Turn to Luke 16. We’re in Luke 16 this morning and we’re following up on this intriguing and fascinating parable from Jesus, which is about the unjust steward. That’s what we covered last week.
Last week we really saw a scoundrel of a human being. A steward who had been working for a very wealthy owner, landowner. A man who cheated his way out of a personal crisis. A predicament of his own making, which was losing his job. And he lo, lost his job because of his own fault, but this scoundrel scammed his boss. And he connived his way out of his crisis and put his boss in the position of needing to save face. So there, there was nothing he could say. He had his boss over a barrel so to speak.
It’s fascinating story but if you, after last week’s message, were left wondering, “OK, so what am I supposed to learn from that guy?” You’re not alone. And actually, if you’re asking questions like that, you’re exactly where the Lord wants you to be at this moment. The Lord wants us to be asking what is it that we’re supposed to learn from this? What is it we’re supposed to do with this?
We see that the imperative in the text comes in verse 9. The command comes in verse 9. We stopped our exposition last week at verse 8. So, what to do with this? That’s what we’re going to be looking at today. It’s a very important verse, verse 9, because in verse 9 in this whole section of instruction to his disciples, this verse, verse 9 is the only imperative that Jesus gives to his disciples in the text. And here’s the imperative: Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth. So make friends. That’s the imperative.
Now we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, so let’s reread the parable as well as the conclusion and make a few comments to set up what we’re going to learn today.
Go back to verse 1 and we’ll read from there up to verse, right in the middle of verse 8. “Jesus also said to the disciples ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’
“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’
“So, summoning his masters debtors, one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly and write fifty.’ And he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.”
We’ll stop there. He commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. We don’t know what happened after that. Jesus doesn’t tell us. We don’t know what happened after that. The Master praised his steward, his unjust steward’s shrewdness, not his dishonesty, but his shrewdness. He praised his cleverness, but we don’t know what happened next.
We see that this dishonest manager dishonestly discounted rent payments for his master’s tenant farmers. There was a 500 denarii reduction of rents across the board for all the renters. So these two that he summoned before him, these are just representative of all the other renters. But by reducing rents by 500 denarii a piece, by doing that, he not only ingratiated himself to these wealthy farmers who were renting from the master but, as we saw last time at the end, he was also bringing honor to the master in the whole community.
This was a completely unexpected and incredibly generous gift from the landowner. One that he didn’t know he was giving. So what is the master going to do at this point? Is he going to risk shaming his business partners by reneging on the gift that he had supposedly just given them? Will he shame himself, admitting that he was outwitted by his steward? Maybe the master would choose to accept the social sacrifice, the shame, the sacrifice his honor, expose the fraud. Maybe he would choose to protect his money and his money interests and renege on all the discounts and risk before the whole community appearing, even though he wasn’t, but appearing stingy. Thereby embarrassing his partners.
He could have done that. But that’s highly unlikely, knowing the culture. Due to very powerful pressures of this oriental shame/honor culture, most likely outcome? Mums the word. He’s not gonna say anything. He can be counted on here to save face. He could be counted on to preserve honor. To preserve his own honor in the face of the community, but also that of his associates, all his business partners. And, as he does that he will enjoy the public relations benefit that is brought about by the most unlikely source, which is this scoundrel of a manager who he fired.
Still, as I said, we really don’t know what happened because Jesus doesn’t tell us. He stops short of telling us what happened next. Jesus has everyone kept, at this point, in suspense. And not filling into the conclusion for us, not telling us the rest of the story. Why does he do that? Well, because he wants to draw attention to what he wants to convey now. He wants us to see what he wants to teach us. That’s the observation that he makes at the end of verse 8.
It says in verse 8 the master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness for, and here’s what Jesus wants his disciples to pay attention to, for sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
There’s a bit of sting in that observation. Jesus here is delivering something of an indictment against his disciples when he observes that the sons of this world, or literally the sons of this age, they are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light are.
JC Ryle calls this the one principle lesson of the parable. Namely, he says the wisdom of providing against a future evil or a future bad a future bad outcome. And he writes this, Ryle says, “The dishonest manager acted in a skillful way when he knew he had to leave. Dishonest as he was in reducing his master’s bills, he succeeded in making friends among his master’s debtors. Wicked as he was, he had an eye to the future. He plotted and planned with the result that when he lost one home, he gained another.
Jesus’ parable has one aim. And that is to grab our attention so that we will see clearly the contrast between ourselves as sons and daughters of light and the sons of this age. There ought to be a very significant contrast between the way we handle finances, and the way people this age handle money.
We’re not supposed to mimic just to be very clear here, we’re not supposed to mimic the shrewdness of the dishonest manager. We’re not supposed to be dishonest like that. We’re not supposed to bend the rules or bend to honesty or propriety for the sake of the kingdom or any other means. We’re, it’s, it’s not the end justifies the means. It’s not good old American pragmatism, which has really swept through the evangelical world and really does govern and define so many churches. But it’s not pragmatism that governs us. That’s not what we learn here.
What do we learn here? We are supposed to consider our future, our true future, which is what the manager did. He was considering his future, which had some limitations to it. The limitations of this life. We’re to consider our future, which has no limitations because it’s an eternal future and an eternal life.
