Jesus Parables About Money


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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 the CONTENTS likelihood of shrinking resources. The best financial plan, however, can fail for lack of the The Art Of kind of wisdom found in Jesus’ Accumulation . . . . . . . . . 2 parables about money. Apart from The Parable Of an understanding of the values The Rich Fool . . . . . . . . 3 our hearts were made for, all The Parable Of of our efforts to provide for the The Shrewd Manager . . 12 future will ultimately fail. In this excerpt of The Parables: The Parable Of Understanding What Jesus Meant, The Complaining Workers . . . . . . . . . . . 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 II Managing Editor: David Sper Cover Photo: Getty Images Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © 1973, 1978, 1984, by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishers. This booklet is based on a portion of The Parables: Understanding What Jesus Meant by Gary Inrig published 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). A ACCUMULATION 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 the as “the decade of the Mafia can ride around in yuppies.” Much as an Lincoln Continental town earlier era chanted, “You cars, why can’t the King’s can have it all,” the yuppie kids?” slogan became, “You Babyboomers did should have it all.” The not invent the pursuit early part of the decade was of possessions, although marked by acquisition and they certainly have refined consumption. Economic the art. And the decade downturns later shifted the of the nineties was not emphasis from the pursuit characterized by any radical of “more” to the pursuit of turning from materialism. security. But materialism We have been nurtured in reigned supreme—and it a society that seduces with was not confined to the promise of affluence yuppies. and measures worth on the A study of contemporary basis of possessions and American youth by the positions. There is nothing Cooperative Research inherently wrong with Program in 1988 professional success, concluded that “they financial security, or are overwhelmingly personal prosperity. But materialistic; interested at some point, a follower more than ever primarily of Jesus Christ crosses the in making money” (Trinity line into enemy territory. 2 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. THE PARABLE that they were trampling on OF THE RICH one another” (Lk. 12:1). At the same time, His enemies FOOL had begun “to oppose Him T 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 popular among men is detestable acclaim and deep hostility, in God’s sight” (Lk. 16:15). the Lord called His disciples Undoubtedly, we value the to bold and fearless witness fruits of being well-to-do on His behalf (12:1-3). and successful. Could it be One of the men in the that Jesus detests what we crowd had little interest aspire to? He has a very in such matters. He had painful way of probing the come with a family problem central nervous system of that was related to an our lives. In the parable of inheritance. Apparently the rich fool (Lk. 12:13-21), he was the younger of two Jesus forces all of us to face brothers. According to Jewish some searching questions law, his older brother would about ourselves. have been both the executor of the estate and the largest JESUS PROBES recipient of the inheritance THE HEART and would usually have tried As Jesus moved toward to maintain the estate intact. Jerusalem, huge crowds were But that wasn’t the younger drawn to Him. Luke tells us brother’s plan. He wanted that “a crowd of many money of his own to use thousands had gathered, so as he pleased. 3 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Since it was common to to embrace when some teach bring disputed points of the us that believers can and law to an accredited rabbi, should expect the Lord to he blurted out his concern provide physical well-being to Jesus: “Teacher, tell my and prosperity. Even if this brother to divide the man was being wronged by inheritance with me” (v.13). his brother, getting his rights His words are revealing. He may not have been best for doesn’t ask the Lord to make him. There is a deeper issue a judgment, but to side with involved, and a greater him to provide ammunition danger than being cheated against his brother. Like out of one’s inheritance. many since his time, he It is that danger the wanted to use Jesus to meet Lord had in mind when his 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 of judge or an arbiter between greed; a man’s life does not you?” (v.14). Jesus had consist in the abundance of no legal standing as an his possessions” (v.15). accredited rabbi to be The initial words, involved in such cases. But “Watch out! Be on your more important, such a task guard!” put the Lord’s was not part of His divine message in neon lights. This mission. As Leon Morris is not an abstract possibility observes, “He came to bring or a theoretical concern. men to God, not property to What Jesus had in view was man” (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 is to label them as evil and that they often arouse the condemn participation in desire for more. them. Rarely do we see Ivan Boesky, who went to greed as a horrific sin. But prison and paid a fine of remarkably, Jesus never $100 million for insider warned about adultery and trading was, a few