Shrewd Money Managers

“The master commended the dishonest manager.” What?!? What is Jesus teaching in this unusual story?

October 28-29, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Jesus on Money
#3—Be Shrewd Money Managers
Luke 16:1-13

Introduction and offering:

ILL: One of my friends recently told me that he bought a scooter that wasn’t running for $100, spent $100 to get it running, and sold it for $1300—he turned an $1100 profit! This guy has a gift for spotting deals and turning a dollar. Another friend spotted a designer purse at a second hand store; she bought it for $40, and sold it a couple hours later online for $700. She too has a knack for spotting deals and making a profit. Call them smart, call them savvy, call them astute—they are financially shrewd. How many of you wish you were like that? Me too—I want to be shrewd.

But shrewd is also a word with negative connotations. Positively, it means wise, sagacious and clever. Negatively, it means wily or artful—like “a shrewd operator.” You better keep an eye on them. Today, I’m using it in the positive sense. Jesus wants us to be shrewd money managers—smart and wise.

This is part 3 of “Jesus on Money.” I’ve told you that money is one of those subjects that I return to every few years because it’s of universal interest and because it’s so important. Jesus said that money is a heart issue—and Jesus wants your heart. Jesus will mess with you on this subject—but it’s a good mess! Jesus wants something for you not from you!

We’re looking at what Jesus said about money in the gospel of Luke, and today we are looking at one of the most difficult and unusual of Jesus’ stories. It’s a story that makes you say, “What?” Here is the story, and then we’ll unpack it.

 

Luke 16:1–15

1 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

6 “ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.

“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’

7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’

“ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.

“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’

8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

10 “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. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Look at verse 8:

“The master commended the dishonest manager.” What? What could Jesus mean? It seems like incompetence and dishonesty are praised and rewarded. What is Jesus teaching in this unusual story? We’re going to look at four big ideas—and the main point of the story is #3.

 

Offering here:

 

The story starts in verse 1: 1 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.” Here is the first point:

 

  1. God is the owner; we are managers. v. 1

In Jesus’ day, wealthy people hired managers to run their estates. The same thing happens today. Owners hire managers to run their businesses. Ordinary people hire financial planners—who are often called “wealth managers”—to manage their investments, even if they are small.

Question: what would you do if you discovered your financial planner was spending your money on himself instead of investing it for you? You’d fire him—in a heart beat. Why? It’s not his money. It’s your money.

The wealthy man in Jesus’ story is firing his estate manager for the same reason—the manager is wasting the owner’s money. It was not the manager’s money to waste—the money belonged to his boss.

Here’s the first lesson for us: God is the owner, we are His managers. It’s not our money; it’s His money. Everything we have belongs to God—He is the owner, and we are His managers. Our job is to do what He wants with what belongs to Him.

This idea is reinforced in another story Jesus told in Matthew 25:14-30—it’s often called “the parable of the talents.” It starts like this:

Matthew 25:14–18

14 At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there was a man who was about to go on a journey; he called his servants and put them in charge of his property. 15 He gave to each one according to his ability: to one he gave five thousand gold coins, to another he gave two thousand, and to another he gave one thousand. Then he left on his journey. 16 The servant who had received five thousand coins went at once and invested his money and earned another five thousand. 17 In the same way the servant who had received two thousand coins earned another two thousand. 18 But the servant who had received one thousand coins went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

This man selects three servants and entrusts them with his property. Each man is given a large amount to manage. The “thousand coins” is literally a “talent,” a measure of weight. A talent of gold would be worth roughly an entire lifetime of wages for the average person. So one man was given 5 lifetimes of salary to invest; another 2 lifetimes of salary and another 1 lifetime of salary. The guy that got the least still got a lot!

Please don’t miss the grace of God in this story. Everything belongs to God and He generously shares it with us. God is the owner, but He’s not stingy. He is incredibly generous, entrusting each of us with lots!

ILL: I was praying one morning this week—I like to start with thanksgiving. I was thanking God for the many good things in my life—and there were a few of them that I was tempted to take some credit for. I’ve worked hard. I’m talented. I’m smart. Then it hit me again. Behind every reason I want to take credit lies a generous gift of God. Am I smart? Who gave me my brain? God did. Am I talented? Who gave me my talents? God did. Am I a hard worker? Who gave my strength, my desire? God did. Every single good thing in my life is a gift from God. It’s all His.

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Don’t miss the grace and goodness and generosity of God in these stories!

Whose money was it? In both stories, it was the master’s money. It never belonged to them—they were not owners, they were managers.

God is the owner. You are His manager. It’s His house; it’s His car; it’s His money; it’s His stuff. “Thank you for your generous gifts; how do you want me to manage them Lord?”

When you borrow someone else’s stuff are you careful with it? Maybe even more careful than with your own stuff?