As the sons of light, the way we live our lives is to be informed by the light that we’ve received from God. Jesus brought the kingdom of God. And we are children of that kingdom, so this is not our home. That is, this life is not our life. That life is. We live that life here and now. This life is really then a stewardship that we’ve received from God and pays dividends in the future.
So the question is, are we living according to that to that light? Or are we not? Are we wise and effective stewards of what God has entrusted to us? Or are we not? That is the question before us this morning. To think very carefully about how the Lord wants us to use our money.
Yes, we have a stewardship of time and talent and skill and experience and energy and expertise. We have a stewardship of our minds. We have a stewardship of our bodies. We have a stewardship of our families and our friendships, and we have a stewardship of our vocation.
We have a stewardship of so many things, but Jesus boils it down to really put the target on our money. Because as he said, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. You’ve a very good indication of where your heart is if you just take a look at your, your bankbook or your budget software, or your checking account, or whatever it is. Where you spend is a good indication of where your heart is. So that’s what we’re going to think about this morning and next week.
I’ve got three points actually for this sermon. The motives of our stewardship, the manner of our stewardship, and the master of our stewardship. Motives, manner, and master. Three points, but only time to address one of them for today’s sermon. So we’re going to cover the first main point today, the motives of our stewardship, and then we’ll look at the other two next week.
“As the sons of light, the way we live our lives is to be informed by the light that we’ve received from God.”Travis Allen
The central focus of the parable, we pointed this out last week, but the central focus of the parable, according to its literary structure, is the steward’s motive. We saw that back in verse 4 as the steward came to himself, and he crystallized this bright idea. He says, “I have decided” back in verse 4, “I have decided what to do.” Or literally, “I know what I’ll do so that when removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.” So the central focus of the parable is in the steward’s motive. It’s in what is driving his thinking.
As we come to verse 9 for today, we see that verse 9 is parallel with verse 4. We see that verse 9 also is addressing motive. So in the same way that verse 4 helps us see the focus of the parable, helps us to see the motive of the steward, verse 9 helps us see the focus of Jesus instruction, the implication of the parable. Helps us to see what he wants our motive to be. It says in verse 9, “…and I tell you…” Jesus saying to his disciples, “…and I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” That’s the motive.
There’s the command, “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth,” and then the motive, “so that when it fails, they may receive you into eternal dwellings.” Those verses, verse 4 verse 9, crystallize the point of comparison for us. How, by contrast to the steward, Jesus wants his disciples to act. The steward acts one way, driven by one motive in verse 4. We’re to act in another way, driven by a different motive, in verse 9.
The dishonest manager, compared to us, he planned for the future. Jesus’ disciples are to plan for the future as well. Look closely at the parallel structures in verse 4 and verse 9. I want to show you that, and we’ll contrast the ideas that are in parallel phrases so you, you can see in verse 4 in verse 9, you can see instead of the steward’s bright idea, “I know what I’ll do,” we see that Jesus has an idea of his own, “…and I tell you the steward comes to himself.”
And Jesus helps us come to ourselves by saying, “I tell you.” Instead of temporal circumstances that drive the action, like a steward losing his job and that driving his action, Jesus wants us to consider eternal realities. A sphere in which money has no power. Earthly money has no power. Earthly money has no solution. A time when wealth fails.
So we’re not to be thinking about, like the steward did, how money is gonna buy him his future. We’re to think about how money won’t do that for us here on this earth, or in the life to come. Instead of scamming unsuspecting farmers like the steward did, deceptively acting friendly in order to ingratiate himself, Jesus says to us, “make friends for yourselves.” That is, real friends, true friends. And use your money to do that.
Another contrast in the parallel ideas in verse 4 and verse 9, instead of aiming for a temporal goal like the steward did, trying to secure future employment, Jesus says seek a final home. Seek a permanent place of rest where you will be received into the eternal dwellings.
Four parallels between verse 4 and verse 9, which give us four contrasts. Which give us four points for the outline this morning. Four motives for our stewardship. Four motives for our stewardship. And if these four points are motivating your stewardship listen, you’re going to be charting a course toward Christian maturity. You’re going to become mature as a Christian if these four motives drive the way you spend your money.
You’ll be growing in Christian maturity. You will guarantee, or secure, faithfulness in your stewardship as well. You’ll be a faithful steward if these motives are driving the way you spend money. You’ll also find in your maturity, and with an increasing faithfulness in your stewardship, you’re also going to find eternal life of boundless joy in your life.
Boundless joy, a life that starts right now as you live this kingdom life in your life right here on Earth. So let’s talk about those four motives for our stewardship, number one, the first motive, the motive of discipleship. The motive of discipleship. The first motive for our stewardship should be discipleship. As Jesus’ disciples we’re learning to practice obedience to him as our Lord.
That is what discipleship is, is to follow our master, to listen to his teaching and obey it, to hear what he says and to do it. If you’re hearing what he says and filling your head with knowledge, but you’re not doing anything with it, you are not a disciple of his.
If you are listening with a view to obeying and you’re putting into practice and there’s change in your life, there’s a progression toward greater Christlikeness. That is obedience. That is true discipleship, and that’s what Jesus is calling for here.
The unjust steward, as we said verse 4, he has a bright idea. We call this his eureka moment, “I know what I’ll do.” Jesus gives us an idea of his own and it’s one that’s grounded in the reality of the kingdom of God. And he always thought in terms of the kingdom of God because he is the king of that kingdom. So he says, “I tell you.” Listen, whenever Jesus says, “and I tell you,” or “and I say to you,” write it down and get ready to change the way you live.
