Vol. 2 Issue 13 March 21, 2008
The weekly newsletter of True Potential Publishing
Money Part 2
“Iâ€™ve been rich and Iâ€™ve been poor and believe me, rich is better.” My dad told me that. Iâ€™ve mentioned it before. He was just kidding around when he said it and he sure wasnâ€™t rich, but the saying stuck with me.
Funny how some things stick, isnâ€™t it?
Everybodyâ€™s got an opinion about money. Religious people always have an opinion about money. I wonder if the opinion they give you is really the opinion they keep way down inside, away from prying eyes? I guess thatâ€™s why you got to watch what they do and not pay so much attention to what they say.
Jesus told a parable about money I never could quite figure out. Like I said last week; I was getting mixed signals. Itâ€™s in Luke chapter 16. Hereâ€™s the short version:
A rich guy finds out that his accountant is crooked. He goes to the accountant and says, “Iâ€™ve heard youâ€™re wasting my money. Put my accounts in order and turn in your ledger â€“ youâ€™re fired.”
Well, the accountant, realizing heâ€™s been caught, cooks up a scheme. He calls in the people who owe his boss to settle accounts. He changes the first guyâ€™s balance from eight hundred gallons of olive oil to four hundred and second guyâ€™s balance of a thousand bushels of wheat to eight-hundred. The accountant figures that since heâ€™s getting fired anyway and his chances of finding another job are pretty bleak, that heâ€™d better make friends with his bossâ€™s debtors by cooking the books to reduce their debt. Maybe theyâ€™ll show him some financial consideration on the back end.
The accountantâ€™s boss is no dummy. He finds out what the guy has done and in spite of being cheated out of a considerable amount of oil and wheat, he thinks the accountant is pretty shrewd.
To me, this didnâ€™t sound like parable material. I knew Jesus was trying to make a point, but it sounds like he was giving an atta-boy to the dishonest accountant.
Right after the story Jesus said, “the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” I picked up that he was making a difference between two groups of people â€“ people of the world and people of light.
Jesus was telling this and some other stories to a big crowd of people who had been following him around. The crowd was filled with all kinds of people – commoners, tax-collectors and “sinners.”
Itâ€™s funny; Luke is telling this story and when he describes the crowd he puts “sinners” in parentheses. Like whether or not they were really “sinners” compared to those who considered themselves “not–sinners” was up for debate.
On this particular occasion, another group showed up; kinda standing off to the side with their arms folded. They were the Pharisees and teachers of the law – the religious leaders. They liked to be in charge of telling people what to do and what to think. Jesus had been screwing that up lately.
Iâ€™m pretty sure Jesus started in on this particular set of stories just because they showed up. His words embarrassed them and people who regard themselves as important donâ€™t like being embarrassed. But they needed embarrassing; so Jesus fired away.
Youâ€™d think that, knowing who-all was present, the religious leaders would be the “people of the light” and the tax collectors and “sinners” would be the “people of the world.” I donâ€™t think Jesus meant it that way.
He tells the crowd, “â€¦ use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” That was a head-scratcher. I didnâ€™t get how using “worldly wealth” (money) to make friends now would get me “welcomed into eternal dwellings” later.
Jesus followed up with: “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 elseâ€™s property, who will give you property of your own?”
Finally, the light in my head clicked on. Money is something youâ€™re entrusted with – like the crooked accountant in the story. Itâ€™s not yours; youâ€™re just managing it for someone else. As manager, your job is to turn a profit for the One to whom the money belongs. Treating it like your own leads to trouble.
None of the money is yours; thatâ€™s the point. And in light of whatâ€™s coming, itâ€™s not even all that valuable. What you do with your money (not really your money) on earth is kind of a test for what youâ€™ll do with really valuable stuff later.
Like every other money manager, youâ€™ve been entrusted with a certain amount. It may be just a little or it may be a whole lot. The One who owns it decided your share to manage for His own reasons.
By the way, if youâ€™re one of the managers with just a little bit to manage, donâ€™t envy the guy who has tons of it. Heâ€™s got his own row to hoe. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)
Back to the story:
Then Jesus got right to the root of what he was trying to say. “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.”
Moneyâ€™s a pretty useful tool. You can do so much stuff with it. You can buy food; you can buy a house or a car. You can send your kids to college and play golf on the weekends. You can give money to someone in need. You can give it to a church so they can spread the gospel, or feed the hungry, or build a new sanctuary, or buy a really cool chandelier for the foyer. You can even try to buy love or prestige or a little peace with it – but that has a way of backfiring.
The point is, money being so handy for doing almost anything, people kind of loose sight of the fact that it doesnâ€™t really have any value; not in this life and for sure, not in the life to come.
When people loose sight and begin to think money is valuable, the relationship begins to change. Instead of thinking like a money manager, responsible for Somebody elseâ€™s money, you start to think that maybe the moneyâ€™s there for your own uses. You know â€“ like you own it.
When that happens things get topsy-turvy. Now the cart is pulling the horse. The servant is the master. The thing youâ€™re supposed to be watching over for the One who owns is starts to own you. Like I said, because of all the stuff it can do, money is an excellent servant. But itâ€™s a lousy master. And God says that thereâ€™s only room for one Master in your life. You canâ€™t get away with trying to serve both. It doesnâ€™t work.
As Jesus was wrapping up his parables about money and he saw the “… Pharisees, who loved money â€¦” over in the corner sneering at him. The crowd knew how self-righteous and money-grubbing the Pharisees were, but they were the religious mucky-mucks – who were tax collectors and “sinners” to question their righteousness?
Jesus handled it. “He said to them, â€˜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 Godâ€™s sight.â€™”
Wow. The stuff we value is detestable in Godâ€™s sight. That includes money. But if weâ€™re Godâ€™s money managers and weâ€™re supposed to turn a profit and money is detestable in Godâ€™s sight, what are we supposed to invest our money in?
Weâ€™ll cover that next week when we talk about making a profit, when to invest, when to hold on to your money and when to give it away.
Weâ€™ll wrap up this week with a few assumptions and high points from Jesusâ€™ story:
1. If we say we belong to God, then everything we have belongs to Him too. That makes sense.
2. That means he owns everything in our possession, including our money; and weâ€™re just managing it for him (by the way, if this is true, then He really owns everything; your kids, your spouse, your house, your job, your plans â€¦ everything. Moneyâ€™s the least valuable thing on the list).
3. If youâ€™re managing somebody elseâ€™s money, youâ€™d better turn a profit (thatâ€™s in the Bible too). But a profit to God doesnâ€™t mean just making more money for Him. Moneyâ€™s not very valuable to God â€¦ whatâ€™s He going to buy? He wants something thatâ€™ll last â€¦ into eternity â€¦ like your family members, your neighbor, the homeless guy under the bridge or maybe even a whole bunch of little children in a dying country that, once their stomachs are full, will listen to somebody tell them about Jesus and about another life not too far away where stomachs are never empty and where disease and civil war donâ€™t kill their parents.
4. Everybody gets their share of money to manage. Donâ€™t worry about how little or how much you have. He knows what you can handle. Handle it wisely and Heâ€™ll trust you with more. Good money managers are hard to find.
5. Be warned. Moneyâ€™s a tricky thing. If you forget that youâ€™re the manager and itâ€™s the servant, itâ€™ll poke its nose in the door. Before you know it, youâ€™re the servant and itâ€™s the manager â€¦ and that doesnâ€™t work.
6. Do your job right, manage His money diligently here and now (not a very long time really) and youâ€™ll be rewarded beyond what you can imagine later. He pays in tender He considers valuable, and that lasts for a long, long time.
Until next week,