ILL: Michael Quillen from Crossville, Tennessee tells this story. He met his wife, Julia at a Bible study where he helped lead worship. A friend at the Bible study lent him a beautiful guitar—the nicest guitar he had ever played. He cherished it, babied it, was always careful not to bang it into things. Michael wiped it down after every use and gently placed it in its velvet-lined case.

He played it for months and was thinking of buying it. He and Julia got engaged and just before their wedding, Julia surprised him by buying the guitar for him. Michael was ecstatic! He now owned this beautiful guitar. He was also relieved. He could stop babying it—he didn’t have to clean it after every use. It didn’t belong to someone else; it was his!

Then Julia got him. She pointed out that the guitar still wasn’t really his. It belonged to God. “Shouldn’t you still take good care of it, like you did when you didn’t think it was yours?”

Everything I am and have belongs to God. God is the owner; we are managers. “Lord, what do You want me to do with Your money, Your stuff?” That’s called stewardship—good management.

 

  1. We will give an accounting. v. 2

Look at verse 2: 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

The owner called his manager in and demanded an accounting. “Show me what you’ve done with the money.” In this case, the owner had heard trusted reports that he was being cheated, so he demanded an accounting, and fired the manager all at the same time.

Every manager must give an accounting.

This is true of our financial planners. I get monthly and quarterly statements from my financial planner, reporting what they’ve done with my money—where it is invested, what are the returns.

This is true of a manager at a business. The owner wants to see the books on a regular basis and see the results of your management. Are you making money or losing money?

This idea of an accounting was also a feature of the parable of talents in Matthew 25.

Matthew 25:19 After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.

The owner called all three servants in to give an accounting of what they had done with his money. The men who had been given 5000 coins and 2000 coins had each invested wisely and doubled the master’s money. The man who had been given 1000 coins was afraid, and decided to play it safe and buried the money. He returned the 1000 coins to the owner, but with nothing to show for it.

Here’s the point: one day, we will give an accounting to God for what we did with what He gave us. This is a sobering thought. In your lifetime, you will earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you make minimum wage and never get a raise, over a 40 year career, you’ll earn over $800,000! Many of you will earn millions. What will you have to show for it? What are you doing with all that God has given you?

I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on you. I’m simply pointing out a spiritual reality. One day we’ll stand before God and we’ll answer for all we’ve been given: our lives, our talents, our abilities, our relationships, our money, our stuff. What do you hope to hear?

“Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share your master’s happiness.”

So, what should we do? What does God expect of us? This is #3—and the point of the story.

 

  1. Manage shrewdly: use wealth to please God. v. 8-9

The manager in Jesus’ story realizes that he’s going to lose his job. He had “wasted” his boss’ possessions. It is the same word that Jesus used in the story right before this—the story of the prodigal son. Look at:

Luke 15:13 Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.

The younger son squandered his wealth in wild living. The manager in this story wasted or squandered his boss’ wealth. If your financial planner is squandering your money, you fire him. So this manager knows he’s about to be fired. While he still has his position, he uses it to soften his fall. He buys some friends who will help him once he is out of a job.

He calls in the master’s creditors. Most likely these were people who were renting land from the master, and making their rent payments in produce. So the first man owed the master 900 gallons of olive oil—rent for the olive orchard, the master’s share of the crop. The manager offers him a 50% reduction. As manager, he had the authority to negotiate—or re-negotiate—the rent, and he does to his advantage. The second man owed the master 1000 bushels of wheat—rent for the wheat fields, the master’s share of the crop. The manager offers him a 20% reduction. Why the difference in percentages? The 450 gallons of olive oil were worth less money than the 200 bushels of wheat—so while it was a smaller percentage, it was a larger dollar amount.

Why is the manager doing this? He’s “making friends” to secure his future. He’s helping people who will then be in his debt, who will feel obligated to repay the favor. Then the punchline of the story; look at v. 8-9.

8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

What? It sounds like Jesus is praising incompetence and dishonesty. He’s not. Look again at the verses. The master doesn’t praise the manager for being dishonest but for being shrewd or prudent or clever. As we’ll see in the final point, Jesus calls us to be trustworthy, not dishonest. And part of being trustworthy is being wise or prudent with money.

Do you know anyone who might read this and cheer for the manager? There are people who believe the end justifies the means, and would justify being dishonest to get more for themselves. I think that’s what Jesus means when he says “the people of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than the people of light.”

The lesson is in verse 9.

9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Use money to make friends who can welcome you into eternal dwellings. Who would that be? God. Use your money to please God. The manager in this story was prudent for his future—but it was short term future. Jesus is reminding us to be prudent for our eternal future. Be shrewd or wise or prudent in how you manage money—manage it to please God. One day we’ll stand before God and we want to hear Him say:
Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

So what does it look like to manage shrewdly so God is pleased? I said in week 1 that we all need money to:

  • Spend for current needs.
  • Save for future needs.
  • Give for others’ needs.

