Here is an eye-opening parable taught by Jesus to his disciples. The teaching was not directed to some large crowd of assorted people which gathered to hear him, but rather only to his twelve committed followers. If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, the following study may challenge you.
Luke 16:1 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 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.’
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— 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?’
6 ”‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“ The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’
7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
”‘ A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
This manager, knowing that he was going to be fired by his master, took very shrewd action to ensure his well-being after losing his job. Using essentially his master’s money, he curried favor with other people who were in debt to his master. They would later certainly provide a place for him to stay.
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.
People in the world are shrewder
People of the world know very well how to use money effectively and sometimes unethically for their own personal gain. But followers of Jesus Christ of course want to avoid such things. They are taught to deny themselves and to glorify God and to further His interests only. This is absolutely correct. Moreover, disciples for the most part are hardly ever taught to seek eternal rewards for their own personal benefit. However, Scripture emphatically teaches that in addition to salvation, faithful disciples are given authority to rule with Christ in his coming kingdom as rewards for fruitful works.
We are rightly taught not to focus on earthly rewards like money, fame, and physical pleasures. But this is often extended to the matter of heavenly rewards as well. Because of our emphasis on grace where our salvation is unmerited and not by works, we feel reluctant—maybe even unspiritual—to think about being rewarded in the age to come in return for our works. But Scripture explicitly teaches about heavenly rewards for obedient and fruitful disciples.
Perhaps this reluctance of ours is why people in the world are more shrewd with money than we are. How then does Jesus teach us to use money in this parable? Look what Jesus taught in the verse immediately following his parable.
Use money to gain friends for yourself
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.
Astonishingly, Jesus taught that disciples can use money or its equivalent on earth to gain friends in order to be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Since this teaching is meant for disciples of Jesus Christ who should already be saved, it does not at all mean that a sinner can buy his salvation from God with money. But we disciples can “make our calling and election sure” as taught by Peter (2 Peter 1:5-11). “For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
What might be the nature of this rich welcome into the eternal kingdom? In the particular parable here Jesus teaches that for a disciple, temporal earthly riches can in some way be converted into true heavenly riches.
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.
Whatever worldly wealth a disciple may possess in this life is that which has been entrusted to him by the Lord. If he or she uses it in a trustworthy and fruitful manner for the kingdom of God now, then the Lord knows that he or she can be trusted with much more, especially in the age to come. The inverse is also true. If the disciple is “dishonest” with a little in this present life, then the Lord knows that he will be “dishonest” with much in the age to come.
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?
It is clear from this verse that the Lord can trust us with true eternal riches in the age to come if we have proved trustworthy in using our finances in this present life. If we are trustworthy with the wealth and finances the Lord has entrusted to us on earth, He will give us property of our own in the age to come. It may not seem “spiritual” to speak of personal rewards for ourselves in the age to come, but Scripture is anything but silent on this issue. Has the Church become too “spiritual” and high-minded and thus crippled her effectiveness for the gospel on earth?
It’s how God created us
The Lord knows how he created us. We respond to reward and punishment. Despite the heavy emphasis in the Church on grace—having to do with that which is unmerited and not by works—rewards and punishment are also plainly taught in Scripture. This is to be applied not only to the lost, but for the Church as well. In Revelation 22:12 Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”
Finally, Jesus taught about having to choose between two masters.
13 “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.”
We must decide once and for all whether to serve God or to serve Money. The choice is not between serving God and serving Satan, but between serving God and serving Money. Unfortunately, there is no middle ground here for a disciple. Even if we are serving Money only on a part-time basis, we are not serving God. If we are truly a disciple, then we will choose to love and serve God, and we will “despise” money.
We are not at all saying that if you are gainfully employed in the world, that you are serving Money. Rather, it is a matter of what you do with the money and wealth the Lord entrusts to you beyond paying your bills for life’s basic necessities. Again, it is not a matter of whether you are materially rich in this life or poor or somewhere in between. What you do with what you have been given here will determine your reward there.
Money should be our servant
Worldly wealth should become our servant and our instrument. Its purpose is to serve us in order that we may serve God fruitfully. If we succeed in doing that, we will receive true riches of our own in the age to come. A true disciple will pray and consider how money can help him to produce as much lasting fruit on earth as possible, thus pleasing the Lord and maximizing his reward in the age to come as taught in Scripture.
We can all agree that one mark of maturity in a human being is the ability to defer present but temporary pleasure for the sake of future but long-term and greater gain. Similarly one mark of maturity in a disciple of Jesus Christ is the ability to defer certain temporal pleasures in this life for the sake of eternal reward in the next. References to “pie in the sky” notwithstanding, it is time to reconsider what is called prosperity teaching and to return to a healthy and scriptural balance regarding the kind of life we want to live in this world in view of the age to come.
But not all church-goers and Christians will be able to receive this.
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “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 God’s sight.
Some in the Church have chosen to serve and love and enjoy their money in this life. Please see the teaching on The Parable of the Rich Fool. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.