Summary: This message focuses on giving as outline by Jesus Himself. It was a part of a series I preached on the parables.
“Making Sense Out of Dollars”
Last week we began a new teaching series I have titled Tell me the Stories of Jesus. We are looking at some of the stories Jesus told through the use of parables. One of the ways we could describe a parable is that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus used these stories to help bring clarity and understanding to His teachings. These parables shed light on the Kingdom of God and make it simpler to understand.
A little boy wanted $100 very badly. He prayed for weeks, but nothing happened. So, he decided to write a letter to God requesting $100. When the postal authorities received the letter to "God, USA", they decided to send it to the President. The President was so amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5 bill. The President thought this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy.
The little boy was delighted with the $5 bill, and sat down to write a thank-you note to God. The postal authorities forwarded this letter on to the President, too.
It read: "Dear God, Thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you sent it through Washington, D.C., and as usual they kept most of it."
This morning we come to one of the most unusual parable Jesus ever told. It is a parable about money which really shouldn’t surprise us because of the parables Jesus told, 19 of them dealt with handling possessions. Baptism is very important but there are 16X more verses in the NT on handling money than there are related to baptism. The Lord’s supper is important but there are 32X more statements about financial management than there are about the Lord’s supper.
Now when Jesus has that much o say about something, one thing’s for sure, we better pay attention. So look at this passage with me. Luke 16:1-15
Now the moral or the key understanding this parable is in verse 8. The manager was cunning, he was shrewd...in fact he was dishonest. When he learned he was about to lose his job he went to his best customers and gave them all huge discounts on what they owed his boss. Now why would he do that? Well after he was fired for mismanagement he could then go to one of those customers who now owed him a favor and hopefully they would offer him a job. As you know, that is how many people do business. You hear expressions like, “you scratch my bac and I’ll scratch yours.....or hey I owe you one. Now Jesus is not suggesting that we adopt these practices, what He is saying here however, is that we can learn from them.
Notice here that Jesus recognized that there are really only 2 kinds of people. Some are what He called people of this world and the others are what he called people of the light. Here’s the difference. People of this world are those who live as if this world is all there ever will be. They devote their entire lives to material things and getting ahead. Those who are people of the light have a personal relationship with The God of the universe. We live in this world but we know this world is not all there is. We are like Abraham in the OT who was looking for a city not made with human hands.
However, Christians can be very gullible.....very naive. We hear stories frequently about Christian friends who have been taken in by some scam....they have given away their life savings.....lost their retirement money because someone deceived them. People can be deceptive, even pastors. A man came to the Baptist Church and asked to see the pastor. “Pastor,” he said, “My dog died and I would like a Christian burial for him.” The Pastor said, “I’m sorry to hear about your dog, but we Lutherans don’t do funerals for dogs. You might try the Presbyterian church down the street. Presbyterians will do most anything.” The man turned sadly and said, “I’m sorry you won’t do my dog’s funeral, but I understand. I’ll try the Baptist church. But would you tell me how much is appropriate to leave for a memorial for the church? I was thinking of giving a $10,000 memorial to the church in honor of my dog.”
“Wait a minute,” the pastor said. “You didn’t tell me that your dog was Baptist…”
The Bible tells us to wake up! Be wise. Ask God for wisdom (James) Why? Because we live in a world with dishonest people. That’s what Jesus meant when He said “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” And this was His advice. Be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. Note the distinction here. The manager in the parable was as shrewd as a snake but he was as guilty as sin.