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A Parable for Smarter Stewards

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
March 8, 2024 12:00 am

A Parable for Smarter Stewards

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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March 8, 2024 12:00 am

Listen to the full-length version or read the manuscript of this message here: https://wfth.me/pap.  What you do with your currency reflects your priorities. Jesus taught this truth to His disciples through a parable about an unfaithful manager and a shrewd investor. And it's through this story that Jesus gets to the heart of our relationship with money. If your value is in the kingdom, your investments will be put into kingdom priorities.

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Look around. Look at the way the sons of the earth, the people of this world, think up ways to line their pockets. Think up ways to advance their agenda. Just look around at the way they so cleverly market their propaganda. Look at how they creatively convince people to follow them.

Look at this manager. He's using all his intelligence and his wit, creativity and urgency to advance himself. Today on Wisdom For The Heart, Stephen Davey begins a series from a section of Luke called, Parables and Prophecies. Friend, what you do with your currency reflects your priorities. Jesus taught this truth to his disciples through a parable about an unfaithful manager and a shrewd investor. And it's through this story that Jesus gets to the heart of our relationship with money.

If your value is in the kingdom, your investments will be put into kingdom priorities. That's the theme of this lesson that Stephen calls, A Parable for Smarter Stewards. A couple of months ago, I was watching a Monday Night Football game on television, and it was one of those critical games leading into the postseason. There had been a lot of press, a lot of hype. In the first quarter, about midway through, a defensive safety tackled a player. He stood up, took a few steps backward and then collapsed on the field. It was obvious that this was an unusual emergency.

We would find out later that his heart, in fact, had stopped. That massive arena, if you were watching it, just immediately grew quiet as the fans watched the medical team administer a CPR. We weren't shown that on television that was shielded from us, but tens of thousands of fans saw it. Even as they rushed him off the field, the entire football team of this injured player, along with the coaches and staff, went out and gathered on that field, and they, with arms around each other, knelt down and prayed. But everybody knew those players weren't out there praying to Buddha. They knew intuitively, and everyone was arrested by the fact that they needed to pray to the Creator of the universe, God Himself. Now, whether they understood, I don't know. More than likely, there was a chaplain, and I would only hope, who knew to whom they were to pray. But I've got to tell you, that response was intriguing.

It was like something invisible just descended. I'd call it perspective, balanced priority, prayer. Somebody's eternal destiny was in the balance, and everyone intuitively knew that, and nothing else mattered, because in light of that, everything was just a game. It's that kind of eternal perspective the Lord is going to urge His disciples to adopt. He's going to do it in a really unusual way.

He's going to kind of come and do an end around, so to speak. He's going to deal with eternal urgency by talking about something here and now. In a word, money.

That typically gets everyone's attention. And he's going to talk about possessions, and how urgent we need to be on the subject. You might think it's odd for the Lord to encourage a sense of eternal perspective and urgency by talking about money, but the more I thought about this as I studied this text, it struck me that you can indeed measure someone's urgency in life based on what they do with their currency. Hard-earned dollars. What are you urgent about today? What really, really matters?

Well, that urgency is going to translate into your investment of currency. That's what Jesus is about to challenge. We're in Luke's Gospel. We're in chapter 16 now, where the Lord begins to tell another parable, a story. I've encountered in my study at least 14 different opinions on the meaning of this parable. I don't have time to give you anything but the correct opinion on this parable. But I do want to remind you, and I think this is where it's easy to get off track, a parable has one primary theme. Sometimes the details matter, sometimes they don't, but we're driving toward this one theme.

Some are convinced it has nothing to do with money. But if there's any doubt, let's just go to the end of the parable, where Jesus delivers what we would call the moral of the story. This is the theme. This is the main idea. Look down here to verse 13.

This is where he gives it. No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve, you cannot be devoted to God, and at the same time be devoted to money. That's the main theme. In order to drive us to this verdict, this point, Jesus is going to tell a story. In fact, in this story, all the participants are driven by the same thing. Money. All of them.

In fact, they are all, as I'll try to show you, all of them will compromise their character in order to get a little more money. All right, so with that in mind, let's go back to the beginning and start here in verse 1. Let me just have you read the opening phrase, and I want to stop again. He, Jesus, also said to the disciples, I want you to keep that audience in mind here. The Pharisees are listening, certainly. In fact, at the end of this, they're going to mock him.

Basically saying, what do you know about money? You're dirt poor. So they'll jeer at him at the end of this. But he's giving this for the benefit of his disciples. And you might wonder, why would the Lord be giving any kind of financial stewardship principles to men who had no money?

