Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 16:1-13 – Building Your Spiritual Portfolio

Grace For The Journey

Today we are in Luke 16 where we have another parable of our Lord Jesus.  Parables are short stories Jesus tells where He stresses a heavenly truth.  Parables are not to be allegorized where one finds supposed “hidden meanings” here and there, but rather parable are to be seen as a short story that stresses one main point.  See if you can discover the one main point in this parable.  Jesus speaks to His disciples and He tells them about a rich man who has a steward or manager, a guy who manages his possessions.

Arguably the greatest challenge facing Christians is the challenge to live our lives with eternity in view; to live not for this present world, but for the world to come.  Few of us actually wake in the morning thinking that this may well be our last day.  We rise, shower, dress, and go and do the things we have done before.  We can even be religious and still be lulled into the notion that our days are many and eternity is that vague, future, far away thing that we will get to someday, but right now there are far more pressing matters: we have got to get to work, got to go to the store, got to clean the house, go shopping, prepare the meal, and enjoy life.

It is not like we set out to be conformed to this world and its ways, values, and priorities; like our rising and showering each day our conforming to the world “just happens.”  We are lulled into it the way a small twig is carried downstream by the current.  In many ways Christians are not altogether different from non-Christians in the way they live their lives, order their priorities, and plan their futures.

Christians are tempted like the guy we read about back in chapter 12, tempted to “build bigger barns” to store all their worldly goods or tempted to build a large investment portfolio for the purpose of enjoying a life of ease and luxury.  Occasionally, a sermon, an event, or a twinge of guilt reminds us of the brevity of our lives and the importance of taking care of our posterity and many then carve out a bit from their worldly possessions to leave behind something for their children and grandchildren.  The talk at the funeral home and elsewhere is about what he or she did in this life and “left behind” for his or her posterity.  This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing.  It is important to take care of our children and grandchildren. 

But the Bible intersects this discussion

With the striking truth that real life is

Determined not so much by what one

Has “left behind” as it is determined

By what one has “sent ahead.”

Do you have an investment portfolio?  There is nothing wrong with this; you should be wisely investing for the future.  But is your investment portfolio part of a greater spiritual portfolio, a portfolio that takes into account the greater purpose for why you are here on this earth?  Does your investment portfolio reflect the truth that your days here are few in number and that you were created not to enjoy a life of ease and luxury, but that you were created for the purpose of glorifying God and furthering His kingdom?

One day we will die and stand before the Supreme Judge of the Universe.  We will die and stand before our Creator.  There will be a final accounting.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”  In Hebrews 9:26, the Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.”

Christians must live with an eye to the future, acting wisely, acting purposefully as we prepare to stand before God to give an accounting of the way we lived our lives.  That is the truth and that is the one main point of this parable.  Whatever else we may learn from this parable, we must see the one main truth that Christians are to live with an eye to the future, living wisely in this world, knowing one day we will answer to God for how we lived. 

Let’s study that truth more closely as we go through these verses.

Verses 1 and 2 tell us, “He also said to His disciples: ‘There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.  So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’”  There is this rich guy who has a lot of stuff and he has a guy working for him to manage his stuff.  The rich guy learns that the fella he has hired to manage his stuff is wasting his stuff.  Verse 2 says the rich guy calls him into his office and terminates him.  Picture the presidentof a company bringing a guy into his office and uttering those two infamous words, “You’re fired!”  That is the scenario.  This steward or manager managed money and possessions for his rich boss and now his rich boss has fired him.  He tells him to clean out his desk and get the accounting books in order and turn them over to him.

Verse 3 says, “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg.’”  The fired steward or manager is like, “What am I going do now?!  I am not good at physical labor like digging ditches and I am too proud to stand on the corner with a sign begging for money.  What am I going to do?”

Verses 4 tells us the former mangers says, “I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.”  This fired manager, has an idea.  He is going to do something good for these clients who owed his rich former employee so that they can help him out in return. 

Verses 5 to 7 tell us, “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’  And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’  Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’”  This former manager of his rich boss is severely cutting the debts that these folks owed the rich boss.  The steward or manager was previously occupied collecting these debts for his rich boss and so, because he is being fired, he is getting the books in order to turn them over to his boss, and before he turns them over, he is contacting the people who owe his boss and drastically cutting the debts by as much as one half.

