Date: October 15, 2017
Speaker: Jim Stanley
Series: Discipled to Disciple
Text: Luke 16:1-31
Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. 15 And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
- Luke 16:14-15
Years ago when I was in Bible college, we were making it financially but just barely. Some fellow students had invited us over. We thought it was just to get together but we soon found out otherwise. They wanted to show us a financial “opportunity” that could make life much easier while in school and later in ministry. They showed us a video of people who were “doing the Lord’s work” while living a very luxurious lifestyle. Believe it or not, they were driving a Rolls Royce! The message was “you can have your cake and eat it too.” You can have it all!
Several things about the presentation put us off, but the main thing was the idea that a person could aspire for both: wanting to serve Christ wholeheartedly and, at the same time, wanting to have earthly riches. We knew there were Christians that had money and managed it well, but, we could see the pitfalls in having mixed motivations in ministry. The presentation seemed a violation of the principle found in Matthew 6:33, as well as this passage.
Later in Bible college and seminary we saw the problem as it developed in several of our fellow students. To us it seemed they would have a provision from the Lord for their time in school that would quickly become a focus of its own and draw them away from the direction God had for their lives. One friend developed a pool cleaning business that grew quickly. He hired employees, expanded and soon, dropped out of school to manage his business. Another bought a Bobcat (small excavator) and began doing work for area contractors. Soon he added another and another and before long, he left seminary to run his business. Part of the problem at the time was the booming economy in Dallas that promoted business expansion. But the main problem was the incompatibility of the two priorities. As Jesus puts it, a person cannot serve God and mammon.
A fundamental flaw of the Pharisees was their love of money. They loved the status it brought and the things it could buy. Their love of it promoted their focus on outward appearance and performance. They touted the same message: We can be religious leaders in the community; we can love God and his people and our money at the same time. The problem is, they didn’t love God or people!
Jesus told two parables in Luke 16 that address the problem. In the first a steward is guilty mismanaging his master’s finances and is about to be dismissed. In order to make ends meet after he is fired, he contacts the masters debtors and reduces the debt of each one thinking they would provide for him later. Even though it cost him, the master commended him for his shrewd approach to his problem. Jesus summed up by saying his followers ought to make friends by means of “unrighteous mammon” while on this earth so you may receive heavenly benefit later.
The second parable focuses on the danger of ignoring eternity because of present prosperity. Due to his wealth, the rich man failed to repent and found himself in eternal torment. Lazarus who was faced every day with severe need, responded and found himself in Abraham’s bosom, the Old Testament equivalent of heaven.
The dangers of wealth are many. One is not realizing you are wealthy. People like us who never worry about our next meal or what we will wear or where we will sleep are truly wealthy in comparison to most of the world. The messages of this chapter speak directly to us. We prop ourselves up with money and ignore eternal realities to our great peril!