March 7 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 16)

Submitted by Roy L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church
Text: Luke 16:1-15

Manager
Jesus often uses the manager-master relationship to describe our relationship with God, but this parable is different because Jesus praises the manager for acting dishonestly and shrewdly, in his own interest. The fundamental assumption of the parable is the same as the other ones—the manager does not own anything himself, and when the master returns, he will retake possession of everything. Here, the manager recognized that reality, assessed his situation, and did what any one of us would do in his shoes (assuming we could get away with it). Knowing that he’s going to get fired, the manager exercised his remaining authority over the master’s accounts for his own long-term benefit, giving away what does not belong to him in order to win friends who will welcome him once he’s down and out. And Jesus laments that his disciples were not more like this guy.

We’re all going to get fired from life one day. Everything I have, or think I have, will be gone when I die. How should I live in light of this unavoidable reality? Jesus says, “[Use]worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Worldly wealth, friends, eternal dwellings
This life is not my own. Once I recognized this as a Christian, I experienced a certain sense of freedom about spending my life that I did not have before. I remember seeing a bumper sticker that said, “Drive like its stolen.” Of course, I didn’t endorse its message of reckless driving, but it got me to think, “Maybe I should live like it’s stolen.” My life doesn’t belong to me, so why I am so worried about getting it scratched and dented, trying to preserve and protect it? If I’m going to lose it anyways, why not spend it first and get something for myself that I can keep—friends who will welcome me into eternal dwellings?

When I first started caring for others, I sometimes used to begrudge giving so much of my time, money, and energy towards other people. I used to wonder, “What good is it anyways? Why should I spend my life for these guys?” But this parable shows me that I was asking the wrong questions. I should really be asking myself, “What would I gain if I held on to my life? What would I get by keeping my time, money, etc. to myself?” The answer, of course, is nothing, really. When I look at people who try to save their lives, the best they can manage is to find the most comfortable, safe, and inconsequential path to death. But when I spend my God-given time, energy, and resources in trying to love people and share with them the Gospel of eternal life, I am spending what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose—friends for eternity.

God wants me to be rich in heaven, to have many people welcome me into their eternal dwellings. In heaven, I will find out how many people had to obey God and make costly sacrifices so that I could be there. It will be really wonderful to know that, and finally to thank everyone. But if I follow Jesus’ advice, there will also be people in heaven who are there because of me, even if it’s just some little thing I did out of obedience to God.

I still remember during my first year of law school, I was really busy but I had to give a special talk on hell, of all things. I didn’t have a lot of time to spare, but as I was preparing that week I got more and more excited because I know a lot of people get stumbled by the question of how a good God could send people to hell, and that I had the opportunity to remove that stumbling block for whoever was going to be there that night listening. I was really nervous that night and wasn’t really sure how it went. Then, I kind of forgot about it for a couple of years, until one Sunday I was sitting at a baptism service listening to people’s salvation testimonies, and a couple of them mentioned that talk as something that help them seek and find God. I was so thankful that God used my life to help these precious people come to know him. God could have used someone else, and there were plenty of people more qualified than I was to give that talk. But God gave me the chance to spend my worldly wealth and gain something that will last forever. Of course, it’s not every day that I get to see the direct effect that my obedience has on people. But God doesn’t waste anything, even the smallest act of service. God invites me to spend my life freely for others, even if I do not see the results today, so that I will be rich with relationships in heaven.

Obeying God is, in the end, the best course of action for my life. It seems ironic, except it’s not because God has always wanted to give me the best life. I could live like a fool and invest more and more in something that I cannot keep. Or, I can be shrewd with my life, liquidate my worldly assets and convert them into the only currency that will last—relationships, eternal friends. Seen in this light, serving God and ministering to others is such an exciting privilege because it’s my chance to buy, with worldly wealth, treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves cannot break in and steal.

Trusted, trustworthy, true riches
This life is not my own. It belongs to God, but he entrusted it to me. The time, energy, and resources at my disposal—they all belong to him. To me, in this life, they might seem like a lot, and the world tells me that my life is all I have, so I need to hold on to it and make the most of it for myself. The world tells me that if I play my cards right, if I work hard and diversify my portfolio and leverage my advantages, that I can stake out a pretty good life for myself and my family. But Jesus says that worldly wealth is but “very little” in God’s eyes, and depending on how we handle the very little we are given, God will give us “true riches.”