In Proverbs 14:12, and repeated it again, verbatim in Proverbs 16:25, it says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” There is what seems right to people, seems right to the unjust steward. He represents all the sons of this age, the way all unbelievers think. But by contrast, by a very stark and radical contrast, there is what Jesus tells us.
What will we believe? Which voice will we hear? Which voice will we obey? What seems right to us, or what Jesus says when he says, “And I tell you?”
Faithful stewardship really is as simple as that. Are we going to believe and follow our natural fallen impulses about how we ought to spend our money? Or, are we going to listen to, and submit to, and obey, and practice, spending money according to the perfect will and command of our Lord Jesus Christ? At its heart, faithful stewardship really is a matter of faith, isn’t it? It’s a matter of faith, it’s a matter of what we believe or don’t believe.
As Jesus said, back in Luke 12:3, 34 he said, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” How you spend money is a truthful indicator of what you really believe.
At the very least, I mean, you can say the same thing about time. How you spend your time is a truthful indicator of what you really believe. What you give yourself to, what you invest in, what your energies are poured into, is a truthful indicator of what you truly believe.
At the very least, how you spend money as a measure of your Christian maturity. Whether you are a mature saint or a mere infant in the faith. Whether you’re all grown up or you’re kind of more like an immature child in the faith still spending all your quarters on bubble gum. Or worse, do you squander money like a prodigal?
The sons of this age, the unbelievers of this world, they truly are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light are. That’s the observation Jesus makes there. There’s a reason for that, that observation: for unbelievers, the sons, or the children of this age, for those who are bound to this temporal passing world, for the unbelieving, those who remain slaves of sin who are under the dominion of the devil, who are led around by the nose, by their various lusts and sensual desires, what they do aligns perfectly with what they want.
What they do, or what they want, drives what they do. The two are in lockstep with each other. They continue on in darkness. They’re in an unenlightened state. They’re carried along by sensual animal instinct. They’re fulfilling desires of the body and the mind, and they go along, pursuing one futile ambition after another. They’re like a dog chasing its own tail. Or like a hamster running on a hamster wheel going nowhere, living for pellets.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”Proverbs 16:25
Many young people start out in life and they’re so eager to grow up, aren’t they? It’s kind of cute. They all wanna grow up so fast. We’re like man, you don’t know how good you got it. Just stay small, stay small, it’s easy. But they’re eager to grow up.
We’re all like this, eager to grow up, get an education, whether they go through college and university, or go through one of the number of trades. Why do they do that? Why do they want that so badly? They want to get a career. And why do they want to do that? So they can make money! Money will secure for them what they want. Gives ‘em freedom. Gives ‘em an ability to go places, see things, do things, enjoy life, get out there.
Along the way though they find they start families. They meet that girl. They meet that guy. Start a family. Start raising kids. As they raise kids they fight to recover from what just happened to them, and then they take some vacations if they can. They realize parenting is harder away than it is at home. And but they fight for rest and relaxation. They try to build some experiences and create memories.
And Mom’s got her iPhone, she’s snapping pictures everywhere. Can’t enjoy anything ’cause she’s snapping pictures, right? But they’re trying to create memories and they’re trying to indulge pleasures and get some enjoyment and squeeze some things out of life, right?
Kids are raised, grow up, raise, move on. And they’ve seen, these parents see, have seen in life what they want to see. They’ve experienced a lot in this world. They shift their attention to their adult kids and then their grandkids as the grandkids come along.
And they search for happiness in family, in relationships. And really all they want to see is that same cycle that they just went through repeated all over again in the next generation.
Do they notice the futility of it all? If they picked up the book of Ecclesiastes that would give them a manual for seeing the cycle and seeing the futility of it. The meaninglessness of it, the chasing after the wind. And there’s a good and kind and good and wise purpose of God in that cycle. Futility is meant to point us to things above so that we don’t lock in on things on the earth.
But nevertheless, for the unbeliever, for the unenlightened, they do what aligns with what they want. They seek what they hope for, whether it’s fulfillment or satisfaction or meaning or whatever it is. Their desires and their hopes, and their ambitions and their actions, are all perfectly aligned, going in the same direction. Even like our dishonest manager. Even when crisis hits; when they lose a job, when they see the end of a marriage, when they see the breakup of a family or whatever it is that happens to them, they do whatever they have to do to get things back on track. To mitigate the hurt and the pain and, and maximize the happiness and the satisfaction and the meaning. They want to get back on track with the plan.
Some sons of this age have the intelligence and even the brazen audacity to do what this dishonest manager did, to pull off the seeming impossible. A remarkable, the daring feat of protecting interests and keep life heading in the right direction.
But the sons of this age, the unbelieving, they do what they know. They act in accord with their beliefs. They are diligent and consistent, hardworking in gaining money and getting money, and using it then to get what they want. It’s all lined up, isn’t it?
By contrast, the sons of the light, when we act like they do, we’re acting out of step with what we know to be true, aren’t we? We are walking contradictions and they can see it: “You say you believe this, and yet you live like I do, what gives?” Many of the sons of light are using money not according to the light that they’ve received. Instead, they act more like the world and act as if they are unenlightened.
