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Show me the person you honor and respect and I will show you the kind of person you long to become. You can learn a lot about yourself, about your values, by observing who it is that you really admire, and what is it exactly about them that you most appreciate. Jesus once picked out a man as an example for his followers to emulate that might surprise us (Luke 16:1-12). In this story the rich man represents God and the unrighteous manager represents us, or a least a subset of us. To follow Jesus faithfully requires more than being good and dedicated, it requires that we be “shrewd managers” of our God-given resources. God is the owner of all that we possess; we are managers, not owners. And as managers, it is our responsibility to handle God’s resources in a way that promotes and furthers His purposes in the world. We give lip service to this principle; practically we don’t tend to live that way. We live as though my paycheck is mine, my house, car, clothes, time, and family are mine. When it comes right down to it, we have a ”private property” mindset. It’s my stuff, my call. It’s not that we don’t give toward kingdom work, but when I give to God out of a private property mentality, we make God just one more charity that we support.
Pastor Chip Ingram tells a story that occurred early in his ministry that really helped him see stewardship from God’s perspective. John, a businessman in his church, gave him $5,000 to help the needy. Chip was to figure out who to help and then help them the way he thought his friend would wish. Each day he had an expectant attitude as he sought to fulfill this stewardship. Rarely a day went by that he didn’t think about John. Whenever he encountered a need, he tried to see it through John’s eyes. He would ask himself, “What would John do in this situation?” Chip also learned how to balance a checkbook. When he was handling his own money a close approximation was good enough, but now that he was handling someone else’s money he was much more careful. Periodically John would call him in to give an account. John and Chip became close friends. Chip never felt like an errand boy but rather as trusted friend and associate. Chip gained insight into how John wanted him to spend his money, and Chip became a wise and faithful manager of the resources that John entrusted to him. Over time, the godly old businessman and this energetic young pastor partnered together to bless hundreds of people. In the same way, open handed, generous giving is a gateway to intimacy with God. Through us, God wants to display his great generosity to the world. But you won’t do that if you have a “private property” mentality. Are you generous?? I want you to really think about that. If not, that is a sure sign that you have a “private property mentality.”
God also wants us to be shrewd. That means “to act with foresight.” (Matthew 7:24; 25:1-13; Luke 16:1-8). Jesus praised the unrighteous manager in his story because because he had acted shrewdly. Jesus also divided all of mankind into two categories: the “sons of this age” and the “sons of light.” It is a reference to the ultimate allegiance of their heart: “Sons of light” have given their allegiance to God, “sons of this age” have not. Jesus said that the “sons of this world” often demonstrate shrewd common sense when it comes to sizing up the situation and doing something about it. What is it about this man’s shrewdness that can admire and emulate? He honestly faced the facts about himself and his situation. We need to be as shrewd as he was. His situation was fairly similar to our own: he had control of wealth for a short time. What we possess today, we will not possess tomorrow. Clothes wear out. Inflation eats our money. Death makes us leave it all behind. He had a finite amount of time to prepare for the future. We too have a finite amount of time during which we too must prepare for our eternal future. He provided for the future by using the money that he couldn’t keep to make a few good friendships that would benefit him when his money was gone.
In Luke 16:9 Jesus instructs us to “make friends by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.” We should act shrewdly and prepare for our eternal future by using our present wealth to make friends who will one day welcome us into heaven. (Note: archaeology reveals that the phrase, “the wealth of unrighteousness”, was merely a stock expression for all money.” It is not referring to money made in disreputable ways.) People of the world may misuse their wealth, but they do give a lot of thought to what they do with it. They think about the long-term benefits of their investments. Jesus is saying that we need to have the same mentality. One day our money will fail us (v. 9). While the Bible is clear we can’t take our wealth with us—we can send it on ahead! We do this by making friends for heaven by investing in the ministry of others (Philippians 4:17).
If you are not generously investing in God’s kingdom work you have a very unbalanced portfolio and you are not very shrewd. Because if all or most of your investments are in this world only stuff, it will fail you one day—Jesus guarantees it. It is shortsighted and unbalanced. We can use our worldly wealth to make friends for eternity. One of the ways we can do that is by giving to the ministry of others.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Make a covenant with God acknowledging his ownership of your possessions and committing yourself to invest them wisely. Download a sample covenant here that includes a fill-in-the-blank Biblical Stewardship Plan.
- Develop a Biblical Stewardship Plan that includes a savings plan, a giving plan, and a living plan. Download a fill-in-the-blank version that accompanies the sample covenant.
- Do you need help? Check out Financial Peace University and Biblical Counseling at TCC.