare himself for a confrontation with the master.
Here’s the reality that we Christians tend to forget as we try to live with one foot on planet earth, and the other in the kingdom of heaven… we tend to forget that we will stand before our Master one day and give an account for how we used our resources during our lifetime. We all too easily fall right into a short-sighted financial worldview as if a roof over our heads or meeting our needs here in this life is the most important place to invest our money.
So Jesus calls us to action in verse 9… And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.
Not in the same way as the dishonest manager, don’t cheat people or steal from your boss – but act according to the same future-looking wisdom that the manager did. Use the financial resources you have on this side of heaven to make friends by giving generously and canceling the debts of others…use your money to bring people into the kingdom of God, to further the gospel locally and abroad. And when you get to that place in your life where all the money in the world will fail to keep you alive for one more second, you will be welcomed into heaven by those who benefited from your investments while you were on earth, and you’ll be welcomed by your Heavenly Father who says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
 Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.  So if you have not been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with what is genuine?  And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own?
- V10 - Faithfulness is no accident: What a person does with the small things of life one does also in the big things. Faithfulness or dishonesty appears throughout a person’s life (Morris, 267). Faithfulness is intentional obedience no matter what.
- V11 - Earthly wealth is not genuine or true wealth – We’re going to see this in next week’s sermon, but earthly wealth, in terms of dollars and cents (and crypto if you’re into that), is not where true wealth is defined. Jesus said back in Luke 12 that there is earthly treasure, and there is treasure in heaven. There is a “being rich” in terms of bank account, and there is a “being rich” toward God. They are not the same thing.
- V12 - Nothing you have is ultimately yours – We are all managers of the resources God has given us. We might see the OT principle of giving our first 10% back to the Lord by giving to the Temple, and we think great…that means God is giving me the other 90% to do whatever I want with it. And NT teaching, like this one, would say, well, not so fast. The reality is that all of it, 100% of your income, belongs to God.
- You can either be faithful with those resources, or unrighteous.
Jesus knows the kind of tug money and stuff can have on our hearts, so he tags this onto the discussion in verse 13: No servant can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
The original word that we have translated “money” is the Greek word “mammon”. It speaks to more than just cash – it’s all of your possessions. It’s the worldview behind materialism that says the more I have the better off I’ll be. Materialism is what we call being a slave to our cash and possessions.
But Jesus himself says here in Luke, it’s not about having money. God isn’t opposed to money. It’s about authority. And there is only one thing or person in your life that has ultimate authority. He uses the language of love and hate – that’s relational. He uses the words devotion and despising – that’s the language of worship.
This is about what has captured your heart, what you give yourself to. You cannot have multiple entities calling the shots in your life, no matter what they are. One will always win out over the other. And when it comes to this particular topic, you can most certainly have God and have money – God and cash are not enemies – But God and materialism are. One authority will overpower the other for the devotion of your heart.
So of course the question is, “How do I know if I’m serving money or God?” Right? That’s what would be nice to know. I mean, money is nice. It’s helpful. But I love the Lord, and I want to be wise. So how do I know who I’m serving?
I don’t think it’s any more difficult than this:
- God views all of the money and every one of your possessions as his. They are tools he has given you to further his eternal kingdom. He has full and final authority over everything you own, and most of all he wants your heart.
- Mammon views all of your money and possessions as exactly that: yours. God is the tool to further one's own agenda. The full and final authority at the end of the day is whether or not you will have enough to do what you want to do or be what you want to be or have the lifestyle you want to have.
The real question at the end of the day is not how much you put in the offering box each week, or how expensive your car was, or how much you paid for your house. The main issue at the end of the day, the answer to the question “Who am I serving?” is this:
Whose agenda does the money in your bank account and the stuff that’s in your name actually serve? Is God someone you use to get what you want? Or does he have access to everything?
Your house, your car, your clothes, your food, your furniture, your books, your TV, your computer, your actual cash – how much of it does God have access to? NONE OF THOSE WILL GO WITH YOU when you die. And here’s what your banker will never tell you –– you will be accountable to your Heavenly Father for what you did with his money. His possessions. His resources. Not just the first 10%. Those who have been faithful with earthly wealth will be given real wealth… heavenly resources to use both now and in the age to come, where we rule and reign with Christ forever!
So Jesus’ point is this: You will stand before God one day and give an account for what you did with the resources that you were given. So, right now, while you still have the opportunity, be generous. Cancel debts. Make friends. Invest in the kingdom of heaven. And when the time comes to die, you’ll be rich in the things that really matter.
 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and scoffing at him. Again, this is about authority. And they are like, Oh, “look at the poor traveling preacher without a home telling us how to handle money. How are these principles working out for you there, preacher man?” In other words, who do you think you are to talk to us about handling money when we have it and you don’t? You’re like someone who sells health products, but is always sick, Jesus. We can’t take you seriously. You have no authority to talk about managing money because you have none to manage!
Luke labels them “Lovers of Money'' to show you in one sentence that it is impossible to serve both God and money. You’ll love one and hate the other. They loved money and mocked the Son of God.
The Pharisees loved money because it gave them influence and power and a certain authority. They taught that wealth was a sign that God was blessing them for being so righteous. They taught that poverty and sickness was a consequence of sin. Jesus’ accusation here in verse 15 is a warning to his disciples and anyone else listening: The people around applaud the wealthy Pharisee because he’s done something most people couldn’t do – he’s pleased God in enough ways, for long enough, that God has abundantly showered him with wealth. But God knows their hearts and it is nauseating in his eyes. If God had a stomach, he would be reaching for the sink.
