I worked at a guitar store all through high school…for me, it was a dream job.
-In any retail business, you have people come and go.
-I can vividly remember one day when we needed another part time employee, my boss interviewed an 18-year-old guy named Devon.
-He said, “That guy is IMPRESSIVE…I can’t wait for him to start.”
-And Devon talked a great game…he gave a great interview. He talked about all his abilities, about the modeling career he had going on the side. He was the tall, dark, and handsome type. A pretty likeable guy.
-But once we hired him, there was one big problem…you couldn’t get this guy to do anything.
-He would sit there at the front counter all day…he wouldn’t help price things, or help customers, or run the vacuum cleaner.
-If he absolutely had to help someone, he would, but mostly, he just sat there and talked on the phone to his friends.
-Devon’s friends had a similar work ethic to his own. Just down the street, there was a Baskin Robbins. Devon would always come back from lunch carrying these enormous multi-flavored milkshakes.
-Sometimes we’d eat lunch together, and he invited me once to go to baskin robbins with him and I said ‘sure’.
-So I went in and ordered a milkshake of some type. (VERY EXPENSIVE)
-Then Devon grinned at his buddy who grinned back, and he said, “I wanna be a cop today”
-His buddy said, “Then I guess I had better give you the police discount”
-So his buddy made him the biggest, best looking milkshake you can imagine, then charged him a nickel for it.
-The owner wasn’t around, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have approved.
-All of us noticed how Devon would do this sort of thing with his buddies, and I remember when our store manager started saying, “We have got to keep an eye on Devon…I know how that game works. I give you special treatment, then you return the favor when I come to YOUR place.”
-Devon’s career at the music store was very short lived, and I think that’s a good thing.
(OPEN TO LUKE 16)
-In some ways, this is one of my favorite parables. I find it one of the most bizarre that Jesus ever taught…it contains some very difficult teachings.
-It was very common for a rich person to have someone in charge of his possessions.
-Remember Joseph at Potiphar’s house? They had the authority to make business decisions, to spend money, to collect money…to do just about anything. But this had to be someone who the master really trusted.
-If a manager was mishandling the master’s possessions, it would reflect badly, not just on the servant, but on the master himself.
-An astonishing part of this story is that the master doesn’t seek to throw this guy into debtor’s prison or to take all his possessions to repay the debt. He is a merciful man, even to this sneaky weasel of a manager…he just fires him.
-When they fired men in positions like this guy, they didn’t give them any notice…the firing would always be in effect immediately.
So the dishonest manager changes his mentality to survival mode…how can I watch my own back?
-It is hard for us to understand the quantities he’s talking about.
-When he forgave the debt of 400 gallons of olive oil, that was an amount of oil that it would have taken 225 olive trees to produce.
-When he forgave the debt of 200 bushels of wheat, that was about how much you would get off of 20 acres of land.
-If you sum up the total of how much he is forgiving, this basically represents the debt of an entire community.
-How would you like it if you got a message delivered to your door from President Bush which said, “This year, everyone has to pay taxes except for Rose Bud…we decided to give you guys a break.”
-That is the scope of what we’re talking about.
-He’s already been fired, but it says he acted very quickly…before the word got out…he went and forgave an enormous debt.
-Now if someone just saved you thousands of dollars…do you think you might be willing to give that guy a part time job, or a place to stay for a couple of nights?
-This guy was looking out for himself.
Now if you were the master of the house, what would your reaction be?
-If someone just cost you several thousand dollars that you were counting on, wouldn’t you want to ring their neck?
-Of all the verses of the Bible I’ve lost sleep over, Luke 16:9 has troubled me as much as any.
-Jesus says to use unrighteous wealth to make friends, so that when the money fails you, someone will still be glad to see you coming to eternal dwellings.
-The Greek words for dishonest money are “mamonAH tes adikIas”
Literally “unrighteous mammon” or “wealth from injustice” or “possessions from wrongdoing”
-Jesus says, “Use that evil stuff you have to make friends now, because you’ll need those friends later.”
-This troubled me greatly, but we have to notice carefully what Jesus does NOT say.
1. He does not CONDONE the actions of the dishonest manager. He merely says “this guy was good at looking out for himself”
2. He says that these guys would be welcomed into eternal dwellings, but he never said where those eternal dwellings would be.
