Principles of Stewardship
September 18th, 2022 |Principles of Stewardship| Luke 16:1-13
As we continue in our study of the gospel of Luke we come to an important subject that Jesus taught his disciples. The subject of stewardship.
Stewardship and the corresponding word steward is not one that we use often. If you did not grow up around the church, you may never hear it. It seems to be a word that doesn’t find much use outside of the church, although I did hear it the other day in a movie I was watching.
No judgment, but I’m going to let my nerd flag fly a little. I was re-watching the Lord of the Rings the other day and they referred to the stewards of Gondor. For those of you who haven’t seen this cinematic masterpiece, first, shame on you, second the steward of Gondor was charged with managing the kingdom of Gondor, its people, and its resources, in the absence of the rightful King of Gondor.
This is what a steward does, they manage the resources of another, on their behalf. In fact, the ESV uses the word manager where the King James Version uses the word steward. Whether we call it stewardship or management, either way, Jesus took the time to teach his disciples about it in our text today Luke 16:1-13.
Jesus begins with a parable.
Luke 16:1-8a (ESV) 1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And 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, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.
Jesus then broadly applies the parable.
Luke 16:8b (ESV) For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
Then Jesus gives three principles concerning our possessions against the backdrop of this parable.
We are to use our resources wisely.
Luke 16:9 (ESV) 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, [so that] when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
Referencing the shrewdness of the dishonest manager in the parable, as well as his application.
Shrewd- g5429. φρόνιμος phronimos; from 5424; thoughtful, i.e. sagacious or discreet (implying a cautious character; in a bad sense conceited (also in the comparative): — wise(-r).
AV (14) - wise 14;
prudent, i.e. mindful of one's interests
Sagacious /səˈɡāSHəs/- having or showing acute mental discernment and keen practical sense
Jesus uses this same word in his parable of the ten virgins, five foolish and five wise. If you remember, what made them wise was that they planned ahead and handled their resources accordingly.
The principle reminds us that we are all marching towards eternity one day at a time.
The thing we sometimes miss in our English translations is that this is not a suggestion, this is an imperative, a command.
This is Jesus telling us how to approach the use of our resources, specifically Jesus says here unrighteous wealth, using a word with an Aramaic origin, mam-mo-nas', which is more than just money, more than just treasure. The word carries the idea of the very personification of wealth as opposed to God. Everything that money is, everything it encompasses and represents. The seeming security, success, and safety it brings, the position and power it affords. Everything we acquire by using it. All of it.
Jesus further describes it with the word unrighteous which has been understood in a few different ways. Either Jesus is calling wealth itself deceitful or he is describing wealth gained wrongly.
I lean towards the first one because of what Jesus says next, so that when it fails.
Note: Not if it fails, but there is a certainty in what Jesus says.
The world puts their faith and trust in things, in wealth, they make it a god. Jesus highlights the foolishness of this because it will always fail. (crashing stock market, inflation, death)
Rather, Jesus says, for the believer, there is a better way, the way of wisdom.
It is to understand that there is coming a day when all the wealth of the world will fail and what you did with it will either leave you without anything or with something that lasts. He says we should view our resources in light of the fact they will ultimately fail and when they do, because we used them wisely, we will be prepared.
He commands us to make friends for ourselves by means of our unrighteous wealth so that when it fails, our friends may receive us into eternal dwellings.
The word receive here is the idea of welcoming hospitably into one’s home. Certainly, this is what the dishonest manager was working towards. With all of the friends he made by lessening the debt of his master’s debtors, he would no doubt find many homes and tables open to him when he was out of work.
But Jesus is not thinking temporarily but eternally. The word he uses for dwellings is an interesting word. It is not the word traditionally used for homes, houses, or households but that of the tabernacle.
We need not press Jesus’ application beyond his intentions in placing unnecessary emphasis on the friends or the dwellings, but rather on using our current earthly resources in light of eternity.
There is nothing we can do to earn our destination in eternal life, not even if, as some commentators understand it, Jesus is referring to God here as the friend. You cannot bargain your way into heaven with a good life or even a well-spent life.
There is however a sense in which the eternal things we invest in on this side of heaven will in fact be waiting for us when we get there. We will not dwell here long because it is not the emphasis here, but let’s briefly touch on what scripture says concerning this principle in light of eternity.
Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV) 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (emphasis mine)
Luke 12:32-34 (ESV) 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (emphasis mine)
1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ESV) 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.. (emphasis mine)
It is using your resources to invest in eternal things. By using your possessions to serve, meet needs, bless, and invest in the wholeness of others. God gives us resources for the furtherance of the gospel.
If that was where Jesus stopped, it would be enough to radically change the way we interact with our wealth, but he doesn’t. He now turns to the second principle, dealing with faithfulness.
We are to use our resources faithfully.
Luke 16:10-12 (ESV) 10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?
Moving beyond the dishonest manager’s shrewdness, and to the way he should have managed his master’s money.
Here is the truth as Jesus states it. The way we handle what we have is evidence of the way we would handle more.
This puts to bed any nonsense of what we would do if we simply had more money!
You may have heard someone say or thought to yourself, if I had more money, I would give more generously to the church, my family, my friends, etc…
Ask someone what they would do if they won the lottery and everyone but the most selfish of people turn into a generous philanthropist.
the way we handle what we have is evidence of the way we would handle more.