When I want to have a selfish life of ease and comfort, I am settling for too little, not wanting too much. God wants me to have true riches, like eternal friends and treasures in heaven. He cannot give me these things if I have not proven myself trustworthy with what I already have. But he is delighted to entrust me with more when I show that I am willing to handle my worldly wealth properly, for my master’s benefit. Looking back, this is how I got involved in ministry. Even as a college student, I was wrestling with God’s call upon my life to be a disciple and a minister to others. As I took steps of obedience to love my peers and my friends who did not know Christ by reaching out to them, I experienced my heart growing and wanting to do more of the same. Objectively, I was not contributing a lot of time or money or energy to building God’s kingdom, but giving what little I did helped whet my appetite for more meaningful work, and God was please to entrust me with more. After graduating, I got the opportunity to join the college ministry, and even though I didn’t know what it would involve, I jumped in and experienced God challenging me to surrender even greater areas of life into his hands. Each of these areas was another way I had to struggle and prove myself trustworthy to receive greater blessings, but when I did surrender them, I also experienced God entrusting me with more people to love, more ways to serve, more opportunities to share the gospel, more opportunities to experience the gospel and deepen my personal conviction. As I continue to serve God, this is one of the greater riches he has given me that I’ve gotten to experience the truth of the gospel in my own life, and witness its power to change others, in ways that I had not before. I need to continue proving myself faithful and trustworthy by giving myself fully to this work here, so that God may entrust me with even more.

Serving two masters
This is a command that I need to heed because the world tells me that I can have my cake and eat it too. Especially in America, the state of Christendom is such that many professing Christians will practice and preach the gospel of Jesus plus ___. You can have Jesus plus wealth, or career advancement, or social status, etc. But the true Gospel is Jesus plus nothing. Jesus himself made it plain that he has to be the sole top priority in my life, and everything else is secondary to, and subsumed by, his Lordship. As a young parent, I feel the temptation to go for Jesus plus cozy family time, or Jesus plus sizable financial cushion, or Jesus plus job security. Not that family time, savings accounts, or job security are bad things, just like money in and of itself is not a bad thing, but Jesus has to be Lord, and him only. This means that when God calls me to love people, or build up His church, or struggle with my own sins, or even just spend quality time with him, everything else in my life needs to adjust to accommodate God’s agenda, even if it’s one of these other good things in life.

I cannot delude myself into thinking that I can serve these other goals, these other gods that promise security and significance and happiness, and yet still manage to please God. God is jealous for my total devotion, not because he’s on a power trip, but because he wants the best for me. God knows that if I try to serve these other gods, I would be putting second things first, and end up with nothing. And Jesus is pointing out something that’s just common sense: I would be so miserable if I try to serve two masters who want opposite things. I cannot serve Jesus and live a cross-bearing life and serve the gods of selfish living at the same time. Since I call myself a Christian, serving God is already a non-negotiable priority, so obviously I am not at liberty to serve anyone or anything else. Instead, being the servant of one Master is very liberating in that I do not need to balance competing interests or agendas, and I am free to live a life focused on serving the most worthy and wonderful Master in this world.

PERSONAL PRAYER
Lord, thank you for showing me so clearly through your word what I ought to do with my life. Indeed, this is not my life, but yours, and I’m thankful that you’ve entrusted so much to me. The time, money, energy, youth, education, training, experience, etc.—all that I have at my disposal is from you, and you trust that I will steward these things well and use them for your good purposes in my life. Thank you for that trust, and please help me live up to it. Help me also see that what you would have me do with my life, far from diminishing it, really enriches me, and I’ve experienced this so many times in the eleven years I have been following you. When you call me to spend my worldly wealth, you are not making me poorer, but richer, both in this life and in the life to come. Please help me always remember that the resources you’ve given me are not my own, and that I would spend them freely on loving other people, that you may entrust me with greater, true riches.

———-
Submitted by Ray W. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church
Luke 16:3-8
·The manager “could not be manager any longer,” but for a season, he still had some use and control over the master’s property. What does this period represent?
What is the time period for the manager? He has been called to account for his wasting of the rich man’s possessions. The consequence of his negligence is coming. He will lose his job and not have any options to support himself anymore. In my life, this short season represents the time I have now before I die. My life is not my own and it was given to me by God. Like the manager, I too am held account for my how I used my life. Though I have done some good things, I know I am fundamentally a sinner. The bible states that the consequence of sin is death, and we are all held accountable for our sin. After I die, like the manager after he loses his job, I will have no more control of how I can use my life and time here. Thanks be to Christ I have eternal life through his sacrifice on the cross for me, so death is not the final word in my life.

My life here is only for a season. How does the finality and brevity of my life impact me? Taking a lesson from the manager, he was called shrewd even though he was dishonest because he recognized the end would come for himself, he took time to consider the consequences (saying what shall I do now?), and he took some concrete action in response to secure his future. Death and the shortness of my life isn’t something I think I about often and therefore, it’s not a prominent fact in my mind. If the manager didn’t think about impending situation he would be considered a fool. I get so bogged down with daily things to do at work, errands, and everyday worries about life, that I don’t make room to think about the bigger context that I live in. But this parable shows it is something to seriously consider for it is shrewd to think and respond in action. Thinking about it now, it gives perspective on what priorities I should have in my life, especially as a Christian who knows the treasure of the gospel—the one answer to death. It makes me urgent for the people around me who do not know God. Just today I found out that someone I know was diagnosed with an advanced malignant brain tumor. If he did not catch it now, the doctor says he would have passed away in a few months. I need to see people I interact with daily in the context of this parable, and respond for them to help them to see the bigger picture so they can take action to know God and think of their true condition. I missed so many chances to get to know someone because I wasn’t thinking about this bigger context and because I was narrowly focused on my task for the day.

