Making Eternal Friends by Unrighteous Wealth
Great Minds Used in Vain
In the twenty-fourth edition of the Global Financial Centre Index, the Cayman Islands ranked number 29 out of 110 financial centers world wide. Not surprisingly, Cayman is ranked higher than any other region in South America and the Caribbean.
Now, from my understanding, there are five main areas of competitiveness affecting that score—(1) Business Environment (is it a suitable and stable place for business?), (2) Human Capital (skilled personnel, education, and so on), (3) Infrastructure, (4) Financial Sector Development, and (5) the region’s Reputation. It’s no small feat that a nation of roughly 60,000 people knocks out 81 of the world’s 110 financial centers.
On top of it all, Cayman’s tourism industry is as robust as ever, attracting visitors worldwide. A while back I attended one of CIDOT’s (Cayman Islands Department of Tourism) regional meetings in East End, and commenting on Cayman’s upward climb in global tourism, the minister of tourism said, “We’ve got to drive revenue—it’s all about driving revenue.” In other words, sell more. How do you sell more? Shrewdness. What do people want in a vacation? What amenities do families want on a resort? What resources can we utilize to attract the average vacationer and the niche vacationer who wants something different?
These are not easy questions to answer—they require hundreds of hours of research, dozens of employees, forward thinking, innovation, creativity, risk assessment, collaboration, building teams, planning teams, operations experts, and the list just goes on.
What’s the point? I’m trying to illustrate the endless creativity and immeasurable intellect utilized in one tiny nation, which therefore makes its presence known to the whole globe. A small army capable of making a global impact exists here. So here’s the tough question: Why is Cayman’s financial position and tourism destination known globally, but the church of Christ struggles to gain a single convert?
Learning from Sons of the World
The text for this evening will come from Luke 16:1ff. Let’s read it together.
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. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 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.
In the parable, there’s a manager who was, apparently “wasting” or “squandering” his master’s possessions. It doesn’t say exactly what he was doing, but he lost his job over it. It probably had something to do with theft.
So the manager was immoral, but he wasn’t dumb. He was very shrewd. Before his management was totally stripped from him, he called all of his master’s debtors and cut down their bills. “You owed 100 measures of oil? Now you only owe 50.” I thought about that, and I thought, “Maybe he’d been doing this all along, only he was pocketing the difference instead of giving the difference to the debtors.” Perhaps that’s how he squandered his master’s money.
Regardless, in this last act as manager, he gave a major discount to each debtor so that, he said, “when I am removed from my management, people may receive me into their houses” (v. 4). That was very shrewd. So shrewd was the manager’s squandering of his master’s possessions that the master “commended [him] for his shrewdness!”
Can you imagine? Now, I don’t think it was the kind of commendation whereby you gain approval. The text literally says, “The master praised the unrighteous manager for his shrewdness.” The Bible makes it very clear—this guy was unrighteous. So, I think it was like the master sat back, chuckled, and said, “Well played. You’re never getting your job back, but that was a very smart final move on your part.”
Now Jesus tells us exactly what’s happening when you see this kind of unjust squandering in the world—“the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.”
Isn’t that a controversial statement!? It means, the world expends more energy in frivolities than the church expends saving souls. If that doesn’t cut, you’re not paying attention.
One of the more genius marketing strategies today involves tailor-made advertisements to fit every niche interest. I was talking with Miranda about something the other day, and not long after, I saw an advertisement for it on Facebook. Kind of freaky—but genius. “What are this guy’s likes? What are his dislikes? What are his political loyalties? What interests him? How can we gather that information and capitalize on it?” Now I get on social media and see little icons with my favorite items on sale. Somebody thought up all that in their head. Shrewd. And all of it to make a dollar that’ll burn.
What part of our mind is active to win souls for Christ? I think very little. Indeed, the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
What I hope and pray will be accomplished through this message is to illuminate the divine urgency for disciples of Jesus to use their collective shrewdness and creativity to make eternal friends. Jesus gives us a single challenge for which he provides three motivators to accomplish it.
Making Eternal Friends with Money
Here’s the challenge (v. 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.”
And here are the three motivators (vv. 10-13, my own translation) — “The one who is faithful in the smallest thing is also faithful in much, and the one who is unrighteous in the smallest thing is also unrighteous in much. If, therefore, in the unrighteous wealth you were not faithful, who will entrust to you that which is true? And if you were not faithful in that which is another’s, who will give to you that which is yours? No servant is able to serve two masters, for the one he will hate and the other he will love, or the one he will be devoted to and the other he will despise. You are not able to serve God and money.”
Got it? I don’t think Jesus went out of his way to be understood the first time around. Did you get the three motivators? I didn’t—the first fifty times I read it. I think Jesus made his word all-sufficient. In other words, you don’t need a commentary to make light of it; however, his word demands that we take a second, and third, and fiftieth look to get it.
So, first the challenge from verse 9, then the three motivators. What does he mean, “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth?” What is unrighteous wealth? Don’t go looking anywhere outside the context for what that means. What was the parable about? It was about a man who used somebody else’s money to make friends. That’s unrighteous wealth. It doesn’t belong to you! If we were in a Bible class, I’d have you tell me how that applies to what Jesus is saying. But for time’s sake, I’ll just tell you.