years drunkenness in the kind of earlier, the darling of Wall dramatic terms He used Street. During that time he here against covetousness. declared at a graduation The term greed means ceremony at a major simply “a consuming desire university, “Greed is all to have more.” It has the right. I want you to know I nuance of a grasping for think greed is healthy. You more, a lust to acquire. can be greedy and still feel It is the very opposite good about yourself.” As of 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 just asked John D. Rockefeller that Ivan Boesky could say how much money was that at a business school enough. “One dollar more,” graduation, but that it was he replied. The beast of greeted with laughter and greed is never full. It is applause” (Dec. 1, 1986). insatiable. But greed is no laughing We miss the point, matter. It is, in fact, idolatry however, if we see (Col. 3:5). The Lord left no covetousness as an issue of doubt when He said, “A amount not attitude. The man’s life does not consist poorest can be greedy; the in the abundance of his richest 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 get life; God alone controls life; what you have prepared God alone gives life. for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone JESUS PORTRAYS who stores up things for THE PROBLEM himself but is not rich The Lord was not content to toward God.” give us an abstract warning. Wealth often begets In the parable of the rich wealth, and his wealth fool, He introduced us to enabled him to possess land a 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, God bubble 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 rich based on covetousness: “You man was convinced that he fool! This very night your life was in control of his life and will be demanded from you. that wealth gave him control. Then who will get what you But God’s words to him have prepared for yourself?” made it clear that he had The Lord’s diagnosis was no power over the present: unrelenting in its honesty “This very night your life will and 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 of not a success. Almost a loan. At this crisis point certainly, in the community’s he discovered a truth that eyes, he was a man to be everyone learns sooner or envied. In God’s eyes, he later: God owns life, and He was a fool to be pitied. The merely loans our earthly term 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 to have prepared for yourself?” ask ourselves, “Am I a fool As the writer of Ecclesiastes in God’s eyes? What label lamented, “I must leave would He attach to my [my wealth] to the one who life?” The following words comes after me. And who spoken by Jim Elliot merit knows whether he will be careful consideration: “He a 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 of moment of truth, the foolishness the Lord wants wealthy farmer realized that us to recognize. He has he had worked so hard for described in the parable so little. He had invested the folly that says, “God in the passing, not in the doesn’t matter” and “I can’t permanent. What makes get enough.” The power of death hard is the evaluation possessions is that they give of what we lose by it. This us a feeling of control. But was a man who was leaving disciples face another folly, everything behind—the the folly that says “God barns he had built, the doesn’t care.” We are people he had controlled, tempted to believe that the prestige he had if we follow the Lord, acquired. Death stripped renouncing all our him bare and revealed him possessions, we may for who he was, a man who not have enough. “stores up things for himself 8 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. JESUS PRESENTS removes spiritual assurance. THE ALTERNATIVE Telling us not to worry Luke made it clear that isn’t very helpful. People verses 22-34 were addressed who tell us that usually not 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 think one of the besetting sins of about why we are not to Christ-followers. The reason worry. First, He said that is not hard to discover. The worry is foolish (Lk. 12:22- terms of discipleship are 24). It is falling into the folly demanding. To obey the call of the rich fool who believed is to trust Christ completely, that his life consisted of his but what are the implications possessions. But life is more of that obedience? Financial than food and clothes, and questions loom large. If God has promised us that He I say goodbye to all my will care for us, much more possessions, will the Lord so than He does for His really meet my needs? My creatures, the birds. To worry head assures me that He will, is foolishly to forget that we but my heart is not quite are God’s valued children so 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 can man down” (Prov. 12:25). shorten life, but it can’t Physically, this is so. As lengthen it—and God who someone has observed, gives beauty to the fields will people get ulcers not so much not strip us bare. Anxiety from what they eat as from denies the care of God— what eats them. Anxiety also and all to no effect. So the steals 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 worry bit of reflection helps us to about. recognize that most worry is Our great need is to about things that can’t be worry about the right thing. changed (the past), things What is that? “Seek His that can’t be controlled (the kingdom.” We do not