Summary: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor and believe me, rich is better.” My dad told me that.
“I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor and believe me, rich is better.” My dad told me that. I’ve mentioned it before. He was just kidding around when he said it and he sure wasn’t rich, but the saying stuck with me.
Funny how some things stick, isn’t it?
Everybody’s got an opinion about money. Religious people always have an opinion about money. I wonder if the opinion they give you is really the opinion they keep way down inside, away from prying eyes? I guess that’s why you got to watch what they do and not pay so much attention to what they say.
Jesus told a parable about money I never could quite figure out. Like I said last week; I was getting mixed signals. It’s in Luke chapter 16. Here’s the short version:
A rich guy finds out that his accountant is crooked. He goes to the accountant and says, “I’ve heard you’re wasting my money. Put my accounts in order and turn in your ledger – you’re fired.”
Well, the accountant, realizing he’s been caught, cooks up a scheme. He calls in the people who owe his boss to settle accounts. He changes the first guy’s balance from eight hundred gallons of olive oil to four hundred and second guy’s balance of a thousand bushels of wheat to eight-hundred. The accountant figures that since he’s getting fired anyway and his chances of finding another job are pretty bleak, that he’d better make friends with his boss’s debtors by cooking the books to reduce their debt. Maybe they’ll show him some financial consideration on the back end.
The accountant’s boss is no dummy. He finds out what the guy has done and in spite of being cheated out of a considerable amount of oil and wheat, he thinks the accountant is pretty shrewd.
To me, this didn’t sound like parable material. I knew Jesus was trying to make a point, but it sounds like he was giving an atta-boy to the dishonest accountant.
Right after the story Jesus said, “the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” I picked up that he was making a difference between two groups of people – people of the world and people of light.
Jesus was telling this and some other stories to a big crowd of people who had been following him around. The crowd was filled with all kinds of people - commoners, tax-collectors and “sinners.”
It’s funny; Luke is telling this story and when he describes the crowd he puts “sinners” in parentheses. Like whether or not they were really “sinners” compared to those who considered themselves “not-sinners” was up for debate.
On this particular occasion, another group showed up; kinda standing off to the side with their arms folded. They were the Pharisees and teachers of the law - the religious leaders. They liked to be in charge of telling people what to do and what to think. Jesus had been screwing that up lately.
I’m pretty sure Jesus started in on this particular set of stories just because they showed up. His words embarrassed them and people who regard themselves as important don’t like being embarrassed. But they needed embarrassing; so Jesus fired away.
You’d think that, knowing who-all was present, the religious leaders would be the “people of the light” and the tax collectors and “sinners” would be the “people of the world.” I don’t think Jesus meant it that way.
He tells the crowd, “… use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” That was a head-scratcher. I didn’t get how using “worldly wealth” (money) to make friends now would get me “welcomed into eternal dwellings” later.
Jesus followed up with: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”
Finally, the light in my head clicked on. Money is something you’re entrusted with - like the crooked accountant in the story. It’s not yours; you’re just managing it for someone else. As manager, your job is to turn a profit for the One to whom the money belongs. Treating it like your own leads to trouble.
None of the money is yours; that’s the point. And in light of what’s coming, it’s not even all that valuable. What you do with your money (not really your money) on earth is kind of a test for what you’ll do with really valuable stuff later.