Now we would anticipate that the master, or the rich guy, the Donald Trump person, would be really ticked off when he learns what the steward or manager has done.  We would expect that because the fired manager is slashing his profits.  But look at what verse 8 says, “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly.”  The master finds himself smiling and shaking his head at the shrewdness of this fired manager.  It is as though he says to himself, “Well, that little rascal!  I told him to clean out his desk and bring me the books and he had the shrewdness to take care of himself before he turned everything over to me.  What a creative scoundrel!”

Now note this . . .

The master commends the unjust steward

Not for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness.

This is important if we are to interpret the parable correctly.  The Bible does not condone the fired manager’s self-centered dishonesty, but his shrewdness.  Jesus goes on to save in the part of verse 8, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”  The “sons of this world” refers to lost people and “sons of light” refers to saved people.  Jesus says in one sense you have got to hand it to lost people, to unbelievers.  Unbelievers are unquestionably living for this world and they are good at it.  Believers, on the other hand, are not always so good at living for the world to come. 

Jesus is teaching Christians to act

As wisely and prudently

Concerning spiritual things

As non-Christians act

Concerning earthly things.

 In verse 9, Jesus says, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail they may receive you into an everlasting home.”  “Mammon” is an Aramaic term that means money or possessions.  “Unrighteous mammon” is best translated as “worldly wealth” or “worldly possessions.”  The term “friends” here is best understood as “God and all of heaven.”  Jesus tells Christians, “Make friends for yourselves by using your worldly wealth in such a way that – by your use of it – you will one day be welcomed cheerfully into an everlasting home.  Put another way, “Build your spiritual portfolio by investing in the future.”  Invest in the future and you will not regret it.  You will be richly rewarded in heaven.

Verse 11 tells us, “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”  Jesus makes the point again: Use your worldly wealth and worldly possessions in such a way that they accrue to you a heavenly reward; true riches.  It is not what you “leave behind,” it’s what you “send ahead.” True riches are enjoyed when we go to heaven and hear the “thank you’s” for what we “sent ahead” with respect to money, with respect to time, witness, mission, evangelism, encouragement – all for the purpose of building Christ’s kingdom.

Verse 12 says, “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?”  God has loaned us everything we have.  It is “another man’s.”  There is nothing that is truly ours.  We are to use what has been loaned to us as shrewdly for spiritual things as the fired manager used what belonged to another man for earthly things.  If we are faithful in “what is another man’s,” in the things that God entrusts to our care, then we will receive that which is “our own.”  That which is “our own” refers to true riches, spiritual wealth, heavenly rewards, things that cannot be taken away.

Jesus goes on to say in verse 13, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  You cannot serve God and money.  You cannot serve God and possessions.  The fact that mammon is compared to God suggests the idolatrous nature mammon may take in our lives.  We worship money and possessions instead of God.  Jesus teaches here that we will worship one or the other.  You cannot worship both.  You cannot.  And yet, how many of us try?

J. C. Ryle said, “Thousands on every side are continually trying to do the thing which Christ pronounces impossible.  They are endeavoring to be friends of the world and friends of God at the same time.  Their consciences are so far enlightened, that they feel they must have some religion.  But their affections are so chained down to earthly things, that they never come up to the mark of being true Christians.  And hence they live in a state of constant discomfort.  They have too much religion to be happy in the world, and they have too much of the world in their hearts to be happy in their religion.   In short, they waste their time in laboring to do that which cannot be done.  They are striving to ‘serve God and mammon.’”

How can you tell if you are a slave to money? Ask yourself . . .

  • Do I think and worry about it frequently?
  • Do I give up doing what I should do or would like to do in order to make more money?
  • Do I spend a great deal of my time caring for my possessions?
  • Is it hard for me to give money away?
  • Am I in debt?”

There are three general questions for us to answer as regards our spiritual portfolio. 

 1) Do I Honestly Live Each Day With Eternity In View?

Really think about this one.  Ask yourself these questions . . .

