Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 23, 2007
A Matter of Money
Luke 16:1-13

The parable in this passage is full of surprises. The manager of a large estate was called to an accounting and served notice of termination. What would he do? He called the owner’s tenants and started falsifying records. One who owed eight hundred gallons of olive oil was told to sign a new note for half that. Another owed a thousand bushels of wheat; “Take your bill and make it eight hundred.” People would expect Jesus to end the story with a strong rebuke to such thievery. Surprise! Jesus ends with the owner praising the man’s bold provision for his own future.

It is a parable about zeal in the use of money. People in the kingdom of darkness are zealous about their future on earth. Why can’t citizens of God’s kingdom of light be as zealous about eternal values?  The passage supports several assertions about Christian use of money.

I. You demonstrate your trustworthiness in small amounts as surely as in large (v. 10).

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” It is a matter of integrity. How much does one have to steal to be a thief?  Stewardship is not just a matter of how much we give; it also matters how much we keep for self and what use we make of it all.

It wasn’t many years ago when $1,000 was a lot of money, but a pastor preached a missionary sermon and challenged his small church to give at least $2,000 to a special offering. After the service a layman said: “Pastor, I am ashamed of you. Why I could give that much myself.” 

The pastor said, “If you could, then you should.”

In the middle of the week the layman came to the pastor’s study. He said: “I couldn’t get my mind on my work. I couldn’t sleep. My wife and I have talked and prayed over this. Here is a check for missions.”  The pastor took it expecting to see a check for $2,000. But it wasn’t. It was a check for $200,000.

II. You show how trustworthy you will be with spiritual wealth by how you use material things (v. 11).

In the 1740’s John Wesley preached a sermon on “The Use of Money.” This pioneer preacher and father of Methodism outlined his thoughts around three practical points. First, gain all you can. Second, save all you can. And third, give all you can. I imagine many a smile turned to frowns when he reached the third point.

In the same sermon he offered advice on how a Christian steward should spend money. He proposed four tests to remove any doubt that might arise about spending on yourself or your family. Wesley’s counsel was to calmly and seriously ask yourself these four questions: One, in spending this, am I acting not as owner but as steward of my Lord’s goods?  Two, am I doing this in obedience to His Word?  Three, can I spend this as an act of worship to God through Jesus Christ?  And four, will I have a reward at the resurrection of the just for this action? 

When Philip Guedella was doing research for his biography of the Duke of Wellington, he searched for a way to discover his true character. He finally found it in a careful examination of the Duke’s check stubs. He felt he had discovered a peek into the Duke’s soul.

III. You must choose between serving God or Money (v. 13).

There is no such thing as a schizophrenic Christian steward. It is not a matter of whether or not we should serve only one of these masters. Jesus says it is impossible. God will not be brought into such a partnership. These two masters — God and money — are mutually exclusive.

Consider that the reason Jesus had so much to say about money is that He knew it is a sure and certain gauge of our commitment. We show what we think of God by the way we use money.  (Austin B. Tucker)

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