Our Eternal 401k

Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’

“The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’ “So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’  The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’ “‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’

 “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. 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.

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?

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

The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. Then he said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.  Luke 16:1-15

The past couple of days, the story Jesus told of the Prodigal Son has come up several times in my life. It's such a heart-warming story that shows so clearly the love of our Heavenly Father, our need for true repentance and our unworthiness of his forgiveness, and the danger of judgmental hypocrisy. Who doesn't love that story?

Today, I kept reading, and Jesus' story recorded right after the Prodigal Son seems anything but heartwarming. What a strange way to follow up. I haven't heard many (okay, maybe not any) sermons preached on this story. I mean, I'm sure it's been done. I just don't remember being present for it. It's one of those passages in the Bible that seems a bit odd and makes me scratch my head a little. But today it made a little more sense.

I know I have harped on the subject of money and what we do with it more than once. It's just one of those things that the Lord will not let me go about, so, naturally, I don't want to let anyone else off the hook, either!! That wouldn't be loving of me, would it??

I guess it's not too bad of me to keep bringing up money when Jesus brought it up quite a bit himself. Really, it's all over Scripture, so it must be kind of important. Let's be real. How much of our thoughts, time, and life in general are in some way tied to money? Guess what I did this morning? Paid bills! Happy Labor Day! It's how we celebrate around here. Isn't that what everybody did today? Money pervades most every aspect of our lives, so if God is also going to pervade every aspect of our lives, I'd imagine the two are going to butt heads every once in a while.

So, I digress. Back to the story. It seems to me that Jesus is kind of insulting our intelligence here. He's holding up a selfish, dishonest businessman as our example to follow. Again, how odd. Now, obviously, Jesus would not be encouraging us to be selfish and dishonest. I mean, here's a man who refers to himself as The Truth. Probably not a fan of dishonesty. Just a guess. And he's talked repeatedly about losing yourself and loving others, so I'm also guessing he hasn't changed his mind here and decided to tell everyone, "Well, on second thought, let's just eat, drink, and be merry. Hey, gotta look out for ole' #1."

So what is he saying? Well, I kind of see it like this. "Hey, people who want to come with me. You're not being very smart about this whole material possessions thing. I mean, people out in the business world use their brains and their money to work for them. Why don't you do the same? I'm not calling you to be mindless and follow the crowd. If I tell you that it's eternal things that matter, use your money to make eternal investments. You're throwing it away on things that aren't going to last instead of being wise and using your money for things that really matter and will endure. Don't make the world look smarter than us, for the love."

I have a feeling no one is going to ask me for my input on the next and best English translation of the Bible.

In a nutshell: The world knows what it loves and it uses all of its effort, resources and scruples to go after it. If you love the things of God, why don't you use all of your effort, resources and scruples to chase me?

It's kind of basic. Jesus tells us what matters and what will last in life, and then we turn around and use all the resources he gives us on temporary, worldly things. Not a wise investment. If we say we value eternity and the souls of men, our checkbook should reflect it.

Then he goes on to talk about our faithfulness with the resources he's given us. It almost sounds like this whole money thing is a test. He says, "Hey, I'm going to give you a little something in your bank account just to see what you'll do with it. If I see that you use it wisely and lovingly in a way that makes me proud, I'll give you much greater spiritual blessings to go along with it. That way I'll know that you'll use both the material and the spiritual (which are so much better!) for the right purpose. Sound like a plan?"

Because, let's face it, where our treasure is, that's where our heart just happens to be as well. If he sees that our treasure is being invested in the things that are important to him, he knows our hearts are focused on things that are important to him. It all boils down to this: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

So are you being smart with your money? The Today Show asks you that all the time, but their definition of smart and God's are two different things. The things of the world make God sick. If he glanced into your checkbook, would it make him want to lose his lunch? Or would he sit back and smile, his heart full of joy and pride over his little money manager?

Be careful. Don't assume that if you give a whole big 10% to church (oh, how we love rules) or if you throw a few dollars in the pot at Christmas time that you're good. I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of us "American Christians" are living life deceived. We think we can give "enough" to make ourselves feel okay and then use the rest for those things we just "have to have." Constantly examine your heart. The Lord obviously knows my heart needs constant examination in this area, because he will not drop it.

Be intentional today about being sure your check register looks like a pretty close reflection of the heart of Jesus. Invest in something eternal. Love God with everything you are and love other people as much as you love yourself.

(Just in case you want options of some ministries that are near and dear to my heart, here are a few. But be sensitive to where the Lord is drawing your heart...and your checkbook. Be a wise kingdom investor.)







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