2010 Luke’s Gospel
Love God and Use Money Accordingly
Key Verse: 16:13 "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
In today’s passage, we will learn about some lessons through one man that help us to know how to live practically to be a good disciple of Jesus in this world. Usually we think practical matters, practical thoughts, and practical actions are not important in our spiritual life and are not related to spirituality. But when we see Jesus, we can see clearly that the most practical thing is the most spiritual one. Jesus is most spiritual ever. So while on earth, Jesus practically saved a lot of people from their sickness or disease, and even saved some people from death. He did not just say sweet words. He practically helped the poor and the sick. Jesus is holy and spiritual but he did overturn the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves violently when people made the temple a den of robbers (Matthew 21). He is humble and yet he did not just close his eyes, speak slowly and walk slowly as to look humble. But he shouted, “Away from me, Satan!” sternly when the humble shepherd Jesus had to drive out demons. Jesus’ words very simple while worldly words sound great and deep such as “Life is short but art long” or “Failure is the mother of success.” But the word of Jesus is simple such as “Get up!” or “Come out!” But it has practical power to solve any problem, even the problem of death while the worldly words do not have. Solving a life problem practically is very important to be spiritual. This time through the passage, we may learn to solve our real problem in life practically and become more spiritual to present ourselves to God as approved workman in the eyes of Jesus.
Look at verse 1. “Jesus told his disciples, ‘There was a certain rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.’” Jesus began his story with a rich man and his manager. The manager of the rich man was accused because he wasted his master’s wealth even though he was not the rich man’s younger son or heir. A manager is an agent who works for the principal, that is, his master. He owes the duty to his master to exercise prudent and careful judgment and skill when he is engaged in the ordinary course of business for his master’ benefit according to Commercial Law of US. This is called fiduciary duty. In real business world such as in a corporate organization, a manager of any department takes a great deal of responsibilities to lead his department. So usually mangers have long-year experience and get paid a lot more than other employees in the organization.
They have special benefits and treatments from the corporation because they see the overall picture with constant responsibility, have great plans, set standards and are tough in enforcing their subordinates. In the office, I am just an officer. When I am done for the day, I just go home happily, forgetting everything in the office. But the manager in my office, she gets stressed out very often. She says she sometimes dreams a nightmare because of her responsibility as manager. The manager in the parable was not a good one. Instead of making a profit, he lost money for his master. He was dishonest. He might have been lazy and indulgent, and consequently negligent and corrupt. Managers who do not make a profit will be dismissed, especially if they are dishonest. Finally, the master called the bad manager in and said, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer” (2). Now he got in a big trouble.
Look at verses 3-4. “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg - I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’” The manager realized that he had to do something to get through his critical situation. Before he did not work that much for his master, but now he got started to work hard for his future, using his all abilities. Nowadays it is very difficult to get a job for the experienced people as well as for the entry level people who just got the college degree. Recently I heard that new employees in my company are from prominent colleges such as U-Penn. MBA. With that, everybody thinks it is very hard to get a job out there. Usually a graduate from U-Penn MBA goes to one of big American major companies that everybody loves to go to. Even people who have experiences have hard time to get a job again such as teachers, managers, and so on. Even if you have job now, you never know when you are going to be fired. So everybody is scared no matter whether they have job or not. The manger in the story might have also got scared if he would lose his position because he still had children to support for their college education, and had to pay all monthly basis payment such as home mortgage, utilities, telephone, cable T.V., internet bill and so on. In this moment he could be just paralyzed and stood still doing nothing. Or he could plan wickedly to sue his master for unfair treatment on the job, or prepare his resume again to submit for another position while as applying for unemployment benefit. But what he did was to put aside everything else to find a great solution. It is really true that crisis is opportunity. Then how did he turn his crisis into an opportunity? He was thinking and thinking over again and again and came to a conclusion that he would give big discounts to his master’s debtors. He cut their bills by 20%, or even 50%. He was far from being honest, faithful, sincere and trustworthy. Actually, it was the custom for a steward, or responsible servant, to take commission on all sales of his master's goods. This was his only means of making a salary. In the present case the original loan was presumably 400 gallons of olive oil and 800 bushels of wheat. In reducing the debtors' bills, he is not depriving his master of anything, but only sacrificing his own immediate interests by giving up his legitimate commission. Even though the manager was bad, there are a few things to learn from him. Those are right judgment based on reality, shift of way of thinking, and decisive courage. Let us think about those insights out of the manager’s trouble.
