USE MAMMON WISELY
Luke 16:1-13 (Key verse: 16:9)
“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
The Parable of the Shrewd Manager is today’s passage. This parable has a tweak that creates some challenges for readers to understand. It lets us ponder and take time until we reach to the point. It is like the children’s illustration book “Where is Waldo?” Each illustration contains a cloud of people in a market place or on a beach. And everyone there looks similar to Waldo. There are also many interesting activities going on in each illustration. In this way, the illustrator tries to hide Waldo. Jesus used parables to hide the truth from people. But don’t worry. The “Waldo” of today’s passage is already given. It’s verse 9 that says, “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves.” Jesus wants us to be really wise when we use worldly resources we have.
Next year we will have 2018 International Bible Conference (IBC) at Louisville, Kentucky. I have some fun memories from the past IBCs I attended at MSU and Perdue University. As you know we have to walk a lot because IBC are held in a spacious place to host thousands of people from many countries. During the conference, while walking, I occasionally encountered people, I don’t know, approaching to me and greeting me. I’m not a famous person. When I asked them how they know me, they said I hosted them at my place during the trip right after the previous IBC. They mentioned about things that I didn’t remember at all like breakfast. I think many coworkers in our church have similar experiences like mine. When we open our place and use our materials to host guests, good surprises can follow.
Today’s Scripture also introduces to traits that a Christian should have. A lion has fangs. A bear has powerful paws. What should a Christian have? Two traits that a person needs to be a Christian are trustworthiness and honesty.
May God motivate you to hear and obey Jesus’ words through this message!
Manager Wasting His Master’s Possessions
This parable is spoken to the disciples, the future stewards of God’s household. It is also applicable to all Christians here who has and use worldly possessions daily.
According to verse 1, there was a rich man who had much possessions. He also had a manager to whom he entrusted his possessions. What was exactly the responsibilities and privileges that the manager had? He was a money man, loan manager, and treasurer. He had power to summon all the debts of his master. He had authority to lower their debts. He was like CFO.
However, this manager was a bad one. He wasted his mastered possession. The same Greek word for “wasting” was used in the previous chapter to describe the prodigal son. Luke 15:13b reads, “there squandered his wealth in wild living.” This manager spent his master’s wealth extravagantly for himself. He didn’t have any plan or care for the trusted possessions.
Let me ask you a question. What does a manager do? They make important decisions. They make sure that let people work. They monitor people and projects to produce a good result. They do not do things randomly. They always plan.
Every single person in this room is also God’s manager. You didn’t choose all the things when you were born. For example, your skin color, height, parents, family, nationality, etc. God also gave us health, life, talents, and materials so that we can manage them and use them for others.
However, there are many young people who live like a guest in their own life. They squander their time, energy and materials. Imagine there is a 21-year old young man, Tom. Tom spends all night on the Internet and plays video games. Around 3am he goes to sleep. He wakes up after noon and eats Chipotle. During the afternoon, he does random things. And he does complain a lot to his parents. He has no plan for his future. He is a total lack of self-control and discipline. But he comes to UBF church on Sundays at 11am and eats lunch there after worship service. Imagine what Tom’s future is going to be like. It’s not going to be good. It’s not going to be easy.
I just pictured what a squandering life is like by using the scenario. I hope no one here identifies himself/herself with Tom or, has lifestyle similar to his. But, if there is anyone like Tom, be aware of this Bible verse as a warning. Proverbs 6:11 says, “and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.”
Let’s read verse 2.
2 “So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’”
The manager was accused of his mismanagement by his master. At your workplaces, have you had a manager or boss, like this bad manager? You know people talk about them and what they do but not in public. In some cases, a report/complaint goes to higher authority. People began to notice the manager was wasting his master’s possessions. When he kept on spending the wealth excessively, people felt it unethical and talked about it with each other. And finally, the master came to know that. The master said to the manager, “What is this I hear about you?” Then he gave him a notice that he couldn’t be manager any longer after examining his performance.
Have you seen anyone who was terminated at your workplace? People panic and get shaken. The workplace atmosphere becomes very heavy. This bad manager was exactly in that situation. He immediately sensed days of poverty and scarcity began to happen in his life. He was arrogant and conceited because of his high position. He didn’t pay attention to people’s complaints about him. And the day came to him like a thief.
What then did the manager do? Let’s read verse 3.