Some live, and act, and fret, and worry, and spend money, contrary to the light that they’ve received from God. In fact, turn back a few pages to the text that we’ve studied before in Luke chapter 12 and verse 22 and following. In, you know, Jesus said this at right after telling the delivering this parable of the rich fool which sets up all the teaching that he gives coming out of the rich fool who thought “I, I know what I’ll do with this problem I’m having of an overabundance of stuff. I know, I’ll tear down my barns, build bigger barns. In order to hold all my stuff.” He’s just making more work for himself and creating more worry and more hassle. More anxiety by having to secure and provide for the stuff that he’s gaining. God says to him, “You fool! This night your life, your soul, will be required of you. I’m taking the soul that I’ve given to you and I’m taking it back and then what’s going to happen to all that stuff? Therefore…” verse 22 says, “Therefore I tell you…” here’s Jesus saying, “Therefore I tell you…” So what are we supposed to do? Take notes, write it down because we gotta obey this. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.”
It’s a whole section there we’ve gone through before. We won’t go through this again but go to verse 29. “And do not seek what you’re to eat and what you’re to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world, seek after these things…”
Jesus is there contrasting people of the light, the Jews who are supposed to have the entire Old Testament telling them what life is all about. What their bread represents, represents provision from God. “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” So in contrast, you Jews, look at all the nations of the world. They’re the ones who seek after these things, are unenlightened. They’re in ignorance. They’re in darkness. They don’t know that a heavenly father provides for them. But your father knows that you need all these things instead. Then seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Don’t worry about the small stuff, God’s got that handled.
Verse 32, “Fear not little flock, it is your father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. So sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with money bags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, or no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
That all sounds so good, doesn’t it? We all profess that to be true. But when we look carefully at our lives, and our priorities, what we think about what we’re concentrating on. We look at our bank accounts that are giving statements. Are we living that way? Are we living by the light that we’ve received or are we living like the rest of the world? Do we really believe the light? Do we really obey the truth that our Lord has given us in his commands?
Again, JC Ryle presses the point when he writes this, he says, “The diligence of worldly men over earthly matters should put to shame the, the coldness of professing Christians and their lack of concern over the things of eternity. The enthusiasm of businesspeople traveling across the seas in their work reproves the indolent believer who is so slack about heavenly treasures. Our Lord’s words are solemn and worth weighing. People of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.”
Why is that? Again I’d argue that though we profess to believe the kingdom of heaven is more important than this temporal passing world. Our actions reveal more about what we really believe than our words do. In all the mundane, everyday choices of life they reflect how we routinely spend money and that is what we really believe.
That’s at the heart of our stewardship, an obedient faith that drives our discipleship. That’s the first motive of stewardship, his discipleship. Are we disciples of his or not? Following Jesus Christ as true disciples, that’s our first motive in stewardship. And here’s a second motive, the motive of wisdom.
The motive of wisdom. You can see how it follows naturally from this command the Lord has given us. But the second motive for our stewardship is wisdom. That is to walk wisely as sons of light. That is to put in practice the light that we’ve received. That is the essence of wisdom, is to put what we’ve learned from the light, to take knowledge and righteously apply it to our lives.
Wisdom is taking the truth of Scripture, putting it into practice in our lives. That is a motive of stewardship, is to be wise, to walk wisely. The unjust steward was driven by temporal matters. He was compelled to act because of negative forces that came to him. He lost his job. In fact the sons of this age are driven, often from a state of inertia, by negative forces that act upon them. That’s the way legalists live, by the way. They’re not drawn by the love and grace of God, but they are compelled by an external force, by the rule of law. And if they’re not compelled by law, then they’re drawn along by covetousness and greed, only two forces acting upon them.
But for the sons of light, temporal matters are the more trivial matters for us; jobs, income, what we eat, what we drink, what we wear on our bodies, any experiences that we have, places we go and see. We know, according to 1 John 2:17, that “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God that one abides forever.” So we don’t need, we don’t want to hitch our wagon to what is temporal and passing away. It will pass away along with it. Want to hitch our wagon to what abides forever.
So that means we’re not going to act merely according to temporal concerns. We’re not going to be driven from a state of inertia by negative forces alone. We’re not going to be pulled along by covetous forces. We’re sons of light, and the light of divine truth is shined in such a way as to reveal that there are eternal realities. There is an eternal realm in which money has no buying power, where money provides no fixes, where money has no solutions. As Jesus put in verse 9, in light of truth, we see ahead to a time when worldly wealth fails. Fails.
So as sons of light, we know the truth about reality. We know that unseen things are permanent. They are permanent. They are the eternal things, whereas the things which are seen, they’re only temporary. The really good news about our stewardship, about spending money, is this, that Jesus says we can spend now as an investment on future eternal gain. What good news! This is the gospel of stewardship. Take what you have now, that’s gonna burn up anyway. It’s gonna be gone one day anyway. No, no U-hauls attached to hearses going to the graveyard right? Can’t take it with you. And any fool that’s buried with his wealth, though the wealth sits there with his rotting body, rotting along with him. But you can take that and invest it for future gain, for future dividend, eternal dividend.
What good news, again Luke 12:33, “Sell your possessions, give to the needy, provide yourselves with money bags that don’t grow old, a treasure in the heavens, that [what] does not fail.” Same verb Jesus uses in verse 9 about fail. Unrighteous wealth will fail. Guaranteed you can’t take it with you when you die. But treasure in the heavens, that kind of wealth never fails, does not fail. It’s an eternal wealth that has purchasing power for all of eternity.