refrain present), or things that might from worrying. We replace not happen (the future). concern about secondary How much better to entrust things with concern about ourselves 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 of needs is ultimately to be anxiety is fear, and the Lord captured by unbelief. If the addressed fear in verses 32- gospel is really true, our 34. He told us to take drastic lives should be different action with our financial qualitatively from the lives resources and personal of pagans. possessions. We are not to In his book Run Today’s grasp them or trust them. We Race, Oswald Chambers are rather to dispose of them observes that “all of our fret by investing them eternally. and worry is caused by In fact, the only way we can calculating without God.” truly protect our treasures is Worry is the product of an to invest them in heaven. inadequate understanding of Our hearts follow our our Father. He is the One treasure, and if our treasure who knows, cares, and acts. is in heaven, so will our The way we look at God hearts be. As David Gooding determines the way we will writes, “Heaven is scarcely a look at life, and this will reality to a man who is not 10 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. prepared to invest hard in heaven. We can cash in it and in its interests; cultivate compassion, but by that same token it not greed. Most of all, we becomes more of a reality to can pursue confidence in the 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 our is not the amount of our American currency. Fine treasure but the location of words—but do we trust God it. The rich man’s treasures on our money or with our were on earth. He was a fool money? Writing of his slim because he built his life around what couldn’t last and what really didn’t Does the slogan matter. Our call as a disciple “In God We Trust” is to be rich toward God and to have a treasure in heaven mean that we trust that will not be exhausted. God on our money D. L. Moody once said, “It or with our money? does not take long to tell where a man’s treasure is. In a 15-minute conversation financial resources in a time with most men, you can tell of escalating needs, a friend whether their treasures are said, “If we find ourselves on earth or in heaven.” sinking, we will not cry No one wants to be ‘uncle.’ Instead, we will cry called a fool by God. How out ‘Father’ to the One who do we make sure that knows all our needs and doesn’t happen? We can possesses all resources.” choose limits, not luxury, so Such a person has learned our treasure can be invested the wisdom of God. 11 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. THE PARABLE JESUS PRESENTS OF THE SHREWD THE PARABLE OF THE SHREWD MANAGER 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 his parables is their shock possessions. So he called value. They surprise and him in and asked him, startle. The “heroes” are the ‘What is this I hear about most unexpected people. you? Give an account of That is particularly true your management, of the parable of the because you cannot be unrighteous steward (Lk. manager any longer.’ The 16:1-13). It is a story that manager said to himself, has stirred controversy and ‘What shall I do now? My debate among interpreters. master is taking away my But despite the questions it job. I’m not strong enough has raised, it confronts us to dig, and I’m ashamed to with an essential truth beg—I know what I’ll do about life as a disciple. so that, when I lose my job The parable is given first in here, people will welcome verses 1-8 and is followed me into their houses.’ So by the Lord’s elaboration of he called in each one of the principles the story is his master’s debtors. He intended to teach. asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take 12 © 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 deserved responsibility. The manager to be fired from his job. But was a steward. That is, he it is important to notice the was an employee, perhaps manager’s precise position of an absentee landlord, after his master said, who had been given control “Give an account of your over his master’s business management, because you and assets. Clearly, his cannot be manager any responsibility was to use this longer” (v.2) trust to further his master’s Modern companies interests, not his own. But generally tell fired the temptation to divert employees to clean out their funds for his own purposes desks immediately, or they and pleasures proved too have it done for them. But strong. He wasted the this manager was given a money, violating his trust window of opportunity. His and 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 down Until the account was four hundred gallons, rendered, he had some room and I’ll sign it.” for movement. Still, time • “How much do you was short, and immediate owe?” “A thousand action 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 sign shrewdness is revealed. it.” He knew his options were We don’t know enough limited. He was too weak for about first-century business manual labor, and he was practices to be certain of too proud to beg. Unless he what was going on here. acted quickly, one of those Some commentators are might be his fate. But he convinced that the whole knew the adage, “Scratch my business was fraudulent and back, and I’ll scratch yours.” that he was implicating Perhaps he could do favors these people in