JESUS’ PARABLES                                          ABOUT MONEY                                          F           ...
THE ART OF                       Journal, Fall 1988, p.216). AACCUMULATION                     breed of preachers baptized...
THE PARABLE                       that they were trampling onOF THE RICH                       one another” (Lk. 12:1). At...
Since it was common to        to embrace when some teachbring disputed points of the      us that believers can andlaw to ...
and evangelicals are quick       the danger of possessions isto label them as evil and        that they often arouse theco...
God alone is the source of              you. Then who will getlife; God alone controls life;          what you have prepar...
• “Success with                is not a description of       possessions shows          mental ability but of       I’m a ...
He can call in His loan.         but is not rich toward   The fool also had no          God” (v.21).power over the future:...
JESUS PRESENTS                    removes spiritual assurance.THE ALTERNATIVE                       Telling us not to worr...
less” but “trust-full.” A little   determine what we worrybit of reflection helps us to      about.recognize that most wor...
prepared to invest hard            in heaven. We cancash in it and in its interests;   cultivate compassion,but by that sa...
THE PARABLE                      JESUS PRESENTSOF THE SHREWD                    THE PARABLE OF                            ...
your bill, sit down quickly,   possessions. News of his    and make it four hundred.’     misconduct reached his    Then h...
it was not yet final or public.          Rewrite it, put downUntil the account was                    four hundred gallons...
transactions difficult. So        himself to people who woulda subterfuge was often            remember him kindly.followe...
opponent’s skill and strategy,    enough to act with practicalhe was compelled to               cleverness and judgment.ac...
with very little can also      weakens what Jesus actually   be trusted with much,          said, which should be   and wh...
always fail. As Bernard of        conversion or in meetingClairvaux wrote centuries         their needs.ago, “Money no mor...
opportunities, this is hardly    has eternal consequencesshrewdness with money.           (vv.10-12). The principles of   ...
literature about the Duke         Lord, we are acting exactlyof Wellington: “I had an          like the dishonest manager....
prevents bondage to money.       middle ground. Either GodWe can serve God with            owns our wealth or it ownsmoney...
How do we acquire our         term was finished, he wouldmoney? What do we want to         be transported to a particularp...
THE PARABLE                      to set sail for missionaryOF THE                           work among the Muslims,       ...
rewards posed by Peter            but that wealth possessedand then used a parable           him. He would not let go ofto...
“treasure in heaven. . . .          but of reaffirmation. It is notfollow Me.” “If that is true        wrong to focus on r...
66:22). This is the time all     in His glory, reigning withthe disciples longed for.        Him on the earth (Rev. 5:10)....
to receive a hundred wives        man was one of the first. Heor two hundred brothers?          looked like a winner. But ...
what you can never lose.”         Matthew 20:1-16 plungesAnd that answer should be         us into daily life in ancientsu...
day’s end, in accordance          . . . and I will pay youwith Old Testament law            whatever is right” (v.4). They...
News of their good           warning against threefortune quickly spread down      dangers in the service ofthrough the li...
leave the reward to Him, we       our hearts. “Are you enviouswill be overwhelmed by His        because I am generous?”gen...
I was saved as a child,        so much that we shall neverbrought up to love Christ,         be able to pay off our debt.a...
Get your free BibleResources catalog!                            Discovery Series                            booklets can ...
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Jesus parables-about-money

  1. 1. JESUS’ PARABLES ABOUT MONEY F inancial planning is a growing profession. As life- spans lengthen because of advances in healthcare, many will seek counsel to plan for future needs and to manage against theCONTENTS likelihood of shrinking resources. The best financial plan, however, can fail for lack of theThe Art Of kind of wisdom found in Jesus’Accumulation . . . . . . . . . 2 parables about money. Apart fromThe Parable Of an understanding of the valuesThe Rich Fool . . . . . . . . 3 our hearts were made for, allThe Parable Of of our efforts to provide for theThe Shrewd Manager . . 12 future will ultimately fail. In this excerpt of The Parables:The Parable Of Understanding What Jesus Meant,The ComplainingWorkers . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Discovery House author Gary Inrig looks at the teaching of Jesus in three stories about money. We may need other financial planners to help us anticipate tax breaks and retirement benefits, but we will never find anyone with more wisdom and concern for our own well-being than Jesus, our Divine Planner. Martin R. De Haan IIManaging Editor: David Sper Cover Photo: Getty ImagesScripture quotations are from the New International Version, © 1973, 1978, 1984, by theInternational Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishers.This booklet is based on a portion of The Parables: Understanding What Jesus Meant by Gary Inrigpublished by Discovery House Publishers, a non-profit affiliate of RBC Ministries.© 1998,2003 RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan Printed in USA © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. THE ART OF Journal, Fall 1988, p.216). AACCUMULATION breed of preachers baptized this impulse into a “health,T he 1980s will wealth, and prosperity” probably go down theology, epitomized by one in American history preacher’s question, “If theas “the decade of the Mafia can ride around inyuppies.” Much as an Lincoln Continental townearlier era chanted, “You cars, why can’t the King’scan have it all,” the yuppie kids?”slogan became, “You Babyboomers didshould have it all.” The not invent the pursuitearly part of the decade was of possessions, althoughmarked by acquisition and they certainly have refinedconsumption. Economic the art. And the decadedownturns later shifted the of the nineties was notemphasis from the pursuit characterized by any radicalof “more” to the pursuit of turning from materialism.security. But materialism We have been nurtured inreigned supreme—and it a society that seduces withwas not confined to the promise of affluenceyuppies. and measures worth on the A study of contemporary basis of possessions andAmerican youth by the positions. There is nothingCooperative Research