Money Isn’t the Main Thing

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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“Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”

Luke 16:

As we leave the extraordinary encouragement of the “Lost and Found” God of Luke 15, Luke 16 can make us feel as if we somehow slipped into Alice’s bizarre wonderland. The opening verses of this chapter contain the so-called Parable of the Dishonest Steward, which is one of the strangest and most controversial parables in all of the Gospels. To this day, there is no agreement among scholars about what Jesus was trying to communicate through this parable.

Here’s the basic storyline. A manager of a rich man was wasting his master’s money, so he was about to be fired. Fearing his future, the manager gathered the people who owed his master money, cutting their debt in half. Effectively, he was stealing from his master in order to guarantee that he would have friends once he was without work.

None of this is particularly surprising. But then we come to the master’s response: “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd” (16:8). What? Why would the rich man admire one who had stolen from him? Jesus adds to the confusion by offering this conclusion: “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home” (16:9). Now what in the world does that mean? This puzzle is even more perplexing in the original Greek, where Jesus refers not to “worldly resources” but to “unrighteous wealth [mammon].” Is Jesus saying that we’re to be dishonest so as to benefit ourselves eternally? What sense does that make?

I can’t answer these questions in this reflection. In fact, I’m still trying to answer them more fully. But a couple of things are clear. First, Jesus does not commend the manager for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness or practical wisdom. In verse 8, he urges his followers, “the children of the light,” to be similarly shrewd as we seek to reflect the light of God into the world. We need to be wise as we seek to serve the agenda of God’s kingdom.

Second, however we understand the nuances of verse 9, it’s clear that Jesus is saying at least, “Money isn’t the main thing.” Our earthly possessions won’t last forever. But what we do with them can indeed last for eternity. Thus, Jesus challenges us to use our financial resources, even if they are somehow tainted, for God’s purposes.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How might you be wiser in your effort to live each day as a citizen of the kingdom of God? In what ways are you investing your financial resources in the work of God’s kingdom?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I must confess that I’m not sure I understand the full intent of this parable. So help me, I pray, to grow into a deeper and truer sense of what you are communicating here.

Yet some things are clear. You want your people to be wise in the way we reflect your light into the world. Like the dishonest manager, I need to think about my actions and their kingdom impact. And, like the manager, I need to act decisively for your purposes. Help me to do these things so that I might serve you more effectively.

Moreover, I ask you to help me be wise, in particular, in my use of the financial resources you have entrusted to me. May I be bold in using these resources for your purposes, not only as I give them away, but also as I spend money each day. Amen.