Look at verse 3 again. “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg.’” There is a famous phrase taken from the Art of War that is Chinese military treatise. It says that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. Also Socrates once said, “Know yourself!” This is one of famous phrases that are quoted by many people in the world. It is about self-awareness or self-discovery. This is the beginning step of solving a problem. However, it is not easy for us to confront with what we are, especially with our weaknesses. We just want to live in the illusion that we will be good later on, or want to avoid, ignore, and finally forget our weaknesses by doing something else such as sleeping all day long. With knowing ourselves well, we also have to judge the unfavorable situation correctly. In a word, we have to make a right judgment for ourselves and the situation. The manager judged his situation accurately, in which he would be fired sooner or later. He also admitted the truth about himself, in fact, about his weaknesses. He was not strong enough to dig. Hard manual labor might give his fragile body back pain or permanent disability. He also admitted that he was spoiled by power, so he could not endure being a beggar; he would die of shame. It is important to judge our situation and ourselves accurately.
Secondly, he did not get stuck in the rut of the unfavorable situation, but came up with what he could do in it. People usually see what they do not have and become despaired or embarrassed. If you become embarrassed or nervous, you have already become a loser in the game. But the manager, after he saw what he did not have such as physical strength to dig and bronze face to beg, thought about what he could do and what he had and focused on them. As a matter of fact, every body is not perfect, and yet every person has their own strength as the old saying “Every man for his own trade.” Therefore after we admit our weaknesses, we should find a way out with our strong points. When you realize that something about your life is out of your control such as your height, you better just let go of it and do not waste time any longer by thinking about it over again and again. Rather you better focus on what is under your control and make it your strength. When you become a college student, you will learn a corporate business strategy called SWOT in business class. S indicates strength, W weakness, O opportunity, and T threat. A corporate organization usually analyzes its strength, weakness, opportunity and threat to achieve its goal in a competitive business environment. Likewise we are given our own SWOT by God. We have to analyze thoroughly our SWOT and come up with a creative idea to work through the difficult situation we face today at school or at work. There is a famous comedian in Korea. I do not remember his name, and yet I like him because he makes people laugh even though he stammers a lot while in his performance. I was shocked when I saw him first on T.V because he did not care his weakness, the same thing as I had. He did not seem to be shameful, rather used it as his talent for making other people happy. Unlike him I was just sacred of being known to be stammering among people and tried hard to hide myself. However, I studied hard to cover my weakness and I could achieve fairly good academic performance as student. In this sense, my weakness gave me fear, and yet it gave a great strength to keep studying hard at the same time. For the same problem it would be opportunity or threat. It’s all up to you.
Lastly, the manager took an action decisively and courageously for his future once he found out what he could do with his strong points. Before he would get fired, he acted quickly because once he would get fired there would be nothing he could do. He called his master's creditors one by one and renegotiated their bills, giving big discounts. This might cause some unexpected problems. But he did so without hesitation. In this way, he ingratiated himself to his master's debtors. He believed that they would later welcome him into their homes. He believed that his future security problem was solved. Then, surprisingly, his master commended him because he had acted shrewdly even though he was dishonest (8a). The master was happy with him because the master might get his original portion. This tells us that shrewdness is greatly respected among people of the world. Not to mention, dishonest is bad, and yet shrewdness is what we need to have while living in this world. Jesus commends the dishonest manager for his shrewdness, not the shrewd manager for his dishonesty, i.e. the manager's principle is the right one, even if he goes about it in the wrong way.