Just a brief lexical note on that concept of what is called here “unrighteous wealth.” We’ll unpack it a little more next week as well, but unrighteous wealth, does that mean it was earned by means of unrighteousness? It’s like dirty money, you know, like it was laundered money, or something come from gambling profits or some illicit business. That’s not what he means here. The King James version and the NAS, New American Standard version, they provide a transliteration of the word directly into English and from the Greek into English. You may have heard it before. It’s the word mammon. Mammon is the word that’s what’s used here. Some believe that Jesus uses the word mammon to refer to a Syrian God of riches named Mamonas. Mamonas, the personification of wealth is the Syrian deity Mamonas. Um in which case we would want to capitalize the word mammon, put a capital ‘M’ there, because it’s a proper name. So some worshipped Baal idols. Some worshipped the Moloch idol. Everyone bows and worships to the idol Mammon. Universal false God isn’t it, is the god of wealth. Syrians had a deity for that particular purpose.
So for Jesus’ audience, as they hear that word mamonas an immediate connection for them. I mean this is the area that they live and move and have their being, the Roman province of Syria. It refers to the regions of Galilee and, and Pereia, where many of these people lived. So the Syrian deity Mamonas was a familiar deity to them. And the rhetorical effect that Jesus had upon these self-professed monotheistic Jews in associating how they spend their money with idolatry! Man, that communicated, that grabbed their attention. This hit, hit a sensitive spot for those who wanted to repudiate all idolatry.
Scholars believe that mamonas comes from a Hebrew verb. It’s the same verb in Aramaic, which is what was one of the languages of, Assyria is the verb Aman, Aman. Aman means to put trust in, it, to believe in, to rely upon. So literally, mamonas means that in which one trusts, that in which one relies on.
Listen, if you’re relying on money, if you believe your money, your investments, your stocks and bonds, the appreciation in your retirement accounts, the size of your bank accounts, if you’re trusting that mamonas will never fail you man, think again, ’cause Jesus promises it will! Who you gonna believe? What seems right to man or what Jesus says?
If you believe what Jesus says, listen, if you’ll obey him in how you spend money, and if you’ll walk in wisdom, then true riches are yours. That is wisdom; to walk and act according to the truth. That’s wisdom. True riches are yours, a wealth that will never fail you.
So wisdom dictates that you stop squandering money in this lifetime. Wisdom dictates that you stop investing in the things of this world. That you stop spending to indulge the self. That you stop wasting money on futility. When wisdom dictates your spending you spend on what yields eternal rewards. You spend on what accrues to treasure in heaven, a treasure that never fails. So we’re motivated by discipleship, motivated by wisdom. Here’s the third motive, number three, the motive of fellowship.
A third motive is the motive of fellowship. The third motive for our stewardship is fellowship, and that is to make true and lasting friendships. Ones that are bound together eternally by the bond of gospel partnership in this life. That’s the idea.
The dishonest manager back in verse 4, he wanted to secure his future, and notice he used people to get what he wanted. We saw in verses 5 to 7, how he tricked everyone, how he scammed them. He stole his boss’s wealth and used people as a means to his own ends and that is not friendship. That is not the model, that is using people. Here’s Jesus’ big idea, verse 9, “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth.” It’s not just an idea as I said, it’s not just a suggestion, it’s in the imperative mood. So this is the command. It’s from our Lord to his disciples. He’s saying, do this, do this.
If you are not making friends with your unrighteous wealth, you’re not being obedient. If you are doing that, if you are participating in that, you are obeying. And you can grow in that obedience. Interestingly, in the construction of this sentence, Jesus highlights how obeying this command accrues to our benefit. He puts something up front in the original. He says, “for yourselves.” That’s a dative of interest, a dative of advantage. So he says, “for yourselves,” or “for your benefit,” or “with your interest in mind.” That comes first, and then the command “make friends out of unrighteous mammon.” For your benefit, again the command is “make friends.” Those friends are bound together by true affection. To make friends, we’re going to spend money to do it, because we see money as just a temporal, temporary passing means to an internal end. We want those friendships, eternal ones.
Man, just an aside, in this world that we live in growing colder, more indifferent, more separated, more fractured. Man, isn’t friendship the order of the day? So many people long for true friendship. The kind of things that we take for granted here in a church like ours. Of loving one another and being in, in fellowship and loving friendships and deep affection with one another, caring for each other, praying for each other, giving to one another, providing for each other in need, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. That is something the world knows nothing about.
Doesn’t matter how many likes or angry emojis or come across social media, it does not fulfill what many people are longing for. This is what we’re spending money to gain, make friends. But we need to realize the effect of obeying this command, the benefit of obedience that accrues to ourselves.
Contrast that with the dishonest manager. The dishonest manager, he’s driven by self-interest, at any cost. Even the cost of people. He stole money from his boss to ingratiate himself to these unsuspecting farmers. These people that he tricked into thinking he’s a generous man. It’s not trying to make friends he’s trying to make money. He’s missing it, completely missing the point. Think about that, men, women. If you’re spending way too much time in your job because you’re trying to make money, you’re missing the point. Don’t wear yourselves out for money. For the sons of light, focus for us is on actual friendship. The friendship of those who know and love the truth. The partnership, and the work of those who support the truth.
