Let us pray: Dear Savior, too often we let this corrupted world define our lives and dictate our happiness. Too often we get caught up in money, fame, and fortune and forget about kindness, honesty, and integrity. Yes, too often we live only for the moment and forget about eternity. Today remind us that such an approach to life is a fool’s errand. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SAVIOR WHO GIVES TRUE RICHES!
TEXT: Luke 16: 1-13
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
As a pastor I hear stories from people about friends, relatives, and business acquaintances. I recall one story about a couple who cheats on their taxes. The fellow tries to do most of his business in cash and doesn’t report it. His wife isn’t comfortable with this, but she goes along with it since it provides her with a cushy lifestyle. Over time, their marriage disintegrated. She didn’t trust him—for how can you ever trust or admire a cheat? And he rejected her in favor of easy money. You’d think this would mean a divorce. But, no. They remain together, husband and wife in name only, because a divorce would bankrupt her and send him to jail. A divorce would mean all their underhanded dealings would come out in the open and they would be subject to legal penalties. So, where has their quest for riches gotten them?—Caught in a self-made web of ongoing unhappiness. Yes, their quest for wealth has made both miserable.
American today defines happiness by financial wealth. If you possess wealth you’ll be happy and if you don’t, you’ll be something else—at least that is the common view. Of course, it is the wrong view. For financial riches and true happiness are two totally different things. Since our lesson addresses this issue, today I want you to ponder this question:
SO, YOU WANT TO BE RICH?
In this parable a manger with power of attorney has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He’s a thief and he knows it. Moreover, very soon everyone else will know it too and he’ll be out on his ear with nothing. So, he takes stock of his situation. “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig (manual labor), and I’m ashamed to beg (pride)—I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.” And then he proceeds to use his power of attorney to slash various bills of creditors in order to ingratiate himself to those folks. Of course, it’s all legal in the strict sense of the word. After all, he has power of attorney. But, it is not moral or ethical. He’s still a thief and a cheat.
Christ goes on to say how when the master found out about all this (the truth will always come out in the end), the master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly, or with fore-sight. Now that may appear quite jarring to some. After all, would you ever commend someone for cheating you? But, if you think about it, I’ll bet you know of similar situations. Usually when we hear of them we say to ourselves: “It’s too bad that fellow didn’t use his obvious ability for a good purpose? For if he had, he’d have made a million legit!”
Now Jesus goes on to draw a comparison between the morally driven children of light vs. the immorally driven children of darkness. “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.”
For many years that section bothered me. I just didn’t quite understand what it meant. But, now I do! A careful examination of the original text and language used reveals that Jesus is saying: “Make friends for yourselves in your own context, that is apart from worldly wealth, which will fail.” In other words, use all your Godly gifts wisely and honestly because friendship bought only with money and based on money will always fail—just as that dishonest couple I mentioned earlier has discovered in their own marriage.
Do you like to name drop? Are you impressed by people who have obvious wealth? Is social status important to you? Do you play the comparison game—daydreaming about walking in another’s shoes because you’re not content in your own? Let’s be honest. At times, all of us are guilty of this kind of behavior. And we think that these kinds of riches will make us happy and content. Meanwhile, the harried mother overlooks the riches surrounding her in the form of her children. The tired father overlooks the richness of coming home after an honest days work and being able to hold his head up. The student who doesn’t cheat overlooks the riches of knowing they achieved that high grade through their own honest efforts.
This little lesson is all about character. It is all about who you are inside as a person. When you live at cross currents between sin and grace, between acting like a Christian and also embracing unchristian motives you’re going to be miserable. “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.”
The older I’ve gotten, the less titles and earthly wealth impress me. Maybe that’s called growing up. It definitely means I’ve grown in my faith. The richest people I know usually don’t have much wealth. They struggle with paying their bills. They go often without instead of buying into the “instant gratification” syndrome. And yet, they are rich because they are happy. They are rich because they are content. They are rich because they know that it is the intangibles in life which really count—honesty, hard-work, faithfulness, kindness, and inner peace. Such people are driven—but not by money. No, they are driven by God’s love for them shown in Christ. They are driven by the fact that Christ gave them the best He had—His life—to save their souls. They are driven by a deep-seated faith that if Christ cared enough to save their eternal soul, He’ll definitely provide for their earthly needs, too. This is the “peace of God which surpasses all understanding.” So, you want to be rich? Well, you are! Amen