Why do we think a sudden increase in monetary wealth would cause a sudden proportionate increase in our generosity? If you are not helping your neighbor with what you have, if you are not giving to the church, if you are not opening your home and life to others, having more money would not all of a sudden change that.
Think of it this way. How many of us have ever gotten a raise or transitioned jobs to a higher-paying employer?
How many of you either mentally or physically made a list of how you were going to use the ‘extra’ money?
Save more, invest some, give to the church or a charity, travel more, etc.???
If I asked you to raise your hand, I won't, if that money stayed ‘extra’ for very long, I don’t suppose many hands would go up. No, it quickly became your new normal, and it quickly became allocated to things that were necessary or important and we were back to thinking about what we would do with a little extra money.
In my life, I have made way more money than I make now and I have made much less, but it seems that not much has changed during those periods with the way I spend it.
The funny thing is that we know this is true, we even use the principle in the way we raise our kids. Right? Their faithfulness, or lack of faithfulness in the freedoms they have directly correlate to whether they receive more freedom or less. Banks and lenders operate under this principle. Whether it’s a good thing ultimately or not, if you are faithful in paying your card statements, in not overcharging, they usually increase your limit, right? We understand this principle and the truth behind it, but then we often fail to apply the principle to our own lives.
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.
Jesus then gives us two questions to think about.
11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?
The first question asks us to think about our stewardship from God’s perspective. If we have not been faithful with the ultimately temporal and material possessions he has entrusted us with, why would he entrust to us the real riches of life?
12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?
The second question asks us to think about our resources in terms of ownership. If it is as the Bible says and everything belongs to God, and that every good thing we have is a gift from him, then ultimately our unfaithfulness and mishandling of our wealth is a failure not with our own things but with the things of God. So again, Jesus rhetorically asks, why would He give us anything of our own?
Martin Luther uses a common experience to describe what faithful stewardship looks like in light of this principle.
We must use all these things upon earth in no other way than as a guest who travels through the land and comes to a hotel where he must lodge overnight. He takes only food and lodging from the host, and he says not that the property of the host belongs to him. Just so should we also treat our temporal possessions, as if they were not ours, and enjoy only so much of them as we need to nourish the body and then help our neighbors with the balance.
To summarize what Jesus has said so far about our wealth, its use, and our attitude towards it.
First, we need an eternal perspective on the use of our temporal resources. Using what we have in wisdom in anticipation of what happens after this life.
Second, the use of our wealth is not a personal matter but a matter of stewardship, of which we can be faithful or unfaithful.
Finally, in conclusion, Jesus comes to the heart of the matter. This isn’t just a financial issue, this isn’t merely a management issue, this is an issue of worship.
We are to use our resources submissively.
Luke 16:13 (ESV) 13 No servant can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.”
The manager, in serving himself, failed to serve his master.
Either God is our God and we serve him with everything we have, including all of our possessions and resources, or he is not our God and we use our possessions to serve whatever idol we have chosen, including but not limited to, wealth itself.
Either God is our God and we serve him with everything we have, including all of our possessions and resources, or he is not our God...
Those are the two choices Jesus gives us, there is no choice C, no middle ground.
Jesus made it abundantly clear that we cannot serve God and our material things and yet every single one of us has in some form or another has tried to do just that.
Jesus is not saying that believers cannot have money, he is not saying they should not spend money to care for themselves, their families, or their friends. What he is warning against is that, as one commentator put it, (Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) Our hearts have the capacity for only one dominating love.
The only way to have a right relationship with our money is to ensure that it is submitted to our one great love, God. We must be willing to surrender everything we have to God, and then wisely and faithfully use whatever he entrusts back to us in a way that brings him glory and honor and advances his kingdom.
In this way, the manner in which we use our money is actually evidence of who we worship.
Are your finances submitted to God?
How do you know?
A good place to start is what we commonly call the tithe. Giving 10% to the local church for the furtherance of the gospel and the care of God’s family. Friends, if you cannot say that you regularly participate in giving 10% of your wealth to the purposes of God, how can you say you are using the rest of your resources submissively? Everything we have is from God and belongs to God.
For some of you today, your money is your master. You cannot serve God because you are serving your possessions. Giving anything to anyone, much less the church, seems ludicrous. For some of you today, you check the box of giving 10% but you take no further thought of how God would have you spend your remaining resources. You are trying to do what Jesus says is impossible.
Jesus says here either you master your money in submission to Him or you let it master you. There is no other choice.
We are to use our resources wisely, faithfully, and submissively.
In light of eternity, as stewards and worshippers of God.
Our tendency when we are confronted with so clear a teaching on our resources is often to begin to either make provisions for ourselves on why we are exempt from it, or to try and force it into a hyper-spiritual category and therefore leave our material possessions out of it. Neither of which is new or surprising.
In verse 14 and 15, the Pharisees (ridiculed him-to deride by turning up the nose, to sneer at, to scoff at) for his teaching. Why? Because the bible says they were lovers of money.
Luke 16:14-15 (ESV) 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
It matters not what the people around you think, it matters what God knows about your heart.
As Jesus exposed the hearts of the Pharisees with these principles, as he instructed the hearts of his disciples, I pray that he will do the same thing today. May Christ have his way in every heart.