|THE CORRUPT STEWARD
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 29, 2001
Please turn with me to Luke 16:1-13 - which is our text this morning. This is a parable that Jesus shared with His disciples and others that were with Him. The focus of the parable is financial investment - where do we invest God’s money?
Oracle Corporation - down in Redwood City - is the world’s second largest software company. Mr. Larry Ellison - co-founder of Oracle - owns 23% of Oracle. Before the recent slide in the Stock Market that meant that Mr. Ellison was worth around $60 billion. With the slide in the market, Mr. Ellison is down to a measly $20 billion.
About a month ago there was picture on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle with the caption “The Villa That Oracle Built.” Did any of you see this? Apparently Larry Ellison is building a $100 million residence down in Woodside.
The residence - situated on 23 acres - includes 10 hand crafted Japanese style buildings - including a 7,841 square foot main residence with underground parking - a boat house - teahouse - and two ponds holding 3.9 million gallons of water - two waterfalls - 500 imported trees - 3,750 tons of hand-chiseled Chinese granite - 5,000 tons of boulders from the Yuba River - and the list goes on. To do all this they’ve moved enough dirt to raise an entire football field 45 feet into the air.
Impressive? Bill Gates of Microsoft fame - has a larger house up in Washington. Gate’s house is 48,000 plus square feet.
In Luke 16 - Jesus is talking about wealth - how to use it - how to invest it. And most importantly - as believers - the attitudes that should govern our hearts while we invest.
Luke 16:1: Now He - Jesus - was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. 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.’ The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, 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.’ 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.’ And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.
Putting it mildly - this manager is a crook - a scoundrel. He’s corrupt. He’s stealing from his boss - spending tons of money on himself - misappropriating funds and doctoring the books to cover-up his theft. This is a guy who’s climbed up the ladder of success by riding on the backs of others. He doesn’t do manual labor. He’s very concerned about his image - his position - in society.
When he’s caught red handed, he’s already working on a scheme to save his neck. He calls in the people who owe his boss money and cuts deals with them - again doctoring the books. And, he’s rewarded for it. Because, his boss is just as corrupt as he is.
In verse 8, Jesus puts it plainly, “the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.”
This is the way business is done. Its the way the world operates. The world rewards corruption and selfishness. And everybody operating within the world system expects it - uses it - working it for their own advantage.
Robert Maxwell, served in the British army during World War II and as a distinguished officer earned the Military Cross. In the 1960’s he served as a member of the British Parliament. In the 1980’s, Robert Maxwell founded Maxwell Communications Corporation and by 1990 Maxwell had built one of the world's largest media empires, which included American publishing companies as well as television and film production concerns. This man was wealthy - “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” wealthy.
In November 1991, while cruising off the Canary Islands in his yacht - Maxwell drowned mysteriously. Apparently he fell overboard and in the morning they found his nude body floating in the water. Later, investigators found that Maxwell had misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars from his company and his employee’s pension funds.
While “the sons of this age” are shrewd in using the world’s system the tragedy is that they’re ignorant when it comes to thinking about God and what matters for life and eternity. Jesus is teaching His disciples - and us - how to be wise in the ways of God and wealth. Using wealth for what really counts in life and for eternity.
The key to understanding what Jesus is teaching in this parable is here in verse 9. Jesus says, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
Now, it almost sounds like Jesus is telling us to be as corrupt as the world so that we’ll gain eternal life. Which can’t be right. And, it isn’t. Actually, Jesus is making a contrast with the world’s way of doing things. To understand that contrast we need to understand two things.
First, we need to understand what Jesus means by “the wealth of unrighteousness” - money - riches.
Remember that the “love of money” is a root of evil. (1 Timothy 6:10) Money itself is amoral. Its not evil. There is nothing wrong or immoral in having wealth. Wealth may be a stewardship God entrusts us with. It can either be used selfishly and sinfully, or it can be used for the glory of God. Jesus is saying that its what we do with money that matters.
Second, we need to understand what Jesus means by, “when it fails.” The King James version translates this more accurately, “when you fail” - meaning, when you die. In other words - here’s Jesus point - “Make wise use of the world’s wealth, so that when you die, you will be received into heaven.”
To do this, there are two attitudes we need to have if we’re to make wise use of the world’s wealth - to invest wisely - God’s way.
Look at verse 10: 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.
The first attitude is FAITHFULNESS.
John Wesley was a teacher at Oxford University back in the 1700’s. When he began his career he was paid 30 pounds per year - in those days a lot of money. His living expenses were 28 pounds - so he gave 2 pounds away.
The next year his income doubled - but he still managed to live on 28 pounds - so he gave away 32 pounds. The third year he earned 90 pounds - lived on 28 - and gave away 62. The fourth year he earned 120 pounds - lived on 28 - and gave away 92. One year his income was a little over 1,400 pounds - he lived on 30 and gave away nearly all of the 1,400 pounds.