inherently wrong withProgram in 1988 professional success,concluded that “they financial security, orare overwhelmingly personal prosperity. Butmaterialistic; interested at some point, a followermore than ever primarily of Jesus Christ crosses thein making money” (Trinity line into enemy territory.2 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. THE PARABLE that they were trampling onOF THE RICH one another” (Lk. 12:1). At the same time, His enemiesFOOL had begun “to oppose HimT he Lord once told a fiercely and to besiege Him group of Pharisees, with questions, waiting to described as people catch Him in something He“who loved money,” that might say” (11:53-54). In“what is highly valued that context of popularamong men is detestable acclaim and deep hostility,in God’s sight” (Lk. 16:15). the Lord called His disciplesUndoubtedly, we value the to bold and fearless witnessfruits of being well-to-do on His behalf (12:1-3).and successful. Could it be One of the men in thethat Jesus detests what we crowd had little interestaspire to? He has a very in such matters. He hadpainful way of probing the come with a family problemcentral nervous system of that was related to anour lives. In the parable of inheritance. Apparentlythe rich fool (Lk. 12:13-21), he was the younger of twoJesus forces all of us to face brothers. According to Jewishsome searching questions law, his older brother wouldabout ourselves. have been both the executor of the estate and the largestJESUS PROBES recipient of the inheritanceTHE HEART and would usually have triedAs Jesus moved toward to maintain the estate intact.Jerusalem, huge crowds were But that wasn’t the youngerdrawn to Him. Luke tells us brother’s plan. He wantedthat “a crowd of many money of his own to usethousands had gathered, so as he pleased. 3 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Since it was common to to embrace when some teachbring disputed points of the us that believers can andlaw to an accredited rabbi, should expect the Lord tohe blurted out his concern provide physical well-beingto Jesus: “Teacher, tell my and prosperity. Even if thisbrother to divide the man was being wronged byinheritance with me” (v.13). his brother, getting his rightsHis words are revealing. He may not have been best fordoesn’t ask the Lord to make him. There is a deeper issuea judgment, but to side with involved, and a greaterhim to provide ammunition danger than being cheatedagainst his brother. Like out of one’s inheritance.many since his time, he It is that danger thewanted to use Jesus to meet Lord had in mind whenhis monetary desires. He turned from the man to The Lord refused to the multitudes (“to them”):be drawn into such a role: “Watch out! Be on your“Man, who appointed Me a guard against all kinds ofjudge or an arbiter between greed; a man’s life does notyou?” (v.14). Jesus had consist in the abundance ofno legal standing as an his possessions” (v.15).accredited rabbi to be The initial words,involved in such cases. But “Watch out! Be on yourmore important, such a task guard!” put the Lord’swas not part of His divine message in neon lights. Thismission. As Leon Morris is not an abstract possibilityobserves, “He came to bring or a theoretical concern.men to God, not property to What Jesus had in view wasman” (The Gospel According not just a sin, but a serious,To St. Luke, p.212). yet subtle, sin. Some sins That is an important truth are clear and recognizable,4 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. and evangelicals are quick the danger of possessions isto label them as evil and that they often arouse thecondemn participation in desire for more.them. Rarely do we see Ivan Boesky, who went togreed as a horrific sin. But prison and paid a fine ofremarkably, Jesus never $100 million for insiderwarned about adultery and trading was, a few yearsdrunkenness in the kind of earlier, the darling of Walldramatic terms He used Street. During that time hehere against covetousness. declared at a graduation The term greed means ceremony at a majorsimply “a consuming desire university, “Greed is allto have more.” It has the right. I want you to know Inuance of a grasping for think greed is healthy. Youmore, a lust to acquire. can be greedy and still feelIt is the very opposite good about yourself.” Asof the contentment that Newsweek later commented,accompanies true godliness “The strangest thing when(1 Tim. 6:6). Someone once we look back will not be justasked John D. Rockefeller that Ivan Boesky could sayhow much money was that at a business schoolenough. “One dollar more,” graduation, but that it washe replied. The beast of greeted with laughter andgreed is never full. It is applause” (Dec. 1, 1986).insatiable. But greed is no laughing We miss the point, matter. It is, in fact, idolatryhowever, if we see (Col. 3:5). The Lord left nocovetousness as an issue of doubt when He said, “Aamount not attitude. The man’s life does not consistpoorest can be greedy; the in the abundance of hisrichest can avoid greed. But possessions” (Lk. 12:15). 5 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. God alone is the source of you. Then who will getlife; God alone controls life; what you have preparedGod alone gives life. for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyoneJESUS PORTRAYS who stores up things forTHE PROBLEM himself but is not richThe Lord was not content to toward God.”give us an abstract warning. Wealth often begetsIn the parable of the rich wealth, and his wealthfool, He introduced us to enabled him to possess landa first-century yuppie. that produced a bumper He told them this parable: crop. There seems to be no “The ground of a certain criticism intended by the fact rich man produced a good of his wealth, his manner of crop. He thought to acquiring it, or its increase. himself, ‘What shall I do? What is decisive is what he I have no place to store chose to do with it. Even my crops.’ Then he said, then, it was not his actions ‘This is what I’ll do. I will so much as his assumptions tear down my barns and that were crucial. Given build bigger ones, and his values, building bigger there I will store all my barns was a wise, pragmatic grain and my goods. And decision. Yet that is precisely I’ll say to myself, “You the question: What were his have plenty of good things values? laid up for many years. We can summarize his Take life easy; eat, drink, view of life with several and be merry.”’ But God phrases that echo through said to him, ‘You fool! the years: This very night your life • “If I’m not good to will be demanded from myself, who will be?”6 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. • “Success with is not a description of possessions shows mental ability but of I’m a success as a spiritual discernment. In the person.” Old Testament language of • “The bigger the barn Psalms and Proverbs, a fool (or car or house), the is an individual who makes better the life.” choices as if God doesn’t • “If money can’t buy exist and who lives as if God happiness, it can at hasn’t spoken. Eleven times least buy pleasure over, we hear “I” and “my” and security.” in this man’s words. For all But in a moment, his intents and purposes, Godbubble burst. God passed does not exist.sentence not only on the rich 2. He was a servant,fool but on every life that is not a master. The richbased on covetousness: “You man was convinced that hefool! This very night your life was in control of his life andwill be demanded from you. that wealth gave him control.Then who will get what you But God’s words to himhave prepared for yourself?” made it clear that he hadThe Lord’s diagnosis was no power over the present:unrelenting in its honesty “This very night your life willand revealing in its insights. be demanded from you.”Three things stand out. The word demanded was 1. He was a fool, a commercial term, used ofnot a success. Almost a loan. At this crisis pointcertainly, in the community’s he discovered a truth thateyes, he was a man to be everyone learns sooner orenvied. In God’s eyes, he later: God owns life, and Hewas a fool to be pitied. The merely loans our earthlyterm fool in biblical language existence to us. At any time 7 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. He can call in His loan. but is not rich toward The fool also had no God” (v.21).power over the future: That last statement“Who will get what you should force each of us tohave prepared for yourself?” ask ourselves, “Am I a foolAs the writer of Ecclesiastes in God’s eyes? What labellamented, “I must leave would He attach to my[my wealth] to the one who life?” The following wordscomes after me. And who spoken by Jim Elliot meritknows whether he will be careful consideration: “Hea wise man or a fool?” is no fool who gives what(Eccl. 2:18-19). he cannot keep to gain 3. He was a pauper, what he cannot lose.”not a rich man. In the There is another type ofmoment of truth, the foolishness the Lord wantswealthy farmer realized that us to recognize. He hashe had worked so hard for described in the parableso little. He had invested the folly that says, “Godin the passing, not in the doesn’t matter” and “I can’tpermanent. What makes get enough.” The power ofdeath hard is the evaluation possessions is that they giveof what we lose by it. This us a feeling of control. Butwas a man who was leaving disciples face another folly,everything behind—the the folly that says “Godbarns he had built, the doesn’t care.” We arepeople he had controlled, tempted to believe thatthe prestige he had if we follow the Lord,acquired. Death stripped renouncing all ourhim bare and revealed him possessions, we mayfor who he was, a man who not have enough.“stores up things for himself8 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. JESUS PRESENTS removes spiritual assurance.THE ALTERNATIVE Telling us not to worryLuke made it clear that isn’t very helpful. Peopleverses 22-34 were addressed who tell us that usuallynot to the crowd but to seem either unrealistic,the disciples. There is an uninformed, or patronizing.implication here that worry is The Lord forces us to thinkone of the besetting sins of about why we are not toChrist-followers. The reason worry. First, He said thatis not hard to discover. The worry is foolish (Lk. 12:22-terms of discipleship are 24). It is falling into the follydemanding. To obey the call of the rich fool who believedis to trust Christ completely, that his life consisted of hisbut what are the implications possessions. But life is moreof that obedience? Financial than food and clothes, andquestions loom large. If God has promised us that HeI say goodbye to all my will care for us, much morepossessions, will the Lord so than He does for Hisreally meet my needs? My creatures, the birds. To worryhead assures me that He will, is foolishly to forget that webut my heart is not quite are God’s valued childrenso certain. The writer of and He is our loving Father.Proverbs put it this way: Second, worry is futile“An anxious heart weighs a (12:25-28). Worry canman down” (Prov. 12:25). shorten life, but it can’tPhysically, this is so. As lengthen it—and God whosomeone has observed, gives beauty to the fields willpeople get ulcers not so much not strip us bare. Anxietyfrom what they eat as from denies the care of God—what eats them. Anxiety also and all to no effect. So thesteals emotional peace and alternative is not to be “care- 9 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. less” but “trust-full.” A little determine what we worrybit of reflection helps us to about.recognize that most worry is Our great need is toabout things that can’t be worry about the right thing.changed (the past), things What is that? “Seek Histhat can’t be controlled (the kingdom.” We do not refrainpresent), or things that might from worrying. We replacenot happen (the future). concern about secondaryHow much better to entrust things with concern aboutourselves to our God! the primary thing. Only His Third, worry is faithless kingdom is worthy of our(12:29-31). To be absorbed ultimate concern.with physical and personal The Siamese twin ofneeds is ultimately to be anxiety is fear, and the Lordcaptured by unbelief. If the addressed fear in verses 32-gospel is really true, our 34. He told us to take drasticlives should be different action with our financialqualitatively from the lives resources and personalof pagans. possessions. We are not to In his book Run Today’s grasp them or trust them. WeRace, Oswald Chambers are rather to dispose of themobserves that “all of our fret by investing them eternally.and worry is caused by In fact, the only way we cancalculating without God.” truly protect our treasures isWorry is the product of an to invest them in heaven.inadequate understanding of Our hearts follow ourour Father. He is the One treasure, and if our treasurewho knows, cares, and acts. is in heaven, so will ourThe way we look at God hearts be. As David Goodingdetermines the way we will writes, “Heaven is scarcely alook at life, and this will reality to a man who is not10 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. prepared to invest hard in heaven. We cancash in it and in its interests; cultivate compassion,but by that same token it not greed. Most of all, webecomes more of a reality to can pursue confidence inthe man who is” (According God, not money.To Luke, p.241). The slogan “In God The crucial issue in life We Trust” is printed on ouris not the amount of our American currency. Finetreasure but the location of words—but do we trust Godit. The rich man’s treasures on our money or with ourwere on earth. He was a fool money? Writing of his slimbecause he built his lifearound what couldn’t lastand what really didn’t Does the sloganmatter. Our call as a disciple “In God We Trust”is to be rich toward God andto have a treasure in heaven mean that we trustthat will not be exhausted. God on our moneyD. L. Moody once said, “It or with our money?does not take long to tellwhere a man’s treasure is. Ina 15-minute conversation financial resources in a timewith most men, you can tell of escalating needs, a friendwhether their treasures are said, “If we find ourselveson earth or in heaven.” sinking, we will not cry No one wants to be ‘uncle.’ Instead, we will crycalled a fool by God. How out ‘Father’ to the One whodo we make sure that knows all our needs anddoesn’t happen? We can possesses all resources.”choose limits, not luxury, so Such a person has learnedour treasure can be invested the wisdom of God. 11 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. THE PARABLE JESUS PRESENTSOF THE SHREWD THE PARABLE OF THE SHREWDMANAGER MANAGER Jesus told His disciples:O ne of the most “There was a rich man common features whose manager was of our Lord’s accused of wasting hisparables is their shock possessions. So he calledvalue. They surprise and him in and asked him,startle. The “heroes” are the ‘What is this I hear aboutmost unexpected people. you? Give an account ofThat is particularly true your management,of the parable of the because you cannot beunrighteous steward (Lk. manager any longer.’ The16:1-13). It is a story that manager said to himself,has stirred controversy and ‘What shall I do now? Mydebate among interpreters. master is taking away myBut despite the questions it job. I’m not strong enoughhas raised, it confronts us to dig, and I’m ashamed towith an essential truth beg—I know what I’ll doabout life as a disciple. so that, when I lose my jobThe parable is given first in here, people will welcomeverses 1-8 and is followed me into their houses.’ Soby the Lord’s elaboration of he called in each one ofthe principles the story is his master’s debtors. Heintended to teach. asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take12 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. your bill, sit down quickly, possessions. News of his and make it four hundred.’ misconduct reached his Then he asked the second, employer. And when he was ‘And how much do you confronted with the charge owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of dereliction of duty, the of wheat,’ he replied. man had no answer to give. He told him, ‘Take There is a great similarity your bill and make it in this story to the parable of eight hundred.’ The master the unforgiving servant in commended the dishonest Matthew 18. The repetition manager because he of these circumstances had acted shrewdly” shows that violation of trust (Lk. 16:1-8). was just as common in the This parable takes us into ancient world as it is today.the world of finance and Certainly the man deservedresponsibility. The manager to be fired from his job. Butwas a steward. That is, he it is important to notice thewas an employee, perhaps manager’s precise positionof an absentee landlord, after his master said,who had been given control “Give an account of yourover his master’s business management, because youand assets. Clearly, his cannot be manager anyresponsibility was to use this longer” (v.2)trust to further his master’s Modern companiesinterests, not his own. But generally tell firedthe temptation to divert employees to clean out theirfunds for his own purposes desks immediately, or theyand pleasures proved too have it done for them. Butstrong. He wasted the this manager was given amoney, violating his trust window of opportunity. Hisand mishandling his master’s dismissal was inevitable, but 13 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. it was not yet final or public. Rewrite it, put downUntil the account was four hundred gallons,rendered, he had some room and I’ll sign it.”for movement. Still, time • “How much do youwas short, and immediate owe?” “A thousandaction was imperative. He bushels of wheat.”had no time to waste. “Here, make it eight It is here that the man’s hundred and I’ll signshrewdness is revealed. it.”He knew his options were We don’t know enoughlimited. He was too weak for about first-century businessmanual labor, and he was practices to be certain oftoo proud to beg. Unless he what was going on here.acted quickly, one of those Some commentators aremight be his fate. But he convinced that the wholeknew the adage, “Scratch my business was fraudulent andback, and I’ll scratch yours.” that he was implicatingPerhaps he could do favors these people in cheating hisfor a few people so that they boss. That is possible, butwould be beholden to him. since these people would His plan was very simple. presumably continue to doHe began to call in his business with the rich man,master’s customers and alter it seems rather unlikely.their bills. After all, he had It is more likely that themanaged the accounts and transaction was subtlestill had legal authority to and semi-legal.act on his master’s behalf. According to Mosaic law, • “How much do you Jewish businessmen were owe?” “Eight hundred not allowed to charge gallons of olive oil.” interest to fellow Jews. “Here’s your old I.O.U. But that made commercial14 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. transactions difficult. So himself to people who woulda subterfuge was often remember him kindly.followed. When money was The parable closes withloaned, it was illegal to write the statement, “The mastera bill stating any interest. commended the dishonestSo written bills generally manager because he hadshowed only one amount: acted shrewdly” (v.8). It’sthe principal loaned plus the important to see what wasinterest and the manager’s and what was not said. Thefees. This amount was master did not say that heoften stated in terms ofcommodities (oil, wheat)rather than money. In this The master did notway, it would appear that say that he wasthe law was being followed. pleased by his If this was so, thesteward was probably steward’s actions,discounting the face value but he did say heof the notes by suspending was impressed.the interest charges. Sincethese charges were not legalwithin Jewish law, his master was pleased by his steward’shad no ground of action actions, but he did say heagainst him. Presumably, the was impressed. The managerdebtors would be suspicious had tied his employer’sof the reasons but would hands and achieved his ownaccept the offer gladly. He ends. The master certainlyhad therefore tied his did not commend themaster’s hands effectively, manager’s earlier dishonesty,stayed within the bounds but, like a defeated athleteof legality, and ingratiated commenting wryly on his 15 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. opponent’s skill and strategy, enough to act with practicalhe was compelled to cleverness and judgment.acknowledge the man’s The story is troubling.success. Even though this shrewd Since the word shrewd manager may seem to beis the key to the story, it is a hero, he’s not. But in hisimportant to consider its actions, dubious as theymeaning carefully. The Greek are, we can see a qualityword means “to act with demonstrated that disciplesforesight,” and is illustrated of the Lord are required toin Jesus’ discourse by the demonstrate if they are towise man (literally, the live effectively in the world.shrewd man) who built his That quality is elaboratedhouse on the rock in in the Lord’s continuinganticipation of a coming discussion.storm (Mt. 7:24). It alsodescribes the five “wise” JESUS DISCUSSES(shrewd) virgins who brought THE PRINCIPLESextra oil anticipating future OF SHREWDneed (Mt. 25:1-13). This DISCIPLESHIPwas the dishonest manager’s The people of thisquality. He acted decisively world are more shrewdin the present to position in dealing with their ownhimself for the future. His kind than are the peoplebehavior was consistent of the light. I tell you, usewith his circumstances. He worldly wealth to gainrecognized his crisis and friends for yourselves,seized his opportunity so that when it is gone,because he had his eye you will be welcomedon the future, not just the into eternal dwellings.present. He was astute Whoever can be trusted16 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. with very little can also weakens what Jesus actually be trusted with much, said, which should be and whoever is dishonest translated “the mammon of with very little will also unrighteousness.” Mammon be dishonest with much. is an interesting term that So if you have not been includes not only money but trustworthy in handling also possessions. The Lord worldly wealth, who will made it clear that mammon trust you with true riches? has enormous power. It is And if you have not been not simply neutral. When trustworthy with someone it is not placed under the else’s property, who will authority of Christ, it give you property of your becomes a rival god and own? No servant can leads to evil. Thus, it is not serve two masters. Either simply “worldly wealth” but he will hate the one and “unrighteous mammon.” love the other, or he will The Lord called us to be devoted to the one and recognize the limits of despise the other. You wealth. “So that when it is cannot serve both God gone” (v.9) means literally and Money (Lk. 16:8-13). “when it fails,” a reference Shrewd Disciples to death, not debt. Paul putUse Money To Achieve it this way: “We broughtEternal Goals. The Lord’s nothing into the world, andfirst message in Luke 16:8- we can take nothing out of13 is that shrewdness with it” (1 Tim. 6:7). Shrewdnessmoney can achieve eternal forces us to recognize thatgoals. In verse 9 He said, money is powerful but“Use worldly wealth to gain limited, temporary, andfriends for yourselves.” The temporal. Part of itsphrase “worldly wealth” character is that it will 17 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. always fail. As Bernard of conversion or in meetingClairvaux wrote centuries their needs.ago, “Money no more Few experiences are assatisfies the hunger of the satisfying as visiting an areamind than air supplies the where you once lived andbody’s need for bread.” ministered, and havingCertainly that is true at people line up to tell you ofthe time of death. No your influence in their lives,one takes it with him. much of it totally unguessed Shrewdness with money or unrecognized. Imaginealso focuses on how it can that kind of reception inbe used for eternal purposes. heaven!Jesus said, “Gain friends for The Lord calls us to useyourselves, so that . . . you money shrewdly for eternalwill be welcomed [by them] reasons. Yet statistics tell usinto eternal dwellings” (v.9). that as the rate of disposableEvery believer will be income (adjusted forwelcomed into heaven, inflation) increased 31but not all will have the percent among members ofsame number of friends to 31 Protestant denominationswelcome them. When our between 1968 and 1985,money is used to meet the only 2 percent of thatneeds of fellow believers disposable income wasand when money is used given to churches andto spread the gospel, we can Christian organizationsbe sure that there will be (Chicago Tribune, July 31,eternal consequences. Our 1988). In other words, 98gracious Father will reveal percent of the increase wentto our fellow-saints how to support people’s lifestyles.our use of money was In a world of escalatinginstrumental in their needs and exciting18 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  19. 19. opportunities, this is hardly has eternal consequencesshrewdness with money. (vv.10-12). The principles of Believers also need to stewardship are very simple.live shrewdly—to strategize, The first principle is theto plan, to dream, and to main requirement: “It isuse ingenuity and creativity. required that those whoRadical times require radical have been given a trust mustsolutions, as the parable of prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).the dishonest manager The second principle is theillustrated. The Lord is not reward, explained herecalling us to business as in verse 10 by the Lord:usual. The shrewd disciple “Whoever can be trustedneeds to ask, “How can I with very little can also bemaximize my money for trusted with much, andeternity?” We must be whoever is dishonest withcareful not to spend or give very little will also becarelessly, sentimentally, or dishonest with much.”impulsively. The Lord calls It is in the little thingsus to be hard-nosed, clear- that we prove ourselves. Aseyed, forward-looking, the great missionary Hudsonastute people. Taylor once observed, “A Shrewd Disciples little thing is a little thing;Use Money In but faithfulness in a littleLight Of Eternal thing is a great thing.”Consequences. There Faithfulness withare three primary messages money is primarily anin Luke 16:8-13. The first is issue of character. A modernthat shrewdness with money biographer explained with acan achieve eternal goals. very perceptive commentThe second is this: why he was adding yetStewardship of money another biography to the 19 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  20. 20. literature about the Duke Lord, we are acting exactlyof Wellington: “I had an like the dishonest manager.advantage over earlier We are owners of nothing,biographers. I found an old stewards of everything.account ledger that showed What we possess is to behow the Duke spent his used to further the Master’smoney. It was a far better purposes and goals. Theclue to what he thought primary value of earthlywas really important than wealth is that it is a tool tothe reading of his letters or train us to handle “truespeeches.” This is even riches,” which refers to themore true of the account affairs of the kingdom.of a disciple. Shrewd people, then, use Shrewdness causes money in the light of eternalus to view “mammon” in consequences. This includesan interesting way. The opportunities to serve theparallelism of verses 10-12 Lord Jesus in furthering Hisequates “very little” (v.10), purposes on earth as well as“worldly wealth” (v.11), and the privileges of service we“someone else’s property” will enjoy in heaven.