cheating his for a few people so that they boss. That is possible, but would be beholden to him. since these people would His plan was very simple. presumably continue to do He 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 the managed the accounts and transaction was subtle still 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 commercial 14 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. transactions difficult. So himself to people who would a subterfuge was often remember him kindly. followed. When money was The parable closes with loaned, it was illegal to write the statement, “The master a bill stating any interest. commended the dishonest So written bills generally manager because he had showed only one amount: acted shrewdly” (v.8). It’s the principal loaned plus the important to see what was interest and the manager’s and what was not said. The fees. This amount was master did not say that he often stated in terms of commodities (oil, wheat) rather than money. In this The master did not way, it would appear that say that he was the law was being followed. pleased by his If this was so, the steward was probably steward’s actions, discounting the face value but he did say he of the notes by suspending was impressed. the interest charges. Since these charges were not legal within Jewish law, his master was pleased by his steward’s had no ground of action actions, but he did say he against him. Presumably, the was impressed. The manager debtors would be suspicious had tied his employer’s of the reasons but would hands and achieved his own accept the offer gladly. He ends. The master certainly had therefore tied his did not commend the master’s hands effectively, manager’s earlier dishonesty, stayed within the bounds but, like a defeated athlete of legality, and ingratiated commenting wryly on his 15 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. opponent’s skill and strategy, enough to act with practical he 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 be is the key to the story, it is a hero, he’s not. But in his important to consider its actions, dubious as they meaning carefully. The Greek are, we can see a quality word means “to act with demonstrated that disciples foresight,” and is illustrated of the Lord are required to in Jesus’ discourse by the demonstrate if they are to wise man (literally, the live effectively in the world. shrewd man) who built his That quality is elaborated house on the rock in in the Lord’s continuing anticipation of a coming discussion. storm (Mt. 7:24). It also describes the five “wise” JESUS DISCUSSES (shrewd) virgins who brought THE PRINCIPLES extra oil anticipating future OF SHREWD need (Mt. 25:1-13). This DISCIPLESHIP was the dishonest manager’s The people of this quality. He acted decisively world are more shrewd in the present to position in dealing with their own himself for the future. His kind than are the people behavior was consistent of the light. I tell you, use with his circumstances. He worldly wealth to gain recognized his crisis and friends for yourselves, seized his opportunity so that when it is gone, because he had his eye you will be welcomed on the future, not just the into eternal dwellings. present. He was astute Whoever can be trusted 16 © 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 put Use Money To Achieve it this way: “We brought Eternal Goals. The Lord’s nothing into the world, and first message in Luke 16:8- we can take nothing out of 13 is that shrewdness with it” (1 Tim. 6:7). Shrewdness money can achieve eternal forces us to recognize that goals. In verse 9 He said, money is powerful but “Use worldly wealth to gain limited, temporary, and friends for yourselves.” The temporal. Part of its phrase “worldly wealth” character is that it will 17 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. always fail. As Bernard of conversion or in meeting Clairvaux wrote centuries their needs. ago, “Money no more Few experiences are as satisfies the hunger of the satisfying as visiting an area mind than air supplies the where you once lived and body’s need for bread.” ministered, and having Certainly that is true at people line up to tell you of the time of death. No your influence in their lives, one takes it with him. much of it totally unguessed Shrewdness with money or unrecognized. Imagine also focuses on how it can that kind of reception in be used for eternal purposes. heaven! Jesus said, “Gain friends for The Lord calls us to use yourselves, so that . . . you money shrewdly for eternal will be welcomed [by them] reasons. Yet statistics tell us into eternal dwellings” (v.9). that as the rate of disposable Every believer will be income (adjusted for welcomed into heaven, inflation) increased 31 but not all will have the percent among members of same number of friends to 31 Protestant denominations welcome them. When our between 1968 and 1985, money is used to meet the only 2 percent of that needs of fellow believers disposable income was and when money is used given to churches and to spread the gospel, we can Christian organizations be sure that there will be (Chicago Tribune, July 31, eternal consequences. Our 1988). In other words, 98 gracious Father will reveal percent of the increase went to our fellow-saints how to support people’s lifestyles. our use of money was In a world of escalating instrumental in their needs and exciting 18 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  19. 