For those who work for the truth, who invest in the truth, money is a means of creating these friendships. It’s a means of building and strengthening fellowship. It’s a means of participating in gospel partnership. When money is viewed that way, from an eternal kingdom perspective, listen, that is the pathway to Christian maturity. That’s what maturity is all about. The entire world of blessing and a gratifying sense of joy that comes from faithfulness, and stewardship, and partnering with like-minded friends for the sake of the kingdom.
I have a great admiration and affection for those who serve in the military. Soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, for those who’ve served in combat and those who have sacrificed, in some cases have sacrificed a whole lot. Some have sacrificed good friends. Others sacrificed the health of their bodies and their brains through injury. Many sacrificed peace of mind, as images and sounds and smells of war can plague their memories for a long, long time to come.
Every now and again you’ll come across an interview with one of these war heroes, and the question comes in one form or another about the sacrifice and the interviewer asks, “Was it worth it?” The veteran says, obviously in a conflicted state of mind, “Yes, sacrifice is worth it.” And then there’s this naive follow-up question, “What gives you such a deep sense of patriotism that you’d make such sacrifice, and you go through all that?” It’s not patriotism that keeps the guy in the fight. It’s not reciting the Declaration of Independence that inspires great acts of bravery in wartime. He does what he does for the man on his left and for the man on his right.
Many who have served in the military get this, but it’s about the fellowship. It’s about the camaraderie. It’s the sacrifice and the pain and the suffering. And all of that is worth it because of the friendship that is forged in the partnership of a mission and accomplishing a mission together. Of doing something significant, of working hard together, of suffering together. Of accomplishing a meaningful goal together. Listen, that is a powerful illustration for us as Christians. A motivation for us as well.
It’s one of the factors that keeps us faithful and diligent, disciplined, and holding up under suffering. The fellowship of Christian friendships. The fellowship of Christian partnership and the gospel for the Christian on your left and the Christian on your right.
The fellowship in gospel stewardship motivated the apostle Paul to endure suffering. He told the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I’m filling up what’s lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body.” That is the church. That is you, Colossians.
He told the Corinthians, “I do it all. I make myself a slave to all, whether it’s to the scruples of the Jews, whether it’s to those who are under the law or those outside of the law to the weak of conscience. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” He gets it. He gets it.
To Timothy he said, “…I am suffering. I am bound with chains as a criminal… But I endure everything for the sake of the elect…” Second Timothy 2:9, “…that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” He gets it. He’s investing now, even suffering now, for the sake of the future.
Paul saw himself rightly as a steward of the Gospel. He was motivated by fellowship to make true lasting friendships. Ones that are bound together eternally by the bond of gospel partnership.
Thinking about application, how do we accomplish that together? What is a concrete way to practice this together? Build the church, beloved, build the church! The church is the evangelizing and discipleship means that Christ has given to the world. We are the gift of Christ to the world, to evangelize and disciple, to make disciples of all the nations. Build the church. Build the church. You may have noticed if you’ve been to our church website recently, gracegreeley.org, don’t go there now but later. But when you do go there you’re going to see that someone built a new website for us.
“Paul saw himself rightly as a steward of the Gospel.”Travis Allen
And that someone, it’s not a mythical elves in some backroom somewhere, it’s real people. Small team of church members and they invested in that project. They gave their time and their money and their skill and their expertise and their experience and their competency and their leadership. They, they invested, sweat, blood, and even a few tears, to make that thing come alive. Didn’t get there on its own. The web team driven by this motive of fellowship, friendship, partnership.
They have exercised a good and godly stewardship for the sake of promoting truth. To make friends for the kingdom, there is a lot of good content to be found on that website. Gospel content, gospel truth is there. That website is a tool for sharing the truth. It’s a means of spreading the truth. It’s a place that you can send the people you’re talking to, your friends, your family, strangers that you meet on the street you’re talking to about the gospel, send them to gracegreeley.org, then click on sermons. Whatever they find there, even if they don’t find what you’re sending them to, they’re going to find truth. So much to read, so much to digest. Use as tool.
By the grace of God our church has been given the gift of broadcasting our teaching ministry on the radio. God has given us the gift of hosting conferences so we can introduce others to truth, so we can encourage Christians, so we can strengthen pastors and church leaders. And when we do that together, man, don’t we rejoice in the fellowship and the friendship and the partnership of doing something significant to broadcast the truth to others?
Another special someone invested in this church to design and improve the space we gather in. I love the decorations that have been put up in the worship center here. That doesn’t happen on its own, it happens with people, wants to beautify the place to make it a more pleasing aesthetic for your sake. To promote our own thinking and a lack of distraction and a sense of beauty and a sense of joy together, as we worship together our God.
Another couple of someones. There’s some people who designed the aesthetics, some, some of the people who performed actual work, did the building, the painting, ran the electrical, hung, hung the screens.
Others someones invested in a live stream by which others outside of this congregation can get introduced to our church and see what’s going on. We have evangelism ministries; the Red Team bring the gospel, hope of the gospel to the people in our city, to bring the gospel to students on our college campuses. We hope to relaunch the Green Team as well, post pandemic, to bring the hope of the gospel to those who are living in retirement communities and assisted living communities. Many of whom are forgotten and lonely and longing for friendship.