And God knows our hearts too. He knows the areas where we just talk a nice talk. He knows where our hearts really are. He knows what calls the shots in our lives.
Jesus goes on speaking to the Pharisees:  "The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urgently invited to enter it.  But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter in the law to drop out.  "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and everyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
If we were playing Jeopardy right now, you’d say I’ll take “Things That Make You Say, Huh??” for $600, Alex.
After all this talk about wealth and wanting to be admired by others, Jesus throws in verse 18 about marriage and divorce. But it’s not a teaching on divorce as much as it is Jesus citing an example of how the Pharisees talk a good talk but don’t actually follow the law they preach.
The law of Moses said in Deut 24 that a man could divorce his wife if he finds out something indecent about her, and so the Pharisees took that and ran with it. They taught that if a married man found another woman more pleasing than his own wife, he could quickly come up with some reason why his wife is indecent and unpleasant to him, divorce her, and go marry the other woman. And Jesus goes “EEERRRR.”
God knows your hearts, and you “experts of the Law and the Prophets” are using your authority to bludgeon women over the head and satisfy your own pleasures. You commit adultery, you are unjust, and idolatrous. You are everything you preach against, and you’re missing the heart of God. If God really was your authority, you wouldn’t be abusing women…you’d be compassionate and gracious! You’d honor your commitment to them. You wouldn’t push people away from the kingdom of God, you’d invite them in!
But God knew their hearts, and as v15 says, their authority, the entity calling the shots for them was outward appearance. They knew how to justify their actions, to look good, and sound good – and it was filthy in God’s eyes.
God and wealth are not opposed to each other like good and evil. Wealth doesn’t have to be evil. What makes earthly wealth righteous or evil is the heart of the person who holds it.
Maybe you’re all of a sudden feeling convicted, or guilty. You might even be feeling some shame right now, like, man…should I not have bought this or that or the other thing? Listen to me: The person saying all these words in Luke 16 is Jesus, God’s Son. He didn’t come to the world to condemn you for being materialistic. He came to pour out his grace, calling you to repentance and generosity! His heart is for you to know the Father! His heart for you is not one of rage and “how dare you!?!” or “I can’t believe you would do that!?!”
God’s heart for you is that you would experience all that he has for you, by walking in his ways. His heart for you is that you wouldn’t waste your time with something that is temporary, like cash or possessions, but that you would wisely invest your resources in heavenly treasure, genuine stuff that never loses its value, never rusts, never gets stolen or lost.
Maybe some of you are hesitant to do that, and you would be asking, is God going to make me sell some of my things and give the money away? Do I have to downgrade my vehicles and give away the extra cash? Do I have to start giving more to the church? Should I support a child or a missionary… Jesus didn’t tell everyone who had money to give away all they had, but he did encourage a few people to do exactly that.
The question you need to ask yourself is
- Would you if he asked you to?
- Would you give away your car or your truck if Jesus asked you to?
- Would you increase your giving to 20%-30% if he asked you to? More?
I’m not asking you to do any of those things. I’m just asking questions.
Listen, River City, here’s the beauty of this whole entire thing: God is inviting you to use the time, money, and possessions you currently have (not the time, money, or resources you don’t have)… he is inviting you to use what he’s given you right now to participate with him in the work of redemption! He’s inviting you to be an important part of the story of redemption in the world, of bringing people to salvation, of increasing the population of heaven! God of course doesn’t need us in the slightest. He doesn’t need our money, he doesn’t need our skills or abilities, he doesn’t need us to love him… he was doing just fine before he created the world.
But in his infinite wisdom and love, God has chosen to invite people into his story, and when you have been invited into his work by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, born again as a child of God, transferred by the blood of Jesus from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, then YOU ARE A ROLE PLAYER IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD! God has chosen to use you, and the resources he gave you, to play an important role in his kingdom.
You don’t have to be a pastor. You don’t have to even work for the church. You don’t have to be in a formal ministry. You don’t have to have a theology degree. You don’t have to know all the answers to all the questions about God and faith and how it all works. You don’t have to be able to never have doubts or questions.
Your position in God’s kingdom has been earned by the body and blood of Jesus Christ, who looks you in the eye and says your sins are forgiven… and when he does, there is a new authority calling the shots in your life – you are no longer controlled by the flesh or a love for money, you are compelled by a love for Christ and a love for others, and everything you have belongs to the Son of God who purchased you back from death.
The gospel of Jesus tells us that the Greatest Manager in all of human history, the Son of God, has offered you, not a 50% discount on sin, but a 100% complete reduction of your personal sin debt at full cost to himself so that you can confidently stand before your Master someday, and be welcomed into his joy just as righteous as if you had never sinned one time in your whole life – not because he needed your service, but because he loved you as his child. The question is will you receive it?
[Pause for a second to pray – listen to the Spirit. Is someone in the room still guilty? Ashamed? Is someone hesitant to let go? Is someone’s heart hard? Is the Spirit leading someone to stand up and openly admit it, I’ve been materialistic and greedy and I want to be done. I want to live my life with open hands.]
Romans 12:1,2 says, we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, with all of our motives, our reasons, our passions and desires, putting it all at his feet because it's the only reasonable thing to do when you understand the amount of debt that you’ve been forgiven. We don’t need to let our hearts be led away by money or possessions, but we let him transform us by renewing our minds to live for his eternal kingdom instead of our temporary one, so that we pursue the things that are good and pleasing and perfect in the eyes of God, like compassion, generosity, hospitality, forgiveness, mercy, and love.
That’s what I want to be known for. I pray you do too. The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988).