Listen to what God said in Psalm 50:12: “If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all it contains.” Everything is God’s; which means, if you have money, it isn’t yours. Which means, it is unrighteous wealth. So what’s Jesus saying? He’s saying, “Use that which you have—which is really God’s—to make friends for yourselves.” In other words, use your money, your resources, your cars, your house, your food, your stuff to make friends.
Okay, how come? He gives the answer in verse 9—“so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” So, use your resources now to make friends, so that when it fails—and it will fail—those friends will welcome you into, literally, the “eternal tent or tabernacle.”
So as I’m envisioning it, you live a life of generosity, showing great love to everybody. And some of these people become Christians because of it—and then they die. They’ll be waiting in heaven, beckoning you to the other side. When you get there, they’ll have a grin from ear to ear, ready to wrap you up with a hug because your love brought them to Christ, and now they’re saved forever.
Just six verses down from this teaching (verses 19ff), Jesus tells about a rich man—Lazarus—who did not do this. He saw Lazarus miserably poor all his life, and he didn’t ever care to help him. Now, he’s in hell—and he can see Lazarus comforted across the chasm in heaven. And he’s saying, “Get Lazarus to bring me some water!” But Abraham says, “He can’t come to you.”
Jesus means to say, right now, while you have opportunity, use God’s resources righteously, and win souls to heaven.
Three Motivators to Give Liberally
Now, here are three motivators—as if Jesus saying so wasn’t enough of a motivation. He’s kind enough to offer three reasons for saying what he said.
Motivation # 1 — “The one who is faithful in the smallest thing is also faithful in much, and the one who is unrighteous in the smallest thing is also unrighteous in much. If, therefore, in the unrighteous wealth you were not faithful, who will entrust to you that which is true?” (vv. 10-11).
First of all, what “small thing” is Jesus describing? One who is faithful in the smallest thing and one who is unrighteous in the smallest thing? Well, the thing for which the manager was unrighteous in the parable was his master’s money. Money is a small thing—ultimately.
So Jesus is saying, whether you’re faithful or unrighteous with money is determinant of how faithful or unrighteous you will be with things that actually matter. So he says, “If, therefore, in the unrighteous wealth you were not faithful, who will entrust to you that which is true?”
What’s that mean? It means, if you haven’t shown the world you care about them with stuff, or, if you haven’t shown them you care about their physical needs, why on earth would they entrust to you their souls for salvation? It’s like, “You see me here starving, and you don’t bat an eye…yet you say, ‘I care about you. Let’s study the Bible!’” A person like that is gonna say, “No way! I’m not entrusting my self to you. I’m entrusting myself to the government; because they send me a welfare check, and they give me stamps for food.
So what’s the motivation? It’s simply, your whole mission as a Christian will be a failure if you don’t win souls to Christ. And you won’t win them if you don’t use your money in shrewd ways to show them you care.
Motivation # 2 — “And if you were not faithful in that which is another’s, who will give to you that which is yours?” (v. 12).
In other words, if you did not use God’s money righteously—in ways that sought to make eternal friends—who will give to you that which is yours? I get the first part, but what’s he mean by “that which is yours?” I know what he doesn’t mean. He doesn’t mean money and stuff. That stuff is not mine.
So what is mine? As a Christian, what is mine? How about salvation, eternal life, heaven, divine favor? So, here’s what it means: If you didn’t use God’s stuff shrewdly, he won’t give you eternal life. You don’t get what belongs to you if you don’t use God’s belongings in the right ways.
I read a number of statistics—some of which conflicted, but agreed in parts—that Christians, on average, are giving less money to the church than Christians gave in the great depression. Less than three percent. Most people are thoughtlessly dropping pocket change into the plate. I wonder if we would hold onto it so tightly if we knew whose money it was…
Motivation # 3 — “No servant is able to serve two masters, for the one he will hate and the other he will love, or the one he will be devoted to and the other he will despise. You are not able to serve God and money.”
There may be a temptation to think, “I can still be a Christian and also love money.” But Jesus says, nobody can serve two masters. If you have two masters, you’ll hate one and love the other.
I preached last week in East End about the single greatest command in the world—to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. What Jesus means is, if we love God, our money will be used for his service.
In this very room, we have business owners, accountants, salesmen, educators, medical professionals, and a host of others with great talents. And we are being outperformed by those who are merely seeking after a dollar.
What would happen if we were to use our resources shrewdly for the sake of God’s kingdom? What if these minds were to come together, utilizing each talent to develop a plan to win more people to the kingdom? Church, that plan will cost money.
What would happen if each member began to look for ways to make friends with unrighteous wealth?
I’ll tell you what would happen: The dollar-loving sons of this world will no longer outperform us in shrewdness. We would make eternal friends. And one day those friends will be ushering us to salvation from the other side. Men like Lazarus, whose wounds were licked by dogs, will praise us for helping in their hour of misery.
© Finding Canaan. All rights reserved. "Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the Lord, who steal my words from one another" -- Jeremiah 23:30