He grew up the envy of everyone. His parents belonged to the city’s financial and social elite. He went to the best schools and associated with the city’s leading socialites. He traveled all over the world with his dad, hunting and fishing. Known as one of the city’s finest musicians, he soon traveled the world playing for conventions, meetings, and parties. He had the good life. He was even a member of one of the leading churches in town and he often played for other churches and citywide church events.

After a couple of failed marriages, he finally married a girl who truly loved him and stayed with him for the rest of his life. They were a part of the jet set. They traveled far and wide. By the usual standards, they were living the good life. But they had some problems. First of all, his parents forgot to die. They clung to their lives and their money, fearful that their young son, now in his sixties, would fritter it all away. This led to a second problem, no job and no independence. He spent almost seventy years totally dependent on his parents for financial support. The lack of independence and purpose gave way to a third problem, alcoholism. All the musical talent, the degrees from the prestigious universities, the brilliant mind, all withered away, unused, wasted. This prominent rich boy who had the world by the tail ended up with nothing of value or meaning at all.

What a waste. Here was a person with a lot to offer the world, not to mention the Lord, and he squandered it all, like the prodigal son. As our country faces some tight economic times, we need to stop and evaluate our own situation in terms of how well we serve God, regardless of our financial circumstances. Every one of us has been given certain blessings, material and otherwise, by God for the purpose of honoring God and serving our fellow man. The question that we all must face is this, “What has God given me and how does He expect me to use it?” Perhaps we can find some answers to this question this morning.

The parable we consider today is placed in the middle of a long discourse of parables Jesus told in Luke’s account. Remember, a parable is a story about earthly things that has a heavenly meaning, or if you prefer, a parable is a short allegorical story, designed to convey some truth or moral lesson. Jesus was a master at this type of teaching, and we do well to study these wonderful little stories.

Be Wise in Using Worldly Wealth.

This parable is a rather strange story to us. We are confused by the unusual twist of a man being commended for dishonest business practices, especially by the Lord Jesus. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. First of all, remember that those who heard Jesus tell this story understood what He was saying. We don’t live in the same kind of society, we don’t speak the same language, we aren’t in the personal, physical presence of the Savior as they were on that day. This obviously leaves us at a disadvantage. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot understand what is being said here. It simply means that we need to do a little digging to arrive at the suitable interpretation, and we can do that.

Why would a rich boss commend a dishonest man for costing him a considerable sum of money or goods? I have read a lot of commentators on this passage and several ideas arise. Some say that the amount the manager took off his creditors’ bills was interest owed, which was forbidden by the Old Testament Jewish Law. Others say that it was his part of the profits, his commission if you will. Others say, and I happen to believe this one is correct, that he simply cut the bills as it appears on the surface. This interpretation seems to be the one that fits the title, “unrighteous manager” as verse 8 calls him. But this really isn’t the point Jesus was making.

It is pretty clear that the master commended the manager’s shrewdness simply because he was looking far enough ahead to see that he endeared himself to the creditors so that he would have somewhere to go when he was put out on the street. This is the main point of the parable. Look at verse 9. Jesus said, “Make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into eternal dwellings.” This is possibly the only time Jesus advised His disciples to take a cue from the rest of the world. Just as the unrighteous steward manipulated his master’s means for his own good, we ought to manipulate our master’s means for our own eternal good.

Notice carefully the twist here. While everyone else is dealing in the temporal, we are dealing in the eternal. Jesus is reiterating His words from the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The same principle applies here. We are to pursue heavenly treasure as earnestly, as intensely, as energetically as the rest of the world pursues earthly treasure. This is because all earthly treasures will pass away. They will burn. But that which is heavenly will last forever. The question that comes to mind is, “How do we accomplish this, anyway?” The answer lies in our attitude about the things God has entrusted to us.

Be Diligent in Using Worldly Wealth.

Look at verses 10-12. This idea is not unique to this discourse. Jesus makes the same point in the parable of the talents, and it is as strong here as it is there. While some people may be born with a silver spoon in their mouths, that just isn’t the case for most of us. It certainly wasn’t for those who were hearing Jesus speak some 2000 years ago. What is the same is that we are all stewards or managers of whatever we do possess, whether great or small. The main underlying principle here is that, since God owns it all, we are in just the same position as the man in the parable. We work for the boss, whether we like it or not. Do you understand this basic fact? Can you get your mind around the idea that none of what is “yours” is actually yours, but God’s. Until we grasp this concept, we will never be able to see much return on our eternal investments.