They're all dirt poor. Well, keep in mind that within a year, these men will be stewarding the assets of a church of 5,000 people plus. In order to help those in need, people are going to empty their bank accounts, lay the money at the apostles' feet. They're going to sell their land, give the money to the apostles to steward. In our economy today, they will be managing millions of dollars.

I think it's appropriate to deal with this here because it's possible with that kind of shift in their lives, their sense of balance and vision and urgency could be hindered. So now let's go back to verse 1. He, Jesus, also said to the disciples, there was a rich man who had a manager, a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, what is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be steward or manager of my estate. The manager said to himself, what shall I do?

Now evidently, everything up to this point has been going along rather swimmingly for this manager. Jesus says, however, that he's been wasting, squandering, you could translate it, squandering, the word means through neglect of duty, this man's estate. The commodities he has, the trade he's in evidently, he doesn't care. He's just lining his own pocket. He doesn't care about the owner or the business. But somebody in the office did and they finally had enough because you have this anonymous whistle blower, we would call it today, who's leaking enough information to the owner so that the owner, you might notice, doesn't even ask the manager to give an explanation. He just says you're done, terminated, clean out your desk. He's basically demanding though here an audit, a written statement of financial accounts. And so that might take a day or two as this guy is preparing to leave.

That written statement, by the way, is an important piece of what's going to happen next. You might notice here in verse 3, And the manager said to himself, what shall I do? Since my master is taking the management away from me, I'm not strong enough to dig and I'm ashamed to beg. Well, he polishes off his resume.

He's been in white collar finance administration his whole career. He's no good with tools. Evidently he doesn't like a shovel, not any good with that either. He's not going to dig ditches for the rest of his life. Maybe your dad was like my dad who warned me if I failed college, I'd be digging ditches for the rest of my... That motivated me to pass Algebra 2, by the way.

It scared the life out of me. Well, this man's caught. He's not going to dig ditches. He's not going to beg. Those are his only two options. It's implied that the owner is going to arrive shortly, a day or so, and he wants a written account, an audit.

He wants to see the books. So this phrase, what I have decided to do. Here's what I've decided to do.

The Greek is more expressive. Picture in your mind this guy saying to himself, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to do? I got it. That's the idea. We would say the light bulb turned on and there's this ingenious plan.

What am I going to do? He says here in verse 4, I have decided what to do so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses. Evidently, his housing was part of the benefit package.

So now that he's lost his job, he no longer has any income and he doesn't have any place to stay. He comes up with this ingenious plan to take care of both things. He's thinking, he's thinking, he's thinking.

I got it. Here's the plan, verse 5. So summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, how much do you owe my master? He said, a hundred measures of oil. He said to him, take your bill and sit down quickly and write 50. Then he said to another, and how much do you owe?

He said, a hundred measures of wheat. He said to him, take your bill and write 80. Now in order to get a handle on this scene, the implication here is that there are more than two debtors.

These two are given simply as two illustrations. This rich owner's owed a lot of money, a lot of commodity. The first man owes a hundred measures of oil. The measure in these days was eight gallons of olive oil. So he owes 800 gallons of olive oil. On that day, that would be worth three years of the average worker's annual salary. So just think what you make or you used to make, you know, multiply it by three, and that's the size of this debt. The second man owes a hundred measures of wheat. Now for this product, the measure was 10 bushels. So he owed 1,000 bushels of wheat. This is worth in this day and time, that day and time, eight years, nearly eight years of the annual worker's salary. Judging from the size of these debts and the Bible scholars that I have researched and understand this culture so well, these men are very wealthy businessmen, more than likely trading in these commodities. One is trading in oil, the other is trading in wheat.

Those are the two illustrations. And by substantially reducing their debt, this manager, here's the ingenuity going through his mind, he knows that they're going to owe him some really big favors once he cleans out his debts. They're going to owe him. So he's going to make sure they love him. He's being very generous here. The problem is it's not his to give. He's applying here what we call the first principle or rule of politics.

Always be generous with other people's money. So the manager calls in these men, and you'll notice the text says, one by one, that's so there are no witnesses. It's just this client himself. And he offers them a deal. Basically here it is. Let's cook the books together. Let's doctor the bills.

A lot of expressions in our world for this. The courts would call it embezzlement. He's basically misappropriating company resources.

So don't miss the plan, though, here. This is not going to work unless these men are willing to sit down and write out in their own hand, you notice, fake invoices, which this manager will exchange with the real invoices. So it only works if they're all complicit. Here's the deal, guys, what do you think? Man, it sounds good to me. Why? Because I'm driven by money just like you.