I want to discuss a few points that I believe Jesus IS trying to make:
1. We have got to be thoughtful about what our actions communicate.
-Jesus mentions that often, the corrupt people of this world think more about their steps than God’s own children do.
-The world is often more careful about how it deals with itself than Christians are in how they deal with the world.
-Isn’t advertising and the media sufficient proof of that? The best commercials are the beer commercials. We Christians struggle to come up with the funding to get on TV, and so many Christian programs are of noticeably lower quality than what you find on many of the other channels. Not in CONTENT, but in PRESENTATION.
-The world is better at dealing with itself than we are at dealing with the world.
-It is because of this that we must be so careful about the message that our actions communicate.
-ILLUS: There was a young boy whose aunt was trying to take him with her to church. He said he didn’t want to go. “Why?” Because daddy doesn’t go.
-So his aunt said, “Now Timmy, you still need to go to church…you know, when your daddy was a boy your age, he ALWAYS went to church every week.”
-Timmy asked his dad, “Is that true?” Dad said, “Yep, I sure did.”
-Timmy thought for a moment, then he said, “All right…if dad went, then I’ll go…but it probably won’t do ME any good either.”
-What are your actions communicating to the people around you?
-Sometimes when we want to talk about God, we feel like people’s ears are closed. They don’t want to hear what you have to say…but just remember, no matter how hard a person has his hands over his ears, his eyes are still open.
-People may not listen to you, but they are watching you.
2. What really matters is What you Do with What You Have
ILLUS: One time I heard about a young guy who was quickly climbing the corporate ladder.
-He had been moving up the ranks, and all the important guys at the top had heard about him. His performance reports were always excellent.
-The decision was made to give him an extremely high position, but before finalizing it, the CEO decided to fly him to the corporate headquarters to meet him personally.
-The meeting was to begin by having lunch together.
-This was a large company that had a fully-staffed cafeteria where people could eat for lunch.
-The CEO met the young man, gave him a good handshake, and invited him to get in line at the cafeteria.
-They went through the line together, and the CEO watched the young guy. They each got a meat, then they each got a couple of vegetables and a roll.
-There were some containers with the individual packets of butter…they had clear labels indicating that they cost an extra 10-15cents each.
-The CEO watched as the young man grabbed a few packets of butter, then hid them under his cup, so that when the lady rang him up at the end of the line, she didn’t charge him for the butter. And of course, he didn’t say a word about to her.
Before they even sat down to talk about the promotion, the CEO informed him that there would be no promotion…he was firing him as of right now…because if he couldn’t trust him over even a couple of packets of butter, why would he ever trust him with something of greater value?
-Sometimes it’s easy to pray and ask God for more stuff. ”God, I would love to give money to support this cause, or to help this person…but I just don’t have any extra right now.”
-When it comes to giving…to really helping people…good intentions mean almost nothing. To say to a person freezing and starving in the cold, “I hope you find a coat, and I hope you get a warm meal.” That is of no value.
-Why would we ever think God OUGHT to bless us with anything, if we aren’t doing good with what we already have?
-Jesus insists that we’ve got to prove our faithfulness now if we expect blessings later.
3. All of us have to decide who we will serve.
I want to read you a passage from Joshua 24:14-15, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
-There wasn’t just one idol they were tempted to worship. There were those old gods that had been in Egypt. I know each of us could talk about things we used to worry about a lot as a teenager that we don’t worry as much about any more. Being cool barely concerns me at this point, though at one time I would loose sleep over it. There are the past gods of Egypt, but then there are the very present gods of the Amorites.
-We’ve all grown up. And the things that tempt you now are not the same as what used to tempt you…the things you worry about have changed, but in the end, these things are not truly worthy of worship.
-Jesus said it ultimately ends up being God or money. God or ‘stuff’.
-We must give thought to our actions…if you have good intentions, but never do the good you intend, the world can see. If you come to church, but dedicate your life to your hobbies or your bank account, this, too, the world can see through.
-I challenge you to take the stance that Joshua did, “Let those people worry about whatever they want…let them say what they want…but me and my family are going to keep our priorities straight. My house will serve the Lord.”
-Perhaps someone this morning needs to make a decision about who they will serve…
-Maybe you need to make better decisions about how you use what you’ve been blessed with… Maybe you need to be more shrewd about how you conduct yourself…