Gold In The Hand Of A Fool
January 05, 2020 | Randy Smith
Gold In The Hand Of A Fool
Sunday, January 5, 2020
Pastor Randy Smith
When I take couples through Premarital Counseling, we devote much time to the subject of money. It is a significant topic because money has both enhanced and destroyed lives in various ways.
I believe the overarching biblical concept in dealing wisely with money is to realize that none of it is mine. All that I have belongs to God and I am merely a manager (or some say a "steward") of His resources. If you understand that concept, you will view money correctly and you will also understand the main point of our Lord's parable today in Luke 16.
We've been studying a series of parables in Luke's Gospel. Jesus presented some 40 parables altogether and I'm told a third of them deal with the subject of money. Money is an essential, nonnegotiable and inescapable topic of the Christian life.
Today's parable will deal specifically with being shrewd, being wise with how we view and spend the money God has entrusted to us as His managers. What will bring Him and us the greatest gain?
The Story Explained
So, let's begin the first point, entitled, "The Story Explained."
This parable is a fictitious story told by Jesus to teach a spiritual message. So, as we have done in past weeks, let's make sure we understand the story (from an earthly perspective) so we can rightly interpret its meaning (from a spiritual perspective).
There are several characters in this story, and like the Prodigal Son story, all of them have issues. In verse 1 we are introduced to the two main figures. There is a "rich man" who was very wealthy (we'll simply call him the boss) and his manager. This rich man had a massive estate with many business interests. Therefore, he hired a manger to oversee all his affairs. This manager had full legal power over all transactions. He was hired by the boss to always operate financially in the best interests of his boss.
But verse 1 informs us that the boss received news that his manager was "squandering his possessions." We don't know the sources providing the information. We're not sure how the manager was specifically squandering the possessions. It was probably not in overt sinful ways like the Prodigal Son, but rather just being wasteful, foolish, irresponsible with the boss's resources.
And we know it wasn't good as the Greek word for "reporting" is diaballo. It is where we get the English word diabolical. It's a strong word that means to slander or accuse. It's used of Satan. Anyway, this manager became the talk of the town. So, the boss for the sake of his assets and his reputation needed to act.
In verse 2 we read, "And he called him and said to him, ÔWhat is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.'"
Does the boss fire him on the spot? No. Probably should have. Rather he tells him to get the books and show him the records of his transactions. The manager makes no defense. He knows he's dead in the water, but he also knows he's bought himself some time.
You see, his termination is inevitable. And he also knows that when's he's fired he will be in a world of trouble. Reputation destroyed. And no future employment along these lines means an inability to support himself. How will he eat? Specifically, where will he live (we'll see that in verse 4)?
Jesus recites his soliloquy in verse 3. "The manager said to himself, ÔWhat shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.'"
There are other options for employment, but he felt those were beneath his dignity. So, in verse 4 he comes up with an idea. The light bulb goes on. "I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes."
Nothing here about repentance. It's still a complete focus on himself. He'll use the situation and do whatever it takes to secure his best future interest. He is still using people and using another's money for selfish gain. Unlike the Parodical Son, he never learned his lesson.
The plan is simple. He knows there are several folks out there that still owe his boss money. So, what he plans to do is set up a system with these individuals by cutting them a deal whereby they are obligated to pay him back in the future. His concern in verse 4 was a place to live. And his scheme would enable him to be a perpetual and professional house guest . He would take the debt he owed his boss and use it to make people indebted to him.
So, he finds all these guys that owe his boss money. There are a lot of them, but verses 5-7 only give two examples. He's going to cut everyone a discount. Despite the fact that a fair price was charged. Despite the fact that the contract was signed, signifying agreement by all the parties, this manager again shows his shady nature. After all, he held the books and he drafted the original contracts. So, what does he do? He tears up the old contracts and writes new ones with a significant discount unknown and without the approval of his boss.
The word "quickly" in verse 6 jumps out at me. Often that word does not go well with money – impulse spending, thieves, pushy conmen desiring a quick signature. It was a shifty and dishonest practice by this manager. Yet those in debt weren't doing to argue with him, which could imply something about them as well. They don't want more information about this potential fraud. They put forward no resistance. So they agree to the new contract and they eliminated their debt immediately. The only debt they'll now have is to the manger that just cut them a tremendous favor. Here's a prime example of quid pro quo. They benefit now and you know one day he'll plan to cash in on his benefits in the future.
Rather straight-forward . Now we get to verse 8. And here is the shocker. "And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly." Sure, he was shrewd, but we don't expect the unrighteous manager to be praised by the boss. And then Jesus chimes in in verse 9 and offers the same commendation. How do we interpret this and what is the point?
Two thoughts, and for the sake of time I will keep them brief.
