LUKE 16:1-13 MARCH 22, 2015
“PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE”
I have gotten to the age where I need to be a bit more active in planning for retirement. It should not be a surprise that many people make no plans for their future retirement. They know they should be planning for the future but because of the emergencies of life they put off doing anything. Christians should be thinking ahead to eternity and plan accordingly. We should be wise in how we are living right now and be storing up treasures in heaven planning for our future.
The parable of the shrewd manager is often considered the most puzzling as it seems to promote unethical behavior. As we take a closer look we will see that Jesus was commending the manager’s shrewd business sense as he was thinking about his future. Jesus was not urging us to do anything unethical. We too should be thinking and planning for our future.
It was quite common during the time of Jesus to have absent landowners who hired managers to oversee the farms and vineyards. The Law of God prohibited the practice of usury, or the charging of interest. Leviticus 25:35-37 (NIV) 35 “‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit.” Deuteronomy 23:19 (NIV) “19 Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest.” Greed has always existed, so the Jewish people devised ways around the prohibition.
Landowners would hire managers to oversee the work. They expected managers to make a hefty profit. If a manager charged interest, the manager would be held accountable, not the landowner. Borrowers would write down a higher figure than what they were borrowing so that when they paid it back there was no sign of the interest charged. Yes, they lied about the amount that they borrowed.
In this case the manager was accused of taking advantage of his position to accumulate wealth for himself. Luke 16:1-2 (NIV) “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.’” The owner wanted an audit, but he had already made up his mind to fire the dishonest manager.
The manager was guilty. He knew that he would be fired and that he was not able to be a laborer. He did not want to become a beggar so he used his position to take care of his future. He made a deal with the people who had outstanding debts owed to his master. The manager told the debtor who owed 800 gallons of olive oil to write a new bill for half the amount. The going interest rate mark up for olive oil was 100%. So the amount of money actually borrowed was for 400 gallons. This amount was usually the commission for the manager. Thus the man who had borrowed had saved a huge amount.
The second debtor had borrowed money on a wheat crop. The average mark up for wheat was 25%. So when the manager had the man mark down the amount from 1,000 bushels to 800 bushels. (20%) That man also saved a large amount. In so doing the manager made friends of the ones who owed his master money.
Jesus indicated that the master was impressed by the shrewd actions of the manager. The master would not have been able to do anything because the charging of interest was forbidden. So the manager actually followed the scriptures by not charging any interest. The master would also look good in the eyes of the community so in the long run the master would not have been hurt in any way. Jesus summed up the actions. Luke 16:8-9 (NIV) 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. 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.”
The manager was commended for his shrewd dealings as he prepared for his future. If people of the world know how to do good Jesus asks us, why don’t we prepare for our future? Why don’t we seek to please God by helping others with our own wealth? Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV) 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus raised two points we should consider. First we need to look at where our wealth originates. James 1:16-17 (NIV) “16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Everything we have and own is from God. From the Message, Luke 16:1-12 “If you’re honest in small things, you’ll be honest in big things; If you’re a crook in small things, you’ll be a crook in big things. If you’re not honest in small jobs, who will put you in charge of the store?”
How do we manage our money? Too many Christians make excuses for not tithing or helping others. We say to ourselves we will give when our income goes up. We will help others when we are retired and have time. If we ignore God now; then nothing will really change later. Why do we put off doing what is right when we know what God wants us to do? The problem is that we want salvation and forgiveness of sins but we want control over our lives and especially over our money.
The second point is this in what Jesus went on to say. Luke 16:13 “No worker can serve two bosses: He’ll either hate the first and love the second or adore the first and despise the second. You can’t serve both God and Money.” (The Message)
This week the news was ablaze with the request sent out by Creflo Dollar, a popular prosperity preacher from the Atlanta area. His ministry sent out a request to his listeners asking people to donate $300.00 each so that the ministry could purchase a brand new corporate Lear Jet for only 65 million dollars. His old plane needed to be replaced. What part of laying up treasures in heaven did Creflo misunderstand?
As Christians we should be wise enough to know that God calls us to lay up treasures in heaven. So why do so many Christians ignore the Word of God about tithing and helping others? May our love of Christ and for others be well-known in how we treat others! O Lord, open my eyes to see how I can prepare for my heavenly retirement!
Let us pray.