Close to heaven too, close to eternity, where they need to hear the gospel. Being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ is the most profound friendship that they can find. By friendship with God they enter into the fellowship of the company of saints. They join a partnership that is deeper than the camaraderie of soldiers in warfare. Something the lasts way beyond this lifetime as they lived together in eternal dwellings.
Those projects and ministries they’re not finished, not by a long shot. All the things I’ve mentioned; website, radio, conferences, outreach teams, live stream, each one of these things needs improvement. Each one of these things requires investment time and money and energy, expertise, skill, competency, leadership. We need help, we need your help.
Projects and ministries I have not mentioned, all for the purpose though, in this church, of building the Church, of making disciples and making friends by means of unrighteous wealth, by mammon.
Creating avenues for evangelism and discipleship, and to proclaim truth from this church, which is a stewardship that we have as a grace of God. To build this local church together. What’s the motive? The motive is fellowship, true friendships bound together eternally in the bond of a gospel partnership. Which brings us to a fourth and final motive, number four, the motive of worship. The motive of worship.
Fourth motive for stewardship is worship, that is to abide eternally with God in a permanent home. The unrighteous steward had his eye on his immediate future, not his eternal future. He’s thinking only of his temporal home, not his permanent home. We make friends, being thoughtful and intentional in the use of unrighteous mammon, so that when our earthly wealth fails, when this life is over, those friends may receive us into eternal dwellings.
When Jesus said that, most translations use the word “dwellings”, but in the original, what Jesus actually said grabbed the attention of this predominantly Jewish audience in a way that just locked in their brains. If you look back at verse 4, you can see the dishonest manager hoped that this plan would work, “…that people may receive me into their houses.” It’s a different word, “houses.” The word there is oikos. Typical word for a house that people live in. A structure, a dwelling permanent-ish wouldn’t, won’t survive the burning of the judgment, but it will, it will, you know, provide for their family.
Here the word is, is less than that. It’s the word skene which means tent, huh. Why does the word skene stand out to these people in a Jewish audience? Well, first of all, a tent is a non-permanent form of lodging. It’s decidedly not permanent. It won’t last.
Word for temporary lodging though, is modified by the adjective aionios, eternal, everlasting. That stands out, received into eternal non-permanent forms of lodging. That’s what’s sticking in their brain. A permanent non-permanent place to live, hmmm. It’s an oxymoron. It’s a figure of speech Jesus uses that’s appears contradictory on the surface of it, those two terms together and he means it to be so. He intended to speak that way to draw our attention to a second thing, for especially for this Jewish audience.
It’s a blessed promise here skene, the word tent, can also refer to or be translated as, and often is translated as, tabernacle, tabernacle. And that’s a concept that points us to the deeper sense of what Jesus is saying here. Because tabernacle as a concept is embedded deeply in Jewish national identity. Tabernacle to the Jews is essentially a glorified tent. There’s a non-permanent portable structure that could be set up and taken down in order to accommodate the movement of the nation of Israel as they left Egypt prior to entering into the land of Canaan, the promised land. So the tabernacle, you know, was surrounded by a courtyard, set apart the holy spaces with this fabric fence so that that which is not holy, that’s just profane and secular, stays outside and everything holy is inside. It’s boundaries for the Holy Tabernacle.
The whole area inside is holy, but especially holy were the two rooms called the Tent of Meeting. Outer room is called the Holy Place and the inner room is called the Most Holy Place. The outer room, or the outer chamber, had several objects in it table on the north side with the showbread on it. There’s a menorah, seven-pronged golden lampstand there, lights perpetually lit near the veil.
Separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place there’s a thick curtain that separated that veil the Most Holy Place. And inside the Most Holy Place is a golden altar, or coming into the Holy Most Holy Place is a golden altar of incense, representing the prayers offered up for Israel. But only the high priest of Israel could enter into the Most Holy Place, direct descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Only he could enter the Most Holy Place and only once a year, on the Day of Atonement and only by consecration of himself, and the people and only by blood sacrifice.
Inside the Most Holy Place is the Ark of the Covenant. Basically a gold covered box. The lid of that gold covered box is called the mercy seat. Sitting atop the mercy seat two golden cherubim facing one another. Each on either end of it, wings extended, touching one another, covering the mercy seat. And inside that ark, inside that golden box, is the testimony, the law of Moses, the written word of the Living God. God told Moses in Exodus 25:22 that it was there, within the Holy of Holies, at the mercy seat, before the Ark of the Covenant, under the watchful guardianship of the cherubim, that is where God would meet with man. “There I will meet with you,” he says, “and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”
The Israelites would assemble and disassemble that earthly tabernacle, and they would carry it from one place to another wherever God led them. He led them by that shekinah glory of God in the form of a pillar of cloud by day so they could see it and a pillar of fire by night so they could see it. The word shekinah, we associate that word with a manifestation of the visible glory of God. The bright effulgent glory, shining glory of God. But it comes from the Hebrew word, shakan. That is a cognate of the word tent. Which means, literally, shekinah means to tabernacle with, to dwell with.
Shakan, shekinah, this represents the gracious presence of God. This is his willingness to tabernacle with his people. To have an intimate relationship with them, to journey with them, to dwell among them in a tent. In fact, Moses said, “If you will not go with us, don’t send me.”
