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Preparing for the Future

September 20, 2020 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Planning for the future Verse: Luke 16:1–16:13

Theme: Live in light of eternity.

Introduction: The secular worldview promotes the pursuit of advantage, power, privilege and success without truly providing a destination. When are these things enough? How much money does a person need to be fulfilled or satisfied? When is a person powerful “enough?” When would you say: “I’ve made it! I’ve arrived!” 

God’s Word contrasts secularism by teaching us that this world is not our home – we do not live for temporal values, but for eternal ones. Our citizenship is in Heaven. Our treasures here will rot and rust and therefore we lay up treasure in Heaven. Our possessions are mere stewardships designed for us to manage to the advantage of our Lord Jesus Christ. We use our minds with their intellect to promote truth. We use our hearts with their love to spread the compassion, grace, and mercy of God. We use our wealth to provide an opportunity for others to hear the Gospel – through investment in the Kingdom of God … or at least we should be. There is a constant pressure not simply to have a boat, but a bigger boat; not to have a comfortable home, but an elegant house; not to have savings, but to provide for ourselves a lavish “retirement.” 

In our text, Jesus addresses the need for His followers to be concerned that they exercise wisdom – “shrewdness” – in the management of the resources that God entrusts to them for the glory of His name, the salvation of the souls of others, and to invest in future joy with others in Heaven. It is often a very confusing text, but when carefully considered, it teaches a lesson of great value for followers to Christ …

I. The Example of Preparing for the Future – 16:1-8

A. The Plight of Sin – vv. 1-3

  • It is important that we notice that Jesus changes the audience – not that Pharisees weren’t still present, but that His comments are directed at the disciples – “Now He was also saying to the disciples …”
  • This is important because the subject is not evangelistic, but rather an admonition on the conduct of believers.
  • He then tells the story – whether a parable or an actual account, we aren’t told.
  • The story is of a “rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.”
  • “squandering” [διασκορπίζω] – is the same term used in the previous parable describing the prodigal son’s profligate living – cp. Luke 15:13.
  • This “manager” was guilty of carelessly and wastefully scattering the wealth of the “rich man.”
  • When the “rich man” found out about what was happening, there was apparently adequate evidence that the verdict was already in – the “manager” had to go: “And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’”
  • As a result, this man was thrown into an immediate crisis – his sin had found him out and he didn’t know what to do – “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me?’”
  • His life had been cushioned as a “white collar worker” – in management and given his pride, he sees only two options as his career tanks, neither of which are worthy:
  1. He could go do manual labor – “I am not strong enough to dig”
  2. He could go and beg – “I am ashamed to beg”
  • He was living with the consequences of his sin – experiencing the truth that “the way of the transgressor is hard” – Proverbs 13:15.

B. The Plan for Safety – vv. 4-7

  • As we all know, “necessity is the mother of invention” – and as he thinks through his difficulty, he has an idea – “I know what I shall do!” 
  • He realizes that he only has a short window to posture himself with others who could be of help to him after word of his dismissal hits the news – “… so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.”
  • He realizes that it is still within his power – the opportunity remains – to provide for himself all the things he would need moving forward – a place to live, income, and status.
  • So “he summoned each one of his master’s debtors” – meeting with them individually in order to ingratiate himself with them as forcefully as possible.
  • Since reciprocation was an fundamental part of their culture, doing a favor for someone obligated them to do for you.
  • He renegotiates their debts to their advantage by cutting what they owed – “and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’”
  1. “A hundred measures of oil” equaled about 875 gallons – about 3 years’ wages for a common laborer ($105,537 in CA at $17 per hour).
  2. He forgave half of it or about $53,000.
  3. This suggests that the “rich man” was a wholesaler who was owed for inventory by retailers.
  • “Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ and he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’” – This is even a greater debt forgiveness. 
  1. “A hundred measures of wheat” equaled about 8-10 years wages for an average worker – or about $317,000.
  2. He forgave 20 measures or about $64,000 worth of debt.
  • In calling on them all to write out a new bill, the record of the old bill would be destroyed, and the debtor would be officially “off the hook” for that portion this dishonest manager had dismissed.
  • He shrewdly obligated these retailers to show him favor after he had been dismissed by the “rich man” who was “his master.”

C. The Praise for Shrewdness – v. 8

  • The conclusion that Jesus relates of the story is shocking – “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly.”
  • Essentially, “his master” had to admit that the crooked, “unrighteous manager” had worked his circumstances prudently to his advantage – “I have to hand it to you …!”
  • “shrewdly” [φρονίμως] – means prudently, or insightfully – the idea is that “his master” saw that he had thought of something that no one else had seen or thought of to work the situation to his own advantage.
  • The summary statement by the “rich man” is that wicked people or sinners are motivated to think about their temporal future far more keenly that righteous people about their eternal future – “for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.”
  • Jesus point in this story is that believers should be far more shrewd in preparing for their eternal futures than unrighteous people are for their temporal future – there is a certain admonition provided in this statement.
  • Essentially the “rich man” declares: “Oh that righteous people were as vested in eternal values as the wicked are in temporal values!”