In plain English, this means that God expects to see us use the money, the time, the talents He has placed in our possession to be used primarily for His purposes. He expects us to prove ourselves faithful in the use of these resources. Think in these terms. If you could reach into the pocket or purse of someone else in this room and use that person’s money to place in the offering plate, to give to help the poor, to send to our missionaries, would you not give more than if you had to cover the check yourself? Well, I tell you that is exactly what is going on when we exercise the discipline of giving. We are giving someone else’s money, time, talents — God’s money, time, talents. If we don’t prove ourselves worthy of His trust and blessing with a little worthless earthly treasure, do you think He will grant us that which is truly valuable in eternity?

People don’t like to think that there will be varying degrees of reward in heaven. Neither do I. But it seems to me that right here Jesus is implying just that. I don’t presume to know how that will work out, but I am fairly certain that our heavenly reward will be directly tied to our faithfulness here in this world. The church word for this whole concept is stewardship. It means that we don’t own anything, but we manage it for God, to an eternal end.

Once, a man said, “If I had some extra money, I’d give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.” And the same man said, “If I had some extra time, I’d give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs, and what have you–every single minute.” And the same man said, “If I had a talent I’d give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I’ve never been able to lead a group; I can’t think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to.” And God was touched, and God gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent. And then He waited, and waited, and waited…..And then after a while, He shrugged His shoulders, and He took all those things right back from the man, the money, the time and the glorious talent. After a while, the man sighed and said, “If I only had some of that money back, I’d give it to God. If I only had some of that time, I’d give it to God. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I’d give it to God.” And God said, “Oh, shut up.” And the man told some of his friends, “You know, I’m not so sure that I believe in God anymore.” Who has the problem here, God or the ungrateful man?

Be Faithful in Using Worldly Wealth.

Look at verse 13. It all comes down to this, “Whom do you serve?” It’s very clear that most of the people in our world are servants of wealth, or “mammon” as the KJV says. The word here means not just a medium of exchange but more an object of veneration or worship. Whether or not we want to admit it, too often we tend to worship things instead of God. It is a part of our human nature to enslave ourselves to that which we value the most. You might be thinking, “Yes preacher, but I don’t love money more than I love God.” I hope to God you’re right.

Let’s go back to the parable for just a minute. Jesus said that we need to make eternal friends with worldly wealth. How do you suppose we would do that? The Bible tells us again and again to care for orphans and widows, for the poor and distressed, to go into all the world and make disciples for the Lord Jesus. All these enterprises take money, time, talents. Ministry in the name of the Lord is costly. I ask you, is God pleased with the offering you bring to Him today? Do you give only what you think you can spare, or do you give till it hurts? Mother Teresa said, “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving.”

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 1 out of every 6 verses deals with money. Of the 29 parables Christ told, 16 deal with a person and his money. This is important to the health of our very souls. The Bible deals with the issue of money and earthly wealth more than heaven or hell. God expects us to serve Him with everything, because everything is His in the first place. Are we being truly faithful in our use of worldly wealth?

I found this prayer I would like to share with you. “Dear Lord, I have been re-reading the record of the Rich Young Ruler and his obviously wrong choice. But it has set me thinking. No matter how much wealth he had, he could not– ride in a car, have any surgery, turn on a light, buy penicillin, hear a pipe organ, watch TV, wash dishes in running water, type a letter, mow a lawn, fly in an airplane, sleep on an innerspring mattress, or talk on the phone. If he was rich, then what am I?” You may not consider yourself rich today. But God’s Word is clear that no matter how much or how little we may have, we are to honor Him with all of it, all of the time. And if we are truly His servants, His disciples, His children by faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, this is something we want to do, right? (Thank You – One by one they came, far as the eye can see, each one somehow touched by your generosity)

How are you doing at managing the Lord’s resources? Be wise in using them. Make friends for all eternity with them by caring for others in a sacrificial way. Be diligent in using them. Realize that it requires a conscious effort. It won’t work itself out by itself. Be faithful in using them. Trust God and serve Him only. Nothing else is worth the effort.