19. opportunities, this is hardly has eternal consequences shrewdness with money. (vv.10-12). The principles of Believers also need to stewardship are very simple. live shrewdly—to strategize, The first principle is the to plan, to dream, and to main requirement: “It is use ingenuity and creativity. required that those who Radical times require radical have been given a trust must solutions, as the parable of prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). the dishonest manager The second principle is the illustrated. The Lord is not reward, explained here calling us to business as in verse 10 by the Lord: usual. The shrewd disciple “Whoever can be trusted needs to ask, “How can I with very little can also be maximize my money for trusted with much, and eternity?” We must be whoever is dishonest with careful not to spend or give very little will also be carelessly, sentimentally, or dishonest with much.” impulsively. The Lord calls It is in the little things us to be hard-nosed, clear- that we prove ourselves. As eyed, forward-looking, the great missionary Hudson astute people. Taylor once observed, “A Shrewd Disciples little thing is a little thing; Use Money In but faithfulness in a little Light Of Eternal thing is a great thing.” Consequences. There Faithfulness with are three primary messages money is primarily an in Luke 16:8-13. The first is issue of character. A modern that shrewdness with money biographer explained with a can achieve eternal goals. very perceptive comment The second is this: why he was adding yet Stewardship of money another biography to the 19 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  20. 20. literature about the Duke Lord, we are acting exactly of 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 be how the Duke spent his used to further the Master’s money. It was a far better purposes and goals. The clue to what he thought primary value of earthly was really important than wealth is that it is a tool to the reading of his letters or train us to handle “true speeches.” This is even riches,” which refers to the more true of the account affairs of the kingdom. of a disciple. Shrewd people, then, use Shrewdness causes money in the light of eternal us to view “mammon” in consequences. This includes an interesting way. The opportunities to serve the parallelism of verses 10-12 Lord Jesus in furthering His equates “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 Disciples equates “much” (v.10), “true Recognize That riches” (v.11), and “property Stewardship Of Money of your own” (v.12). Present Prevents Bondage To wealth, said the Lord, is Money. The third message really a very little thing. in Luke 16:8-13 is found in In fact, it is not ours at all. verse 13: “You cannot serve We are stewards, not both God and Money.” owners. If we use our In other words, shrewd present possessions as if disciples recognize that they belong to us, not the stewardship of money 20 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  21. 21. prevents bondage to money. middle ground. Either God We can serve God with owns our wealth or it owns money, but we can never us. As Henry Fielding once serve God and money. wrote, “Make money your A choice is inescapable. god and it will plague you We can have only one like the devil.” master. Jesus wants us to We all serve something understand that we do not or someone. There is no have the option of being the partial discipleship to Jesus, masters of mammon. We and there is no part-time can be stewards of it or we employment by mammon. can be servants of it, but We must choose our those are our only options. ultimate loyalty. When we Mammon always strives to choose the Lord as our sole take 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 a bondage to money. prostitute, or purchases “crack” cocaine also buys We can serve God a Bible, digs a well, or with money, but supports a missionary. The we 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 the discussion to force us to product of a choice of recognize the absence of masters. 21 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  22. 22. How do we acquire our term was finished, he would money? What do we want to be transported to a particular purchase with our money? island and abandoned. When and how do we give His delight was our money? Where should replaced with distress. we employ our resources? Then he devised a shrewd These are the questions a plan. Over the next months shrewd disciple asks as he he sent members of the tribe emulates this strange “hero,” to clear and till the other a man who acted decisively island. He had them build with his resources in the a beautiful house, furnish it, present to maximize his and plant crops. He sent opportunities 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 exile unknown island. To his came, he was put in a place surprise, he found that he that was carefully prepared was not alone. A large tribe and full of friends who were of people shared his island. delighted to receive him. To his pleasure, he Disciples are not headed discovered that they treated to a desert island. Our him very well. In fact, they destination is the Father’s placed him on a throne and home. Yet the preparations catered to his every desire. we make here follow us He was delighted but there. If we are shrewd, perplexed. Why such royal there will be eternal friends treatment? As his ability to and eternal rewards to greet communicate increased, he us. Fools serve money and discovered that the tribal leave it all behind. Shrewd custom was to choose a king believers serve God and for a year. Then, when his invest in eternity. 