In addition, it makes me thankful that I don’t have to go about and find a way to secure an eternal dwelling for myself after my short season of life here is over. It makes me thankful for my salvation from God all the more. God answered the question “what shall I do?” and He saw my need and plight caused by my own sin. He took initiative to work out my salvation before I even knew him and even while I was sinning against him. He sought me out when I didn’t look for him to offer me this gift. This is amazing love that I need to actively pass on to others. I need to help others see they are in this short season when the end will come so they can ask what shall I do, and I can help bring God’s answer through Christ to them at that time as it was given to me.

Luke 16:9-12
·What does it mean to “gain friends” using “worldly wealth” so that I will be welcomed into eternal dwellings?
It means I need to realize there are two kinds of wealth, worldly wealth and heavenly wealth. Worldly wealth, degrees, like money, time, comfort, and material objects, will not last due to death. I can’t take it with me when I die. They are good things but not ends in themselves. Eternal dwelling is in heaven with God. To use my worldly wealth to gain friends so that I may be welcomed into eternal dwelling means to use all my resources to win people to knowing God and receiving his offer of forgiveness of sins through following Christ. It means to recognize there is this much higher purpose and value to use my life and resources for. To help lead someone to know God is to give them the greatest gift possible. One day when my life here is over, there will be great joy in heaven when I will see God face to face, and I will fully realize then what an amazing gift of relationship with God I have been given, and the people in my life that sacrificed their comfort, resources and times to care and show the love of God to me will be that much more precious to me.

·What constitutes being “trustworthy” with money, according to this passage? Have I been trustworthy in this sense?
To be trustworthy with money means knowing to use it for the best purpose, recognizing that my wealth and my own life are entrusted to me and not my own, and that given the reality of death and eternal life, to use it wisely to on what matters most to God—to win back people into eternal relationship with God. These are the “true riches.”

To be trustworthy means to understand this and live accordingly. It can mean using my money and time to meet and host people, it means safe guarding my time and emotional energies to be spent on people for God rather than to pursue the promise of worldly treasure (i.e. living for a nice promotion that means less time for God and people). It means to build my life career choices around my faith and mission as an ambassador rather than letting my faith be secondary to my career in the choices I make.

Luke 16:13
· Why is it impossible to serve both God and money?
It is impossible to serve both God and money because the two lead to conflicting claims of devotion. God is rightfully the full owner of my life and He is the one I should follow. To make him Lord is to put Him in that rightful place alone and all else comes secondary. A life devoted to money eventually leads to devotion to it and placing your security in it. Only God is true security. Even all the worldly wealth in this world ultimately belongs to Him because he is the creator of every atom. Trying to serve money without it occupying my large chunks of my heart and mind is not possible. It takes great time, physical and emotional energy to maintain and pursue worldly money, and this excludes my life from being devoted to what God wants me to do.

·Which one am I serving?
Having served money before I met Christ, I know how fleeting large sums of money is and how the joy and possessions I gain from it quickly diminish in time. Having experienced a relationship with the living God and the joy/purpose from living for Him through loving and ministering to people, nothing in the world compares to it. I do my best to make sure I am serving God and not money.

· What is the “worldly wealth” that God has entrusted me with, and what have I done with it?
God has entrusted me with much worldly wealth. I got to grow up in the United States where it is stable, safe, and has so many opportunities for education and jobs, grew up in a family that worked hard to support me, got a good college education where I became a Christian, and I have a good salaried job that doesn’t require hard labor that my parents have had to do to raise me. Before I met Christ, I was bent on a life that was all about advancing my own opportunity and living for my own interest in the form of amassing as much possession as possible. After experiencing relationship with God first hand and the treasure of the gospel in its ability to transform lives and to solve my greatest problem of sin, I saw there was a much higher and worthier purpose for my life than living for me or the American dream. I received Christ during my college years, and now I want to devote my life and my most precious worldly wealth (my time) to share the same eternal treasure that was passed to me. I want to use my college experience to better understand what college students go through so I can better minister to their needs. I have oriented my choices to give myself freedom in time and mind to have little room in my heart for others. It may mean a lesser salary or less chance of promotion, but I know the eternal friends are much more valuable anything I can gain here. I have kept my life simple materially and in possessions so I have less to worry about so I can have more time to be available for God’s work.

PERSONAL PRAYER
Father in heaven, thank you for the reminder about the shortness of my life and what an urgent call you have entrusted to me to use my life and resources to win eternal friends into heaven. In my day to day interaction with people, please help me to remember what season I and my friends are in so I can see clearly the priorities you have for me and my friends. May I be like the shrewd manager and consider my situation and take appropriate action.

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