  • Do I honestly live each day with eternity in view?
  • Do I prepare for the future as shrewdly as the unjust manager prepared for his future?
  • As a child or teenager or young adult, am I living each day knowing that I will one day stand before God and answer for how I spent my time?
  • As a parent, do I prepare my children or grandchildren for eternity. 
  • Do my daily activities with my children demonstrate that we all are preparing for eternity, that this is far more important even than academics or sports, band, and extracurricular activities?

There will be a final accounting.  Am I preparing for it?

2) Do I Accept As True That I Own Nothing, But Am Merely A Steward Of All That

    God Has Given Me?

Think of that.  We own nothing really.  I am merely a steward of that which God has loaned to me.  Am I acting shrewdly with what has been entrusted to me by my Master?  The biblical principle of tithing rests on the truth that we are merely returning to God that which is His.  God owns 100% of all things.  He has entrusted to our care the 100% we have.  The tithe – and the word “tithe” means, “tenth” – the tithe is that which we return to God in demonstration of our accepting as true that we own nothing but are merely stewards of God’s stuff.  The tithe is our acknowledging Christ’s lordship over everything.

3) Is My Treasure Found In God Alone?

Am I trying to serve two masters – God and money?  Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Is my treasure found in God alone?  Often you can determine where a person’s treasure – and by extension where a person’s heart is – by listening to what they usually talk about.  What do you talk about most when you talk with your family?  When you talk with your friends?

I have read, The Diary & Journal of David Brainerd. Jonathan Edwards is the editor of the Brainerd’s Diary.  Both of these names are familiar to those who know a bit of history of the First Spiritual Awakening in colonial America; Edwards known mostly for his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and Brainerd known mostly for his tireless mission work among the Native American Indians in New Jersey and elsewhere, dying at age 29.  A striking similarity between Edwards and Brainerd was their shared love for spiritual conversation.  In the Introduction to Brainerd’s Diary it is written: “He had no liking for conversation which did not transport him into the presence of God.”  In one place in his Diary he bemoans that far too many professing Christians speak too little of spiritual things.

Think of it: How often do you and your spouse speak about spiritual things?  What do you speak about mostly – the car, the house, the vacation, the kids?  What do you speak about mostly to your friends – job, clothes, recreation, sports?  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Are you living for the “here” or the “hereafter?” 

Are you living for the “now” or the “then?”

In Philippians 3:18-20, Paul bemoans that, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their same – who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he says that while we are dying, our “light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

I heard about a man whose wife died a few years ago.  The man’s name is Ed Hartman, a pastor and author of a book entitled, Homeward Bound: Building an Attractive Christ-Centered Family on Eternal Principles. In the book, Ed writes about when his wife was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and how she had died leaving behind four small children.  In the book, Ed writes about the last really lucid conversation that he had with his wife, Amy.  Three weeks before she died, he asked her: “Sweetheart, do you know what is happening to you?” She nodded her head slowly and replied, “I’m going home.” He asked her how she felt about that. With a quiet calm she replied simply, “I’m okay, I know who I’m going to see,” and then she drifted off to sleep. Several months before she died, Amy had stopped by the local florist’s shop on her way to visit a friend.  She knew she was going to die but was not yet bed-ridden.  While she was in the shop she noticed several large floral arrangements that had been prepared for a funeral scheduled later that day.  Though the flowers were beautiful she did not like the pre-printed cards attached to the flower arrangements: “With Deepest Sympathy” or “With our Condolences.”  She said to the florist, “Those cards are too depressing and I don’t want any of those on the flowers you prepare for my funeral. Let me see what you’ve got.” So she thumbed through all the florist’s pre-printed cards (cards not just for solemn occasions, but cards for joyous occasions) and found one she liked and told the florist to put it on all the cards sent with flowers to her funeral.  Three months later, at her service, all the flowers at the church and the grave included the card she had selected: “Welcome to your new home.”

Are you building your spiritual portfolio?  Are you investing in eternity?  Are you preparing for your heavenly home?  Jesus says in Luke 9:25, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”  We must prepare for our “final accounting.”  We must repent from our sin and accept Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.  If He is Lord we will relinquish to Him our soul, our lives, our all.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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