22 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  23. 23. THE PARABLE to set sail for missionary OF THE work among the Muslims, first in Egypt to learn Arabic COMPLAINING and then, ultimately, to a WORKERS remote part of China. To the public and the B 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 incredibly silver spoon in his mouth. wasteful, especially when His parents were both he died of cerebrospinal descended from British meningitis shortly after aristocracy, and his father reaching Cairo. He had had made a fortune in real apparently thrown away his estate in Chicago and in money, his career, and even silver mining in Colorado. his life. To what end? Bill was already worth a What makes a Bill Borden million dollars by the age tick? What makes a person of 21, an amount in 1908 turn his back on virtually equivalent to about 40 everything most people value million dollars today. He was to live in obedience to what also handsome, intelligent, he believes to be the will of well-educated, and popular. God? What’s in it for him? But in 1912, at the age What are the returns on of 25, Bill Borden did two that kind of investment? things that made headlines. Why do we serve the First, he gave away his Lord Jesus? This brings us entire fortune, half to to an interesting discussion God’s work in the United between the Lord and His States and half to missions disciples in which He overseas. Second, he chose addressed the question of 23 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  24. 24. rewards posed by Peter but that wealth possessed and then used a parable him. He would not let go of to provoke them and us wealth to take hold of the into deeper thought about eternal life offered by the Son spiritual motivation. As of God. His trust was in his Matthew recounted the story, wealth, not in his God. the discussion followed the In a society where wealth Lord’s encounter with the was often seen to be a sign rich young ruler (19:16-26). of divine approval and acceptance, the Lord made THE PROMISE a statement that startled the OF REWARDS: disciples: “It is easier for a The Blessing Of camel to go through the eye Discipleship of a needle than for a rich A study in Psychology Today man to enter the kingdom of in May 1981 probed the God” (Mt. 19:24). Salvation influence of money on is not the attainment of the people’s lives. One of its rich or successful. It is a gift conclusions was that people of God’s grace, freely given who are the most money- and humbly received. conscious are much less Peter was not affected by likely to be involved in a the drama of salvation being satisfactory love relationship enacted before him so much and tend to be troubled by as by the Lord’s promise to constant worry, anxiety, and the rich young man: “Go, loneliness. The story of the sell your possessions and rich young ruler sadly but give to the poor, and you eloquently 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 been not that he possessed wealth riveted by the implications of 24 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  25. 25. “treasure in heaven. . . . but of reaffirmation. It is not follow Me.” “If that is true wrong to focus on rewards for him, what about us?” he and eternal blessings, or to must have mused. “I left my desire “treasure in heaven.” nets and followed Jesus. The Lord often extends the What about my treasure?” promise of rewards in the Finally 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 not What then will there be for demeaning bribes or the us?” (v.27). incentive programs of a sales Only a person who is organization. They are rather badly self-deceived is hard on the appropriate results of a Peter. We may not be very life pleasing to the God who proud of the “what’s-in-it-for- “rewards those who earnestly me?” feeling, but it bubbles in seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). all of us, sometimes closer to So the Lord directed the surface than at other Peter’s attention to the times. We sing, “It pays to millennial kingdom, “the serve Jesus, it pays every renewal of all things, when day. It pays every step of the the Son of Man sits on His way.” But sometimes the pay glorious throne” (Mt. 19:28). seems long overdue. We face This is the time prophesied fatigue, frustration, failure, or throughout the Old physical illness instead of Testament, when God will blessing, joy, and fulfillment. establish the kingdom of “What’s in it for me? When Messiah on the earth in and 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 and Peter 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 with the disciples longed for. Him on the earth (Rev. 5:10). Not only will the Lord In fact, we will not only judge Jesus sit on the throne of the world, we will exercise glory in the new earth, but judgment over the angels the apostles will share His (1 Cor. 6:1-3). I don’t know glory. “You who have all that this entails, but the followed Me will also sit on promise is clear. Believers in twelve thrones, judging the Christ are the royal family of twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt. Messiah’s kingdom, and part 19:28). It’s