I think the Bible teaches that we turn that upside down: that we give to God first, then wisely save, and then live on what is left. Many Christians use the 10-10-80 plan as a starting point.

  • 10% Give to God.
  • 10% Save for future.
  • 80% Spend for needs.

This is a suggested starting point, not a rule or a law. Remember, it’s all God’s and we manage it as He desires. This is simply a good starting point.

Laina and I have always given the first 10%—a tithe— to God. We give that at our church to support God’s work here and in the world. We also give an offering above and beyond our tithe to our church. And then we give additional offerings to missionaries, other ministries and to the needy. Our giving is closer to 20% now and growing. We want to be generous. But we started years ago with the tithe—10%—and have always given that first to God, even before we pay ourselves in savings, or pay our bills. God first. And God promises over and over in Scripture to take care of those who put Him first.

Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

ILL: Many years ago, I made a stupid financial decision, motivated by greed, that left us with a $15,000 debt. Someone suggested that I use our tithe to pay that debt—but I am committed to giving to God first. So I kept giving our tithe, and I got two morning paper routes. Pastor Joe, your paperboy! I did those routes for a year and whittled away at that debt. And God poured out his blessing on us—we were able to pay it off in full in just over a year. And I learned many valuable lessons—the hard way.

We give to God first. By the way, some people have criticized me for tithing and teaching others that it’s a good starting point. They say, “That’s Old Testament, and we aren’t under the law. We’re under grace.” I agree. I tell them, “You’re right; we’re under grace not law. And grace always goes far beyond what the law requires, so I assume that you must give way more than 10% to the Lord. Right?” Sadly, in every case where I’ve asked, they are giving far less than 10% to God. They used grace as an excuse to do less than what the law required. But the early Christians believed that grace will lead us to be more generous than the law required. They saw the tithe as the starting point of generosity and grace exceeded it.

I want to be a shrewd money manager and please God. So I start by giving to God first.

  • 10% Give to God.
  • 10% Save for future.

Then I save for the future. The 10% is simply a recommended starting point. Most people are saving little or nothing. Why? We spend it all. We tend to be undisciplined, impulsive spenders, and many of us have a pile of debt to show for it. So pay yourself first. Give first then save before you spend. This is the wise, prudent, shrewd thing to do.

Proverbs 6:6–8 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

I give to God first, then I save for the future, and then I live on what is left.

  • 10% Give to God.
  • 10% Save for future.
  • 80% Spend for needs.

Most of us invert this. We spend and spend and spend—and then don’t have much if anything left to save or give. We have to get our spending under control. I’ve talked about this in much more depth in other talks that are available on our website. The most recent was “Money Matters” in 2014.

Also, we offer Financial Peace University here. It’s a terrific in depth course on money management. It will help you become a shrewd money manager. A new session will be firing up in January; you can go to our website and get registered for that.

It’s God’s money. Manage it with eternity in view. Manage it to please God! One last important point:

 

  1. Be trustworthy. v. 10-13

Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Notice that word “faithful.” Be faithful, be trustworthy with what God has given you. If you’re faithful with little, you’ll be given much. Look again at v 10-12.

10 “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. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

Money is a test. Can you handle money faithfully? You’ll be given true riches. Money is a test—it’s a little thing—handle it well and you’ll be given big things!

ILL: When Van Halen does a concert, they send the promoter a large, complex contract that insists among other things that “a bowl of M&M’s be provided backstage, but with every single brown M&M removed.” If the band arrived and saw that the bowl had any brown M&Ms in it, they were free to cancel the concert and receive full payment. Who knew a bunch of hard-rockers could be such divas?

It turns out that Van Halen’s show was large and complex: 9 eighteen wheelers worth of equipment to unload and set up. It required lots of people and attention to detail. So as a test, the band inserted the brown M&M clause. If there were brown M&M’s in the bowl, they knew other things were missed too, and they began double checking everything. The mistakes could be life-threatening. In Colorado, the band found that the local promoters had failed to read the weight requirements and that the staging would have fallen through the arena floor.

If you’re faithful in little things—the brown M&M’s—you can be trusted with bigger things. And money is brown M&M’s; it’s one of those little things.   God has bigger things He wants to give you! Be trustworthy.

God is so good, so gracious. He is the one I want to please!

 

 

Money Matters

Pastor Joe mentioned a series from 2014 which covered giving, saving and sharing money.

We spend and spend and spend—and then don’t have much if anything left to save or give. We have to get our spending under control.

Watch the Money Matters series.

Financial Peace University

Pastor Joe mentioned Financial Peace University. It’s no fun living pay check to pay check and owing it to someone else. Learn how to create a budget that works for you, and plan for your future. Taught by Dave Ramsey.

By | 2017-10-31T10:05:14+00:00 October 29th, 2017|Jesus On Money|Comments Off on Shrewd Money Managers