(v.12). At the same time it Shrewd Disciplesequates “much” (v.10), “true Recognize Thatriches” (v.11), and “property Stewardship Of Moneyof your own” (v.12). Present Prevents Bondage Towealth, said the Lord, is Money. The third messagereally a very little thing. in Luke 16:8-13 is found inIn fact, it is not ours at all. verse 13: “You cannot serveWe are stewards, not both God and Money.”owners. If we use our In other words, shrewdpresent possessions as if disciples recognize thatthey belong to us, not the stewardship of money20 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  21. 21. prevents bondage to money. middle ground. Either GodWe can serve God with owns our wealth or it ownsmoney, but we can never us. As Henry Fielding onceserve God and money. wrote, “Make money yourA choice is inescapable. god and it will plague youWe can have only one like the devil.”master. Jesus wants us to We all serve somethingunderstand that we do not or someone. There is nohave the option of being the partial discipleship to Jesus,masters of mammon. We and there is no part-timecan be stewards of it or we employment by mammon.can be servants of it, but We must choose ourthose are our only options. ultimate loyalty. When weMammon always strives to choose the Lord as our soletake the place of God. master, He does not remove our money. In fact, He takes the money and transforms it Stewardship of into an ally. The same dollar money prevents that places a bet, pays abondage to money. prostitute, or purchases “crack” cocaine also buysWe can serve God a Bible, digs a well, or with money, but supports a missionary. Thewe can never serve same dollar the shrewd manager uses to pave his God and money. way into a golden future, a shrewd disciple uses to The Lord used a vivid invest in eternal friendships.personification in this But the difference is thediscussion to force us to product of a choice ofrecognize the absence of masters. 21 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  22. 22. How do we acquire our term was finished, he wouldmoney? What do we want to be transported to a particularpurchase with our money? island and abandoned.When and how do we give His delight wasour money? Where should replaced with distress.we employ our resources? Then he devised a shrewdThese are the questions a plan. Over the next monthsshrewd disciple asks as he he sent members of the tribeemulates this strange “hero,” to clear and till the othera man who acted decisively island. He had them buildwith his resources in the a beautiful house, furnish it,present to maximize his and plant crops. He sentopportunities in the future. some chosen friends to live The story is told of a man there and wait for him.shipwrecked on a lonely, Then, when his time of exileunknown island. To his came, he was put in a placesurprise, he found that he that was carefully preparedwas not alone. A large tribe and full of friends who wereof people shared his island. delighted to receive him.To his pleasure, he Disciples are not headeddiscovered that they treated to a desert island. Ourhim very well. In fact, they destination is the Father’splaced him on a throne and home. Yet the preparationscatered to his every desire. we make here follow usHe was delighted but there. If we are shrewd,perplexed. Why such royal there will be eternal friendstreatment? As his ability to and eternal rewards to greetcommunicate increased, he us. Fools serve money anddiscovered that the tribal leave it all behind. Shrewdcustom was to choose a king believers serve God andfor a year. Then, when his invest in eternity.22 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  23. 23. THE PARABLE to set sail for missionaryOF THE work among the Muslims, first in Egypt to learn ArabicCOMPLAINING and then, ultimately, to aWORKERS remote part of China. To the public and theB ill Borden was born media, and even to many of a blue blood and his Christian friends, Borden’s brought up with a actions seemed incrediblysilver spoon in his mouth. wasteful, especially whenHis parents were both he died of cerebrospinaldescended from British meningitis shortly afteraristocracy, and his father reaching Cairo. He hadhad made a fortune in real apparently thrown away hisestate in Chicago and in money, his career, and evensilver mining in Colorado. his life. To what end?Bill was already worth a What makes a Bill Bordenmillion dollars by the age tick? What makes a personof 21, an amount in 1908 turn his back on virtuallyequivalent to about 40 everything most people valuemillion dollars today. He was to live in obedience to whatalso handsome, intelligent, he believes to be the will ofwell-educated, and popular. God? What’s in it for him? But in 1912, at the age What are the returns onof 25, Bill Borden did two that kind of investment?things that made headlines. Why do we serve theFirst, he gave away his Lord Jesus? This brings usentire fortune, half to to an interesting discussionGod’s work in the United between the Lord and HisStates and half to missions disciples in which Heoverseas. Second, he chose addressed the question of 23 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  24. 24. rewards posed by Peter but that wealth possessedand then used a parable him. He would not let go ofto provoke them and us wealth to take hold of theinto deeper thought about eternal life offered by the Sonspiritual motivation. As of God. His trust was in hisMatthew recounted the story, wealth, not in his God.the discussion followed the In a society where wealthLord’s encounter with the was often seen to be a signrich young ruler (19:16-26). of divine approval and acceptance, the Lord madeTHE PROMISE a statement that startled theOF REWARDS: disciples: “It is easier for aThe Blessing Of camel to go through the eyeDiscipleship of a needle than for a richA study in Psychology Today man to enter the kingdom ofin May 1981 probed the God” (Mt. 19:24). Salvationinfluence of money on is not the attainment of thepeople’s lives. One of its rich or successful. It is a giftconclusions was that people of God’s grace, freely givenwho are the most money- and humbly received.conscious are much less Peter was not affected bylikely to be involved in a the drama of salvation beingsatisfactory love relationship enacted before him so muchand tend to be troubled by as by the Lord’s promise toconstant worry, anxiety, and the rich young man: “Go,loneliness. The story of the sell your possessions andrich young ruler sadly but give to the poor, and youeloquently reveals the power will have treasure in heaven.of money to control one’s life. Then come, follow Me”The young man’s tragedy was (v.21). Peter’s mind had beennot that he possessed wealth riveted by the implications of24 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  25. 