3 “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—
He was done with his master. Now he had to find a way to save himself from coming disaster. He realized that he was too old to be a construction worker. And he also didn’t want to beg because of his pride. Then suddenly he got a brilliant idea that might save his future. Verses 4 and 5 read,
4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’”
The manager was not fired yet. He had a very little time to do something. He summoned all of his master’s debtors one by one. With the first debtor who owed his master 900 gallons of olive oil, he decisively lowered his debt by 50%. With the second one, he removed total 20% of his debt. And he went on and on until the last debtor. It became a very happy day for all his master’s debtors. The debtors whistled and sang on the way home. Everyone loves such a free reduction of debts. Won’t you? The debtors must have praised the master for his generosity not knowing why that came to happen.
Now let’s read verse 8.
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.
The first part of verse 8 reads, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” This parable ends there. And it ends in an very unexpected way. What’s surprising to me is that the master seems to not care much about the financial loss he got because of the manager’s unethical actions. He didn’t rebuke him for his dishonesty. Rather, he praised the manager for his shrewdness. Wow!
But know this. Jesus is not promoting dishonesty or any unethical behaviors by using this parable. Topic of honesty comes later in this passage.
ESV translates the second part of verse 8 in this way, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” “The sons of light” refers to the followers of Jesus. Jesus points out the people of this world are smarter and quicker than his followers in regards to dealing with each other. See how shrewdly the manager used his master’s possessions to save himself. He was very “creative.”
Let’s read verse 9.
9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The key lesson Jesus makes right after speaking the parable of the Shrewd Manager was “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves.”
The Greek expression for “worldly wealth” in verse 9 is “the mammon of unrighteousness.” Mammon means treasure, riches, money, or possessions.
Matthew 6:21 teaches that, where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. And that is true. Even though money itself is not a bad thing, it very often leads people to unhappy situations. 1 Tim 6:9-10 says,
9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Without a failure, money and economy are the main contents of everyday news media. People talk about it and think about it on and on. It has always been people’s interest. It has been the object of worship and devotion throughout centuries. Money has an exclusive nature that demands all our hearts.
I assume most of us here do not have a problem to make money for daily bread to survive. How much do you make now? You don’t have to answer. Are you happy with the money you make now? Or, how much more money do you need to be happy? Will that really make you happy? The spirit of mammon constantly drives people’s heart to think about money whether they are rich or poor. Mammon lets you constantly worry about money and desire for it. Mammon likes to own our heart and consume it. Mammon wants to become your master.
Yesterday, I saw a picture of a lady with a big smile. She was a Powerball jackpot winner. She may feel extremely happy now because of the hundreds of millions of dollars she received. I do hope her life becomes happier than before because I heard many tragic stories of such lottery winners caused by the big money they got.
Money can buy you convenience and technology. And probably that convenience and technology will make you more impatient and spoiled. When you are impatient and spoiled, you complain a lot. Money can also provide you with instant gratification of our physical desires. But know this: money can never buy you happiness that your soul needs.
User Worldly Wealth To Gain Friends
Jesus says, “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves.” Do not kneel down or bow down to this idol mammon as many do. You cannot serve both God and money at the same time (13). But wisely use your mammon for others and for an eternal purpose. My master and your master are not Mammon but God who is our creator and redeemer.
The world is very shrewd. It knows how to let you spend your money easily for ourselves. In 1950 the first universal credit card was introduced by Diners’ Club. Nowadays, we don’t have to swipe credit cards at stores to buy what we need. We just need to click a button or swipe smart phone screens with our finger, or just say the word “pay my bill” to Alexa. Companies are becoming smarter and smarter. They will suggest you what you need, even when you don’t realize your need, and let you know what’s available around you. Companies can figure out your physical locations, daily activity patterns, weekly activity patterns and your online behaviors. By using your data, they will do their best to grab your attention for more views, more clicks, and more time to spend on their business. We need to be aware of this to guard our hearts, our time and worldly wealth.
“Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves.” We Christians should use our money to build relationships with others for eternal purpose. Last Friday M. Isaac shared a recent story of how someone’s generosity changed his relationship with the person. Recently, I began to give biweekly allowances to my son. My wife used to give allowances to him before. I am giving him a generous amount that he himself set. And there is no string attached to it. I have noticed some changes in his attitude towards me. I think money has some kind of magical power. Your generous money use can open up new opportunities to make new relationships and improve relationships with others. But understand that I do not mean bribe people with money for a hidden agenda. We all are selfish. When someone treats us very generously and sincerely, we are touched and come to have a better relationship with the person.