Wesley felt that with increasing income, what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but the standard of giving.
That’s in contrast to the world’s understanding of wealth. More income means more investment for the future - a larger house - an upgrade in transportation - more toys. Which it not why God gives us wealth.
God tests us. He’s teaching us. He gives us a little so that we learn how to invest it in His ministry. As we learn to use “the little” wisely He gives us more. Faithfulness is when we continue to keep the priority of our financial management on God and not us.
The second attitude is HONESTY. Jesus said, “he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”
W.A. Criswell tells of an ambitious young man who told his pastor he’d promised God a tithe - a tenth - of his income. They prayed for God to bless his career. At that time he was making $40 per week and tithing $4. In a few years his income increased and he was tithing $500 per week.
The man called the pastor to see if he could be released from his tithing promise, it was too costly now. The pastor replied, “I don’t see how you can be released from your promise, but we can ask God to reduce your income to $40 per week, then you’d have no problem tithing $4.”
On average, it cost $39 per person per Sunday to keep this church going. If we were to sell tickets for Sunday morning worship - and I’m not suggesting that we do that - but, if we were - the price for the seat you’re sitting in would cost $39. God knows that. He knows what we need to do His ministry. And He’s giving us the resources necessary to do His ministry here.
There are tremendous opportunities of ministry that God lays before us to invest in. Ask John - Chairman of our Missions Committee - and I’m sure he’ll have some suggestions of ministries that need support. Or, looking around at what God is doing here at CACC - what an opportunity to invest in God’s work.
But, sometimes we try to bargain with God when it comes to giving. If we’re dishonest - unrighteous - with God - holding back what He’s entrusted to us - we’re going to miss those opportunities.
With faithfulness and honesty - ultimately God isn’t so much concerned with how much money we give as He’s interested in the attitude of our heart.
King David - towards the end of his life - gathered together all the political, military, and religious leaders of Israel - the most wealthy and influential people in the Kingdom. Before the gathered assembly, David donates his personal fortune for the purpose of building the Temple. All his life, David has been faithfully managing material things to be used for God’s spiritual purposes. Now in one last act of stewardship - he donates a vast fortune for God’s glory. Solomon may have built the Temple. But, it was David who financed it.
As David gives - the entire assembly is motivated to give - gold, silver, brass, iron, coins, precious stones - an incredible fortune is given. 1 Chronicles 29:9 says that the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly - they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart. And David rejoiced - seeing the people freely giving - faithfully using material wealth for God’s spiritual purposes.
Then David says this, “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.” (1 Chronicles 29:14)
Faithfulness to God’s purposes for wealth - honesty in our giving - comes as we understand - in our hearts - that God gives us wealth for His purposes.
Jesus concludes His parable with 3 warnings. First He says, verse 11: Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?
True riches come from God. Of these are the Fruits of the Spirit - “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22,23) In Ephesians 1, Paul writes of the riches of our the eternal inheritance that is ours as God’s children. (Ephesians 1:18) All of these are effected by our management of God’s resources.
Second warning - verse 12: And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s - meaning God’s resources - who will give you that which is your own?
Do you remember the parable Jesus told of the rich nobleman who went off to a distant country? He called his servants together and gave each one of them a certain amount to invest - hoping for a substantial profit when he returned. Two of the servants invested the money and made some profit. When the nobleman returned he lavishly rewarded these first two servants. The third servant buried the money and made nothing.
Do you remember what the master did to the third servant? He called him worthless. Then he took the money away from him and gave it to the servant who had made the most money. (Luke 19:11-27) We cut ourselves off from God’s reward when we fail at rightly managing His resources.
Third warning - verse 13: No servant can serve two masters for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Surprised to see an empty seat at sold out Pacific Bell Park, a die hard Giants fan remarked about it to a woman sitting nearby.
“It was my husband’s,” the woman explained. “But, he died.”
“I’m very sorry,” said the man. “Yet, I’m really surprised that another relative, or friend, didn’t jump at the chance to take the seat reserved for him.”
“Beats me,” she said. “They all insisted on going to the funeral.”
When it comes to wealth, what is really important for our lives - and are we focused on that when we invest our wealth?
In Pompeii, Italy there’s a museum of things they’ve excavated from the city. And, there’s a body of a woman that was found mummified by the volcanic ashes of Mount Vesuvius. The position she was found in tells a really tragic story. Her feet were pointing toward the city gate. In other words, she was facing away from safety. Her outstretched arms and fingers were straining for something that lay just beyond her reach. The treasure - that she lost her life for - was a bag of pearls.
When we invest wisely - faithfully - honestly - seeking to do God’s will with His money - God is glorified - His will is done and we are blessed. Not just now - but forever. And, there’s nothing in this world that offers a greater return on our investment.