25. “treasure in heaven. . . . but of reaffirmation. It is notfollow Me.” “If that is true wrong to focus on rewardsfor him, what about us?” he and eternal blessings, or tomust have mused. “I left my desire “treasure in heaven.”nets and followed Jesus. The Lord often extends theWhat about my treasure?” promise of rewards in theFinally Peter blurted out his Gospels (Mt. 5:10-12; 6:19-concern: “We have left 21; 10:41-42; 24:45-47;everything to follow You! 25:20-23). These are notWhat then will there be for demeaning bribes or theus?” (v.27). incentive programs of a sales Only a person who is organization. They are ratherbadly self-deceived is hard on the appropriate results of aPeter. We may not be very life pleasing to the God whoproud of the “what’s-in-it-for- “rewards those who earnestlyme?” feeling, but it bubbles in seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).all of us, sometimes closer to So the Lord directedthe surface than at other Peter’s attention to thetimes. We sing, “It pays to millennial kingdom, “theserve Jesus, it pays every renewal of all things, whenday. It pays every step of the the Son of Man sits on Hisway.” But sometimes the pay glorious throne” (Mt. 19:28).seems long overdue. We face This is the time prophesiedfatigue, frustration, failure, or throughout the Oldphysical illness instead of Testament, when God willblessing, joy, and fulfillment. establish the kingdom of“What’s in it for me? When Messiah on the earth inand how do I get some of this power and glory (Dan. 7:13-treasure?” 22), and creation itself will The Lord’s response to become “new heavens andPeter was not one of rebuke a new earth” (Isa. 65:17; 25 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  26. 26. 66:22). This is the time all in His glory, reigning withthe disciples longed for. Him on the earth (Rev. 5:10). Not only will the Lord In fact, we will not only judgeJesus sit on the throne of the world, we will exerciseglory in the new earth, but judgment over the angelsthe apostles will share His (1 Cor. 6:1-3). I don’t knowglory. “You who have all that this entails, but thefollowed Me will also sit on promise is clear. Believers intwelve thrones, judging the Christ are the royal family oftwelve tribes of Israel” (Mt. Messiah’s kingdom, and part19:28). It’s impossible to of our “treasure in heaven”describe how the Twelve will be to share in His regalmight have received this authority and splendor.news. As Jews, they had But on what basis will thislonged for Messiah and had privilege be granted? In versestaked everything on Jesus 29 the Lord established thebeing the Promised One. principle of rewards. PresentTheir reward would go sacrifice produces eternalbeyond their wildest dreams: privilege. “Everyone whoWhen Israel was the greatest has left houses or brothers ornation on earth, they would sisters or father or mother orrule over it, as subordinates children or fields for My sakeof King Jesus Himself! will receive a hundred times The promise made in as much and will inheritMatthew 19:28 is a very eternal life.” Mark, in hisspecific one, made to the account, adds that we willtwelve apostles. But there is “receive a hundred times asan extension of this promise much in this present age”to all believers. When Jesus (Mk. 10:30). Obviously, thisreturns, we who are His co- equation is not to be pressedheirs (Rom. 8:17) will share literally. After all, who wants26 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  27. 27. to receive a hundred wives man was one of the first. Heor two hundred brothers? looked like a winner. But inWe could try to twist the the crucible of decisionstatement into a formula for about Christ, he made amaterialistic gain: “I give choice that excluded him$100, I get $10,000.” On that from true wealth. Those whobasis, we would be worse look like winners from athan the rich young ruler, human perspective are oftenand his tragedy would not life’s losers. Conversely,be that he loved money more “many who are last will bethan God but that he didn’t first.” The disciples representknow a good investment the “last.” Uprooted fromwhen he saw one! family and vocation, they No, the Lord’s point is to wandered as the vagabondsay that there is a blessing followers of a rejected leader.both now and in eternity Like Bill Borden, they hadthat is all out of proportion taken a huge risk andto the cost of discipleship. apparently had come upWhatever losses following empty. But appearances canChrist entails (and there are be deceiving. When they arelosses—we leave things seated on their millennialbehind), the Savior Himself thrones alongside King Jesus,will repay richly. Following they will be revealed asmay not feel like it pays, God’s first on the earth.but in God’s time and way Peter’s question, “Lord,it certainly does. what’s in it for us?” has been So the Lord summarized answered. In essence, Jesuswith two points. “Many who told him, “More, Peter, thanare first will be last” (Mt. you can ever imagine.19:30). From an earthly You have given what youperspective, the rich young couldn’t keep; you will gain 27 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  28. 28. what you can never lose.” Matthew 20:1-16 plungesAnd that answer should be us into daily life in ancientsufficient for every one of us. Israel. It is worth noting thatAlthough we do not see the Lord was an astutethem all now, there are observer of life. His storiesblessings and rewards. have the ring of authenticity There is a troubling note because they happen whereto Peter’s question that must people live. We shouldstill be dealt with. Behind notice that this story is not“What’s in it for me?” there designed to teach us aboutlurks a commercial spirit labor-management relationsthat misses the essence of or about salvation or evenChristian living. It is that about rewards. The Lordunderlying attitude, present wants us to think about thenot only in Peter but also in attitude of heart with whichus, that the Lord addresses a disciple should serve Him.in the parable of the workers Day laborers were ain the vineyard, recorded in common fact of life inMatthew 20:1-16. The line the Lord’s time. In thiswith which the parable ends agricultural society, therelinks it closely to the last were no labor unions andphrase of chapter 19, which few contract employees.we have just discussed. Men looking for work would gather at a convenient spotTHE PARABLE OF in the town’s marketplace,THE COMPLAINING and those requiring helpWORKERS: would recruit the men theyThe Motivation needed. A rate of payFor Discipleship would be arranged, theLike so many of the Lord’s work would be done, andstories, this parable in workers would be paid at28 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  29. 