Let’s read 1 Timothy 6:18-19.
18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
We are very generous to ourselves. We buy everything we want. We feed ourselves very well. We dress ourselves well. We do all do what we want to do with our worldly wealth as much as we can. Now we individually need to sit down and think about how we should obey Jesus’ command, “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves.” Consider regularly spending your money on building friendships, helping the poor, strengthening the immature, supporting the world mission and building our community. By doing so, we secure our future for “eternal dwellings.” (9)
I still remember some years ago a student missionary visited my house to deliver his personal world mission offering to our guests who were missionaries from Kyrgyzstan. I was touched by his heart. He had multiple children and was still a student who obviously didn’t make much money. He had many reasons to keep the money for himself and his family. I saw his mission minded heart, very precious. Now I see that God has blessed him and his family abundantly in many ways.
Young people, you don’t have to wait until you become rich to obey the words of Jesus. You can still use the money you make or allowances you receive to build good relationships with others who need. You can also utilize your time and other resources you have to do so.
Probably Joseph Park doesn’t want me to share this. He often offers his full day to take our guests, whom he doesn’t know, to DC tour. Steve N. has been offering his Sunday afternoon to open Tennis clinics for Tennis beginners from last year.
20th is the time to prepare oneself by disciplining himself, getting education, and starting a profession to serve God and God’s people. It is time to have dreams and visions by studying the Bible. Many older people in this room did so. I pray God may touch our young people’s hearts even to offer their lives to His world campus mission.
Eternal Security vs. Temporary Security
I have worked in the IT field for past 14 years after my graduation in 2003. I am happy and thankful to God who allowed me to have this carrier. During these years I was able to see things about the corporate world. I have had the privilege to work with many smart people who worked very hard. There are moments of excitements and celebrations when business goals are achieved and when promotions happen. Learning new technologies looks charming. But the overall environment is very competitive, restless, dry, and lifeless to survive, especially for the people climbing up the ladder of success. It is like peeling an onion, what’s next, what’s next, and what’s next.
I see two groups of people. One group is those who are positive and vigorous using up their time and energies to have more achievements, more excitements, and more money. The other group is those who come to work everyday but who don’t have much energy. They look lifeless.
Relationships are often very diplomatic. People slander and blame others for their own job security when needed. People exaggerate and flatter to win favors from people in high authority. People strive to gain power, to make more money, and to get more fame. Business relationships are shallow, cosmetic and insincere with plastic smiles, and mostly stay in surface level even though SNS connections look impressive.
I see that people strive very much for their job security that will go away completely someday. I also realize again the true and best hope I can have is eternal security, true riches in heaven, and eternal dwellings. I realize helping Bible students and strengthening coworkers are far more meaningful than any other activities.
Distinguishing Qualities for Christians
Let’s ready verses 10 – 12.
10 “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. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
These Bible verses teach us about two traits for all Christians to have. Trustworthiness and honesty. Joseph in Genesis is a good example of this two traits.
From today’s passage we find three qualities that we should strive to have as Christians. Shrewdness when using worldly wealth, and the two Christian traits I just mentioned. Trustworthiness and honesty.
If a person has shrewdness and honesty, but no trustworthiness, he is not reliable. Who will give valuable things to him to manager? If a person has shrewdness but no honesty, he will be a fraud, deceiver and criminal. If a person has honesty and trustworthiness but no shrewdness, he will likely waste and squander his master’s possessions.
These three qualities are more required to Church leaders. Last Wednesday we had a daily bread passage from Titus 1. Titus 1:7 says,
Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
Please prayer for our church leadership to be very good stewards of God’s household.
Tomorrow a new semester starts. Are you ready? Today’s passage encourages us to be good managers of Fall semester. What I learned from my work experience is that good managers do these two things very well: Conflict management and priority management. Please do not live like a guest in your own life. But be a good manager by managing conflicts and priorities each day and each week with prayers and discernment. And be a good manger by using your resources to make friends so that later you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Good use of your resources will bring good surprises later when Jesus comes. Matthew 25:40 says,
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Our lives on the earth are very short, and after that there will be eternity. Do you believe this? If so, consider using your worldly wealth for eternal purposes. True riches are there.