So the people started at Sinai, wandered all around the Arabian desert during the wilderness wanderings. After the wilderness wanderings, the tabernacle came to Gilgal, where it stayed during Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. Once the conquest is finished, twelve tribes of Israel entered Canaan, took inheritance, took possession of the promised land. The tabernacle was set up at Bethel. Bethel literally means House of God. Is there all the way through the days of judges and then moved to Shiloh during Samuel’s time, that’s where he was.
When Saul was anointed the first King of Israel the tabernacle moved to a city called Nob near Saul’s hometown of Gibeah. After Saul’s time, the tabernacle moved to Gibeon, which was his last earthly home. After the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant, which is the same battle that resulted in the death of King Saul, the first King of Israel, the ark sojourned, it was captured and sojourned for a time in the Philistine territory. But then through a miraculous judge set, of judgments on the Philistines. It went back to Israel, and it came to rest in Kiriath Jearim. The tabernacle itself never moved from its place in Gibeon.
Even after David moved the ark to Jerusalem, and he pitched a tent there for the ark to rest in, the tabernacle still remained in Gibeon. David commissioned his son Solomon to build the temple. That which replaced the tabernacle. The temple, which was a more permanent structure to replace the non-permanent structure of the tabernacle and that earthly tabernacle faded in its importance of symbolizing the Lord’s presence, but it never left the Hebrew mind. It never left the Jewish mind.
In fact, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that the earthly tabernacle, and everything it contains; the table, the lampstand, the Ark of the Covenant, all those things, he refers to the physical objects, as copies of the heavenly things, Hebrews 9:23. The writer tells us that it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified. Purification rituals, all described, prescribed in the law of Moses, rituals that demanded a blood sacrifice in order that God’s abiding presence, his shekinah, would be there. Would reside with them would remain with them. Didn’t wanna lose that.
He goes on to say the right of the Hebrews, the heavenly things themselves, that which the copy is based on, the heavenly things themselves, they have been purified with better sacrifices than these earthly ones. That is, better sacrifices than the blood of bulls and goats. What is that sacrifice? It’s the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, who is our Savior. Hebrews 9, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” How was that symbolized here on earth?
The veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, torn in two from top to bottom. No longer is there a separation, because of Christ. That is the eternal tent Jesus speaks of here. He knows far more than what he says. That’s the everlasting tabernacle, that is the actual place where God himself dwells. That is the place where the friends that we make using mammon. Friends we make will welcome us there. They’ll receive us warmly. They will show us heavenly hospitality. They’ll show us what our investments have produced. They’ll introduce us to our dividends. They’ll give us a guided tour of paradise, our heavenly home, the eternal tabernacle of God. No more earthly wandering, no more sojourning, no more moving from place to place. But finally, eternally home.
I’m enjoying reading Bruce Gordon’s biography of John Calvin. John Calvin was a Frenchman and he had to leave his beloved France with along with many other evangelicals to escape the persecution of the Catholics. And so as they left and as they fled they became exiles in foreign lands. Which for Calvin became eventually Geneva.
And Bruce Gordon highlights Calvin’s sense of being a sojourner on the earth as Calvin kind of puts himself in the mind of Israel, or David being chased by Saul or Israel in the wilderness wanderings. He too fells, feels that sense of exile and being a sojourner on the earth. Wandering through this earthly life out of his homeland into a foreign language, a place where people spoke a different language.
But in his journey, along his journey and you can get that sense as you read his institutes, as you read his commentaries, you get that sense from Calvin that he considers himself a sojourner, a wanderer, a pilgrim. But he’s comforted by the fact of God’s nearness.
Bruce Gordon describes Calvin’s hope that quote “God accompanies those who journey through the world. Not from afar, but through the indwelling of the spirit.” Calvin had an intimate and comforting sense of the nearness of God. Home, for the exile, is not a location but union with God.
That’s the promise that Jesus holds out here in Luke 16:9, “…make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails, (when it does, because it will) they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” A home in God’s permanent tabernacle, union with God.
Beloved, what motivates your stewardship? Discipleship should motivate it, to be obedient to Jesus Christ. Wisdom should motivate your stewardship to walk in the truth. Applying what we’ve learned from the light we’ve received from God’s word, from the teaching of Jesus Christ himself. Fellowship should motivate your stewardship too. To make friends to form partnership for kingdom purposes. And worship, it’s the heart of it. That’s the goal. That’s the reward. To dwell eternally in the presence of God in the household of faith and worship him in his holy tabernacle forever.
Does that excite you? It does me. Does that motivate you to practice Christian stewardship? Invest in the kingdom work for the sake of making friends for eternity? It does me. It should you too.
Father, thank you so much for sending us the Lord Jesus Christ, who tabernacled among us. That really is the truth that we’re celebrating this season. That Jesus came to take on flesh, take on humanity, and to exegete you, to make visible the invisible God. To show us you who cannot be seen because you are by nature invisible, and yet he’s made visible. Phillip said, “Show us the Father, and it will be enough, enough for us.” And Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” So Father, we thank you for sending us the Lord Jesus Christ. And every time we hear from him, every time we see him most clearly we see you. Thank you for teaching us. Thank you for giving us motives for our stewardship. Help us to be good stewards of you. Help us to be good stewards of this life that you’ve given us. This gospel we’ve received and all the things that you’ve put into our possession. Let us be fruitful, productive, and faithful in our stewardship before you. In Jesus name, we pray and for his sake, Amen.