Look at verses 8b-9. “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Jesus sees that worldly people like the manager in the story are more shrewd than his people. And he wants his people to be shrewd particularly in using worldly wealth, that is, the money you earn. While we live in the world, we should make money for our lives. Without money we cannot do anything in this world. On the other hand, if you have a lot of money, you will be treated as king or queen in the world. That’s why worldly people make all efforts to make money as much as possible. There are so many books regarding how to make a good deal of money. Of course, it is important to know how to make money effectively and productively. But it is more important to know how to use the money we earn than to know how to make money, no matter how much we make. I heard that a high school teacher spent all her money buying luxurious bags, clothes, shoes and so on. She was addicted to shopping while she was filling her empty heart by keeping buying this and that. Then, she owed a lot of debt to the extent of default. Because of her foolish money spending, she ruined her life and let everybody around her suffer very much. Then, what does Jesus say about how to spend the money you have? Jesus says, “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves!” I still remember that when I was a young boy, my father gave me some pocket money, saying to me, “Use your money to buy something delicious for your friends!” Then, I came to know how to make friends more easily. Still, when I want to make friends with someone, I remember what my father said. Of course, Jesus does not mean that we should try to buy friends with money or do God’s work with money. Rather, it means we should use our worldly money shrewdly in gaining friends, which is a great investment for the future, rather than in anything else for ourselves. Because of this, we will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Look at verses 10-12. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?” Through these verses we see that we are stewards while we live in this world. God is our master and we are his servant. This is unchangeable. When you have a job in the future, there will be always your master, that is, manager or supervisor in the work place. Even CEO the top position of a company is supervised by his master, that is, shareholders. You are supposed to have this master-servant relationship when you have to make money. In this kind of relationship there are some important characters for a servant to have. Those are honesty and trustworthiness. In this world, if you are not honest or trustworthy with little, you cannot be trusted with much. But if you are honest and trustworthy with little, you will be trusted with much. Therefore, we have to take a good care of little things of our master’s, then he will entrust us with much of his worldly wealth.
Some wicked people use this principle very well when they deceive other people for money. They borrow little money from others and pay back on time even with some interest. Over time they do the same thing faithfully, increasing the borrowing amount of money little by little. Then the wicked borrower is trusted with a lot of money from many other people. Then, it is time for the wicked man to run away with a lot of money. The point being is that we have to be trustworthy and faithful in the work of God as his servant, even with little things. Then God our ultimate master will entrust us with great things. The Bible says “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (Rev.2:10c).
Look at verse 13. “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” There are some people who believe they could love God and money all together. As we have one heart, we can serve only one master. We cannot serve two different masters at the same time. If we love and serve God, we will despise money, treating it as a servant. But if we love and serve Money, we will despise God in our hearts. We will become money idol worshipers. In fact, Money is not a subject to worship, but a subject to utilize for God’s glory. When we love and please God, we will do our best to be good servants of his kingdom for his glory and pleasure. Then, God pours out the riches of heaven upon us. He answers our prayers and uses his power on our behalf.
Look at verse 14. “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.” When they heard Jesus’ rebuke, the Pharisees, who loved money, were sneering at Jesus. It seems that they pretended to be fine outwardly, but inwardly they must be unpleasant and embarrassed because they felt a prick of conscience at what Jesus said. Jesus’ words penetrated their mind and said, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.” (15) Like the Pharisees we can fool people for a while by pretending to be good, but not God because God sees through our hearts clearly. In verses 16-18 Jesus teaches that we have to obey God’s laws absolutely with all our hearts to enter the kingdom of God.
Through the shrewd manager we learn that we have to prepare for our future in advance shrewdly as God’s steward even when times are no good. It’s because the kingdom of God is near. Even though the kingdom of God is near, if we do nothing for it, we would be foolish. As a steward or manger we are easily tempted to serve Money more than God in the course of life. But wise steward do not serve Money but God alone because he knows he cannot serve both at the same time. Let us pray that we may act shrewdly in practice to serve and please God in this world until we are well-prepared to enter the kingdom of God in the future. Overall our shrewdness is to love God more than Money. May God bless you to be shrewd in what you do to serve God all the more in practice!
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