29. day’s end, in accordance . . . and I will pay youwith Old Testament law whatever is right” (v.4). They(Lev. 19:13; Dt. 24:14-15). agreed and went with no The story itself is contractual agreement, butstraightforward. At 6:00 a.m. simply with an opportunitya vineyard owner went into to trust the landowner’sthe marketplace to hire promise and character. Threeworkers. They agreed to a fair more times the process waswage and set off to do the repeated—at noon, at 3:00work. There is no suggestion p.m. and at 5:00 p.m.that they possessed any When the day was done,particular skills or abilities the owner ordered histhat made them more foreman to pay the workers,desirable employees than the beginning with those whoothers. They were available, had worked for only oneagreed to terms, and set hour and continuing to thoseabout their task. who had worked for a full But for some reason the day. When the 1-hourlandowner felt the need for workers were paid, they weremore workers. Perhaps bad astonished to discover thatweather threatened the they had received a full day’scrop or a contract required wage, a denarius. Obviously,immediate harvesting. they hadn’t earned thatMore likely, he saw the much. But a family could notunemployed workers and live on less than a denariusdesired to help them. For a day, so the owner hadwhatever reason, he returned generously paid them notat 9:00 a.m. and saw men what they deserved but whatwho were willing to work but they needed. Apparently inunemployed. He made them his view, people mattereda simple offer: “Go and work more than profits. 29 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  30. 30. News of their good warning against threefortune quickly spread down dangers in the service ofthrough the line, and the a disciple.12-hour workers excitedly The Danger Of Aanticipated receiving a Commercial Spirit. Anbonanza. “If they got one old rabbinic story is verydenarius, we should get similar to the Lord’s parable,twelve!” By the time they but the punch line is entirelyreached the front, they had different. When the protest isalready spent their bonuses made, the answer silencesin their minds. Imagine their the objectors: “This manchagrin to discover their pay has done more in 2 hoursto be one denarius! This than you did all day.” Wewas exactly what they had understand that response.contracted for (20:2), but it It is fair that wages earnedhardly seemed fair. “They should correspond to workonly worked 1 hour and done. Unions may protest,we’ve put in 12 full hours in but we understand thethe burning heat of the day. equity principle—payHow can you call that fair?” equal to work done. The owner’s answer was But kingdom economicsstraightforward. He told are very different. If we workthem that their pay was fair for wages, we will get exactlybecause it was exactly what what we desire, no morethey contracted for. But and no less. We becomethose who didn’t work as hirelings, dependent uponlong were being paid our bargaining skills. Howgenerously, not fairly. much better to be children, In the landowner’s voice dependent upon our Father’swe hear our Lord’s gentle generosity. Our service doesrebuke of Peter. It is a not put us in His debt. If we30 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  31. 31. leave the reward to Him, we our hearts. “Are you enviouswill be overwhelmed by His because I am generous?”generosity. (v.15). Who do we think we The Danger Of A are to complain about theCompetitive Spirit. eternally holy, righteousWhen the 12-hour workers God? It was the continualsaw the 1-hour workers and murmuring and complainingcompared themselves to of Israel in the wildernessthem, “they expected to that aroused God’s anger.receive more” (v.10). When Murmuring is an infectioustheir eyes focused on what social disease that robs usothers had received, they and all those around us ofwere unable to receive their joy. Those who focus on theirown wages with joy. Saul supposed deprivation anddelighted in his victory over who lament the cost of theirthe Philistines, but when he discipleship have missed theheard David praised more wonder of the grace andhighly than he had been, his generosity of our God.heart turned to stone (1 Sam. The Lord concluded His18:1-16). Nothing is less parable with a statementappropriate in disciples than reminiscent of Matthewcomparison and competition. 19:30, “So the last will be The Danger Of A first, and the first will beComplaining Spirit. last” (v.16). Here, however,“They began to grumble the contrast is not betweenagainst the landowner” (Mt. disciples and nondisciples. It20:11). Such grumbling, the is a reminder that externalLord revealed, is an attack on circumstances are not thethe goodness and generosity key to eternal rewards. Theof God Himself. Furthermore, “first,” here, are the 6:00it exposes the corruption of a.m. workers. 31 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  32. 32. I was saved as a child, so much that we shall neverbrought up to love Christ, be able to pay off our debt.and given the privilege of Can that be called sacrificeministry at an early age. which gives us the deepestI am much like those “first” satisfaction, which developspeople. Friends of mine were our best powers, and givesnot saved until much later us the greatest hopes andin life than I, and their expectations? Away withopportunities for Christian this word. It is anything butministry are sometimes a sacrifice. Rather, call it asmaller than mine. Will ‘privilege’!”those circumstances of life The apostle Peter’s greatqualify them only for a lesser mistake was that he countedreward? No. God rewards the the cost and computed thefaithful heart, and generosity reward without consideringtouches all He does. the privilege of service On December 4, 1857, on (Mt. 19:27).the threshold of his return to Why do we serve theAfrica, David Livingstone Lord? Fear? Duty? Prestige?tried to put into words the Reward? Motives are nevermotives that shaped his life: entirely pure, and a variety“I personally have never of factors propel us. But weceased to rejoice that God certainly aren’t hirelings,has entrusted me with His serving for wages. We areservice. People talk a lot God’s children, delightingabout the sacrifice involved in His work and trustingin devoting my life to Africa. in His generosity.But can this be called asacrifice at all if we give backto God a ‘little of what weowe Him’? And we owe Him z Author Gary Inrig is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and currently pastors Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Redlands, California.32 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  33. 33. Get your free BibleResources catalog! Discovery Series booklets can be valuable guides to help you learn what the Bible says about a broad range of topics. Each 32-page booklet can be used in your personal Bible study or in a small-group setting. Your free Bible Resources catalog includes a briefdescription of each Discovery Series booklet.To get your copy, write to us at the address belowand ask for a catalog. Or follow the link below torequest your copy today.www.discoveryseries.org/catalogUSA: PO Box 2222, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2222Canada: Box 1622, Windsor, ON N9A 6Z7

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