Application:

  1. How do you handle the consequences of decisions that you have made that turned out poorly? 
  2. Why is manipulation of others evil?
  3. Is it necessary for Christians to be people of whom ungodly people ought to be able to take advantage?

II. The Exhortation to Prepare for the Future – 16:9

A. Allocate Temporal Resources to Reach People

  • Jesus then applies the story – “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness …”
  • Pause for a moment and reinforce your awareness that Jesus is not advocating unrighteousness, wickedness, or chicanery.
  • What is meant by “… by means of the wealth of unrighteousness?”
  1. “wealth” [μαμωνᾶς] – “Mammon” or wealth, property or means.
  2. “unrighteousness” [ἀδικία] – what violates standards of right conduct or justice.
  3. It refers to the resources that belong to and in this fallen world where “unrighteousness” prevails – that which is not associated with the restoration that will one day come.
  4. It is a general reference to the money we manage every day.
  • Essentially Jesus is speaking of the need to use our resources in this fallen world to seek to “make friends” – not socially as this would be the norm for the world – even as demonstrated by the wicked manager.
  • Rather, Jesus is referring to eternal friends made by means of sharing the Gospel – that is, we are to use our resources to extend the Gospel to people who are lost – cp. Matthew 6:19-20.

B.Anticipate Eternal Relationships with Reached People

  • The reality is that the temporary wealth or “wealth of unrighteousness” will one day fail – “… so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
  • “When it fails” [ἐκλείπω] – to be no longer in existence, fail, give out, be gone of money
  • This is a reference to when money cannot help, at the point of one’s death – cp. Luke 12:20; Psalm 49:10.
  • When a believer dies, one of the blessings toward which we look are those who have been reached through our resources, witness, testimony or ministries.
  • Such ones “will receive you into the eternal dwellings” – a reference to the joyful entrance into Heaven.
  • In reality, there is a “sharp contrast formed between this future welcoming of the faithful in the eternal dwellings where they will be with God, and the fate of the unjust steward who would be received in the homes of fellow-sinners, and this only for a short time – as long as his “benefactors” remain well-disposed towards him and he remains alive.”
  • It is for this day we must live – not for the day of arriving at financial independence in this temporal, wicked world.

Application:

  1. In what ways do you use temporal resources to invest in eternal rewards?
  2. What is one thing that you could do that would contribute to others being in Heaven? 
  3. Have you ever “won” someone to Christ? Reflect on how God’s Spirit worked to make that happen.

III. The Expectations in Preparing for the Future – 16:10-13

A. The Principle of Faithfulness – vv. 10-12

  • In reality, God entrusts us as stewards of what ultimately belongs to Him – “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much, and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”
  • His assessment of how we use what He gives to us dictates what else He will give to us to use for His glory and for eternal Kingdom purposes.
  • In this sense, “if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?”
  • The implication is that when we use our temporal resources faithfully, God provides increasingly greater opportunities to make an impact in the Kingdom of God – cp. Matthew 25:20-23.
  • In contrast to the unjust manager that wasted his master’s wealth, we take what is entrusted to us by God and use it responsibly for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God – “And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?”
  • It all belongs to God and we are stewards of His – cp. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, 7.

B. The Priority of Faithfulness – v. 13

  • There is emphasized here the conflict of interest that exists – or mutual exclusivity that exists – between being diversified in one’s affections.
  • Jesus here declares that there is no ability for diversification of one’s heart – since “no one can serve two masters.”
  • You either are devoted to God or you are not.
  • He says that you will “hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.”
  1. To “hate the one” means to see little value or relevance in it in contrast to “love the other” which means to attach great significance to something. However, since they are in conflict to one another, you cannot serve both.
  2. He continues and says that you will “be devoted to one and despise the other” – again, to “despise” is to attribute no value to something.
  • Essentially, He concludes that “you cannot serve God and wealth” or you cannot live for this world and all that it has to offer and for eternity and what is desired there.

Application:

  1. How does your handling temporal resources reflect on your stewardship with eternal blessings?
  2. Do you conduct your life under the awareness that everything that you have belongs to the Lord? 
  3. How could you do to enable your life to be more “consolidated” in serving only one Master?

 

So What?

Temporal answers to eternal problems fall short of relieving us from accountability before God.

Superficiality is unsuitable for a believer – we need to be shrewd, wise and thorough as we approach the eternal needs that both we and others have.

There is no better way to use our wealth than to invest in the Kingdom of God for one day, everything will fail and all any of us will have is Christ.

Greater opportunity to bring glory to Christ will come to those who faithfully serve Him with what He has entrusted to us.

We must not live for what God has entrusted to us to bring Him glory, but rather for the eternal glory our possessions can bring to Him.

 

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