One, there are several reasons why the boss might praise the manger. I do not think one of them is, "You cost me thousands of dollars with your wastefulness and now dishonest practices, but I really do admire you because you are shrewd" (without a sarcastic tone). Maybe the boss is now the greatest guy in the town for his incredible generosity. Doubtful. Maybe because the agent only removed the interest and the boss still regained all his assets. Doubtful.
Here's another option. Jesus speaks the same sentiments in verse 9. Is it possible that Jesus actually started sharing His opinion of the manager earlier in verse 8? My translation in verse 8 says "his master," but in the Greek technically it is "the Lord." Could the initial commendation actually be from Jesus and not the boss? So that doesn't resolve the dilemma, potentially it only makes it worse. Why would Jesus praise this guy now in both verses 8 and 9? Hold that thought.
Second thought. The point of a parable is to just make a teaching point. And often a parable will use unjust practices to make the point. That is happening here. The point is not the manager's unrighteousness. The point is how an unrighteous guy acted with money when he found himself in dire straits. Remember that thought as well!
That takes us to our second point – the spiritual application.
The Story Applied
So, what is the point of all of this? Clearly the subject is our money. And clearly the praised trait is being shrewd, being wise in how we spend our money.
Verse 9 is key. Jesus speaking, "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings." Do you see the parallel?
The unjust manager used money that was not his (it belonged to his boss). He had his greatest self-interest in mind – me! His goal was to secure his earthy future in a home. He acted in a very shrewd way to accomplish it. In verse 8, this is how "sons of this age" (unbelievers) act.
Application to us ("the sons of the light")? We too have money that does not belong to us (it belongs to our Boss). And we too should have our greatest self-interest in mind – not in selfishness like the manager, but rather in our greatest good of putting God and others above ourselves which will bring us the greatest blessings. We should focus on our future home, not on this world, but (verse 9) on our "eternal dwellings." Therefore, we should be more diligent, wise, shrewd in the use of money to accomplish those means.
Here's the point. So, if unbelievers are shrewd with money, how much more should the "sons of the light" be shrewd with money? In a sense this is a lament from Jesus. Why is it that children of this world have more zeal and passion and thoughtfulness to use money (verse 9 – in a way that will ultimately fail) to further an agenda that is only temporary than the sons of light do in a way that is eternal and successful?
Now for the following four verses, Jesus will flesh this out with some practical application related to money.
Verse 10 "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.
The amount we possess is not the issue. It's how much does money possess us. The Lord is looking for faithfulness. So, the manager was shrewd, but not faithful with money. God wants us to be both – shrewd and faithful.
Verses 11 and 12, "Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? "
If we can't spend our Lord's money in a faithful way, why would He give us greater spiritual responsibilities? If we fail to use His money responsibly, how can we expect His earthy and eternal blessings which really matter? Do we not understand that what we sow is what we will reap? So much of this begins with money. Are we storing up for ourselves treasures on earth or treasures in heaven?
And verse 13, "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
Money can easily be our god, our boss. Money has the false ability to command our allegiance, promote our joy and provide our security. Lies! That is why I am glad I can still look at every dollar I spend and be reminded that it is "In God We Trust ." Who is our true Lord? We can't serve both money and God.
You know, I was watching a news clip that profiled a picture of a supposed angel that a man's car camera caught on film one evening. To get the "professional opinion" they invited in a pastor named Don Piper (not John Piper). He didn't comment much on the picture but spent a lot of time discussing his car accident when we supposedly died, went to heaven and met angels before returning to earth.
But what stuck out to me was his comment that the thing he remembered most was being greeted by all the people that helped him get to heaven. When he entered heaven, he was received by them. Now possibly it was edited out by the station , but he never said what people need to hear to be helped to heaven! Thousands of viewers were left either confused or deceived.
Now my point is not to argue the validity of Piper's experience, but what I find interesting is that this unjust manager from Luke 16 was concerned about his future dwelling on earth (verse 4). Jesus told us to be more concerned about our future dwelling in heaven. Then in verse 9 He said, "Make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings." This is using our money to see people come to Christ, to be welcomed by them when we arrive in heaven. There are a lot of good causes out there, but nothing is more important and shrewder than using our money to see souls get saved.
So, as we prepare for the Lord's Table, I ask you the following questions for your personal reflection.
Do you acknowledge that all that you own belongs to God?
Do you acknowledge that all your spending is a spiritual decision?
Do you acknowledge that God one day will call you to account for the use of His resources?
Do you acknowledge that treasures in heaven are better than treasures on earth?
Do you acknowledge that it is also fine to enjoy the use of God's money in moderation?
Do you acknowledge that many of God's blessings now are tied to your spending?
And do you acknowledge the need to be shrewd with your spending? In other words: When you consider all your spending in 2019 is there evidence that you have made not only investments in God's Kingdom, but wise investments? Are you spending God's money strategically to fund the greatest needs in the most effective way?