impossible to of our “treasure in heaven” describe how the Twelve will be to share in His regal might have received this authority and splendor. news. As Jews, they had But on what basis will this longed for Messiah and had privilege be granted? In verse staked everything on Jesus 29 the Lord established the being the Promised One. principle of rewards. Present Their reward would go sacrifice produces eternal beyond their wildest dreams: privilege. “Everyone who When Israel was the greatest has left houses or brothers or nation on earth, they would sisters or father or mother or rule over it, as subordinates children or fields for My sake of King Jesus Himself! will receive a hundred times The promise made in as much and will inherit Matthew 19:28 is a very eternal life.” Mark, in his specific one, made to the account, adds that we will twelve apostles. But there is “receive a hundred times as an extension of this promise much in this present age” to all believers. When Jesus (Mk. 10:30). Obviously, this returns, we who are His co- equation is not to be pressed heirs (Rom. 8:17) will share literally. After all, who wants 26 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  27. 27. to receive a hundred wives man was one of the first. He or two hundred brothers? looked like a winner. But in We could try to twist the the crucible of decision statement into a formula for about Christ, he made a materialistic gain: “I give choice that excluded him $100, I get $10,000.” On that from true wealth. Those who basis, we would be worse look like winners from a than the rich young ruler, human perspective are often and his tragedy would not life’s losers. Conversely, be that he loved money more “many who are last will be than God but that he didn’t first.” The disciples represent know a good investment the “last.” Uprooted from when he saw one! family and vocation, they No, the Lord’s point is to wandered as the vagabond say that there is a blessing followers of a rejected leader. both now and in eternity Like Bill Borden, they had that is all out of proportion taken a huge risk and to the cost of discipleship. apparently had come up Whatever losses following empty. But appearances can Christ entails (and there are be deceiving. When they are losses—we leave things seated on their millennial behind), the Savior Himself thrones alongside King Jesus, will repay richly. Following they will be revealed as may 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, Jesus with two points. “Many who told him, “More, Peter, than are first will be last” (Mt. you can ever imagine. 19:30). From an earthly You have given what you perspective, 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 plunges And that answer should be us into daily life in ancient sufficient for every one of us. Israel. It is worth noting that Although we do not see the Lord was an astute them all now, there are observer of life. His stories blessings and rewards. have the ring of authenticity There is a troubling note because they happen where to Peter’s question that must people live. We should still be dealt with. Behind notice that this story is not “What’s in it for me?” there designed to teach us about lurks a commercial spirit labor-management relations that misses the essence of or about salvation or even Christian living. It is that about rewards. The Lord underlying attitude, present wants us to think about the not only in Peter but also in attitude of heart with which us, that the Lord addresses a disciple should serve Him. in the parable of the workers Day laborers were a in the vineyard, recorded in common fact of life in Matthew 20:1-16. The line the Lord’s time. In this with which the parable ends agricultural society, there links it closely to the last were no labor unions and phrase of chapter 19, which few contract employees. we have just discussed. Men looking for work would gather at a convenient spot THE PARABLE OF in the town’s marketplace, THE COMPLAINING and those requiring help WORKERS: would recruit the men they The Motivation needed. A rate of pay For Discipleship would be arranged, the Like so many of the Lord’s work would be done, and stories, this parable in workers would be paid at 28 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  29. 29. day’s end, in accordance . . . and I will pay you with 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, but straightforward. At 6:00 a.m. simply with an opportunity a vineyard owner went into to trust the landowner’s the marketplace to hire promise and character. Three workers. They agreed to a fair more times the process was wage and set off to do the repeated—at noon, at 3:00 work. 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 his that made them more foreman to pay the workers, desirable employees than the beginning with those who others. They were available, had worked for only one agreed to terms, and set hour and continuing to those about their task. who had worked for a full But for some reason the day. When the 1-hour landowner felt the need for workers were paid, they were more workers. Perhaps bad astonished to discover that weather threatened the they had received a full day’s crop or a contract required wage, a denarius. Obviously, immediate harvesting. they hadn’t earned that More likely, he saw the much. But a family could not unemployed workers and live on less than a denarius desired to help them. For a day, so the owner had whatever reason, he returned generously paid them not at 9:00 a.m. and saw men what they deserved but what who were willing to work but they needed. Apparently in unemployed. He made them his view, people mattered a simple offer: “Go and work more than profits. 29 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  30. 30. News of their good warning against three fortune quickly spread down dangers in the service of through the line, and the a disciple. 12-hour workers excitedly The Danger Of A anticipated receiving a Commercial Spirit. An bonanza. “If they got one old rabbinic story is very denarius, we should get similar to the Lord’s parable, twelve!” By the time they but the punch line is entirely reached the front, they had different. When the protest is already spent their bonuses made, the answer silences in their minds. Imagine their the objectors: “This man chagrin to discover their pay has done more in 2 hours to be one denarius! This than you did all day.” We was exactly what they had understand that response. contracted for (20:2), but it It is fair that wages earned hardly seemed fair. “They should correspond to work only worked 1 hour and done. Unions may protest, we’ve put in 12 full hours in but we understand the the burning heat of the day. equity principle—pay How can you call that fair?” equal to work done. The owner’s answer was But kingdom economics straightforward. He told are very different. If we work them that their pay was fair for wages, we will get exactly because it was exactly what what we desire, no more they contracted for. But and no less. We become those who didn’t work as hirelings, dependent upon long were being paid our bargaining skills. How generously, not fairly. much better to be children, In the landowner’s voice dependent upon our Father’s we hear our Lord’s gentle generosity. Our service does rebuke of Peter. It is a not put us in His debt. If we 30 © RBC Ministries. All rights reserved.
  31. 31. leave the reward to Him, we our hearts. “Are you envious will be overwhelmed by His because I am generous?” generosity. (v.15). Who do we think we The Danger Of A are to complain about the Competitive Spirit. eternally holy, righteous When the 12-hour workers God? It was the continual saw the 1-hour workers and murmuring and complaining compared themselves to of Israel in the wilderness them, “they expected to that aroused God’s anger. receive more” (v.10). When Murmuring is an infectious their eyes focused on what social disease that robs us others had received, they and all those around us of were unable to receive their joy. Those who focus on their own wages with joy. Saul supposed deprivation and delighted in his victory over who lament the cost of their the Philistines, but when he discipleship have missed the heard David praised more wonder of the grace and highly than he had been, his generosity of our God. heart turned to stone (1 Sam. The Lord concluded His 18:1-16). Nothing is less parable with a statement appropriate in disciples than reminiscent of Matthew comparison and competition. 19:30, “So the last will be The Danger Of A first, and the first will be Complaining Spirit. last” (v.16). Here, however, “They began to grumble the contrast is not between against the landowner” (Mt. disciples and nondisciples. It 20:11). Such grumbling, the is a reminder that external Lord revealed, is an attack on circumstances are not the the goodness and generosity key to eternal rewards. The of God Himself. Furthermore, “first,” here, are the 6:00 it 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 never brought up to love Christ, be able to pay off our debt. and given the privilege of Can that be called sacrifice ministry at an early age. which gives us the deepest I am much like those “first” satisfaction, which develops people. Friends of mine were our best powers, and gives not saved until much later us the greatest hopes and in life than I, and their expectations? Away with opportunities for Christian this word. It is anything but ministry are sometimes a sacrifice. Rather, call it a smaller than mine. Will ‘privilege’!” those circumstances of life The apostle Peter’s great qualify them only for a lesser mistake was that he counted reward? No. God rewards the the cost and computed the faithful heart, and generosity reward without considering touches 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 the Africa, David Livingstone Lord? Fear? Duty? Prestige? tried to put into words the Reward? Motives are never motives that shaped his life: entirely pure, and a variety “I personally have never of factors propel us. But we ceased to rejoice that God certainly aren’t hirelings, has entrusted me with His serving for wages. We are service. People talk a lot God’s children, delighting about the sacrifice involved in His work and trusting in devoting my life to Africa. in His generosity. But can this be called a sacrifice at all if we give back to God a ‘little of what we owe 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 Bible Resources 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 brief description of each Discovery Series booklet. To get your copy, write to us at the address below and ask for a catalog. Or follow the link below to request your copy today. USA: PO Box 2222, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2222 Canada: Box 1622, Windsor, ON N9A 6Z7