And that's exactly what they did. Well, what about the rich owner? He's going to find out. In fact, the way the Lord tells us, he just so happens to show up after all these clients have left this guy's office.

And what does he do? He says, the master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. He should have had him arrested, not commended.

In fact, he should have arrested these clients who were cheating, who were stealing from his company out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. But he's going to turn a blind eye here and he's going to say to his manager something like we might say, you are one slick operator. Man, you are one sly dog. Look at you, what a plan. He's evidently okay with it. He doesn't call for an investigation.

He's not infuriated. He says, wow, what a plan. And then what does he get to do? Well, for him, it would have been a total loss of unpaid debt. It's not going to be a gain of at least half the amount of cash owed him. He'll have that on hand. He can write off the rest of it as company losses and then he can pay less on corporate taxes.

This is a good plan. I'll go along with it. See, I'm driven by money too. Now, many people read this parable and assume that God is unjust. He ought to judge this embezzler, this owner. They're all lying on the books.

They've all doctored and accepted these fake invoices. Why doesn't God do something? Well, beloved, God isn't this rich owner. In this parable, this is not an analogy to God here. This rich owner and these clients and this manager represent the sons of the earth, the sons of this world system.

And we'll get to that in just a little bit. So this rich owner is a picture as well. He's a portrait of what it looks like to be equally shrewd, equally devoted to money, equally able of being bought off for just a little bit more currency. Well, with that now, the Lord is certainly putting an interesting twist on this parable. He begins to make his application. And I want to put his application to the disciples into the form of four principles, what we'll call these four principles that will make us all better stewards. And he's going to make some application based on this parable. And the first one is this.

Be strategic with the opportunities you have. Notice what Jesus says in verse 8, the latter part. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

Now, Jesus is not saying, so be just like them. He isn't commending this man. He's not suggesting that we should figure out a way to steal money. He's not suggesting theft.

He's encouraging depth. Don't be naive. Look around. Look at the way the sons of the earth, the people of this world, think up ways to line their pockets. Think up ways to advance their agenda. Just look around at the way they so cleverly market their propaganda. Look at how they creatively convince people to follow them.

Look at this manager. He's using all his intelligence and his wit and his energy and his creativity and urgency to advance himself. What if you, the sons of light, it's an expression used for the redeemed in the New Testament. What if you did something with that kind of creativity and urgency and passion to advance the gospel as the unsaved world does to advance their agenda? What would happen in the advancement of the gospel?

See, our urgency is not for the sake of currency. It's for the sake of eternity. That's the point that Jesus is focusing on here. Notice verse 9. And I tell you, you could render that, and I myself say to you alone.

He's looking at these disciples in their eyes one after another. Here's what I'm saying to you, disciple. Be strategic with the opportunities you have.

Let me put it in principle form number two. Be intentional with the money you have. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth so that when it fails, that is, when it's over, that is, when you die, they may receive you, these eternal friends, into the eternal dwelling. So you could write it on the margin of your Bibles in the words unrighteous wealth, the words worldly wealth. It isn't that you shouldn't touch it. You're actually getting paid it every other week or so.

It's amoral. It is what you do with it that matters. This is the currency of earth. This is the money you get paid at your job. It is of the world, meaning it's temporary. There's coming a day when it will have no value.

Like Confederate dollars at the end of the Civil War. Think of gold. It's going to be pavement. You're going to walk on it. It's asphalt in heaven.

So whatever you have now, whatever wealth you've been allowed to earn now, invest it intentionally. And Jesus uses this wonderful phrase. He says, make friends for eternity.

In other words, reach people with it so that one day in heaven, your eternal dwelling, you're going to have a group of people there that are going to say, it's because of you that I heard the gospel and I am here. Eternal friends. Have you ever thought about the fact that some of your best friends throughout eternity are people that you've not yet met?

But you will one day. And they're there because of your sacrifice, your investment, your treasure, your time, your talent. So the question would be then, okay, where do we start? And Jesus is going to effectively say, start with something small. Number three, be faithful no matter how much you have. Now notice verse 10. The Lord says here, one who is faithful in the very little is also faithful in much. Now you think he'd reverse that. If you're faithful in a lot, you're probably going to be faithful in a lot.

No, no, no, no. If you're faithful in a little thing, you're going to be faithful in a lot. And one who is dishonest in the very little, well, they're going to be dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, the worldly wealth, the money you get paid, who will entrust to you true riches, that is eternal riches? And if you've not been faithful in that which is another's implication gods, who will give you that which is your own to manage? What the Lord is saying here is, be faithful in a little. And we might be led to believe that, you know, if I had a lot of money, I could prove my priority for Christ. I could do something big. And the Lord says, no, start when you don't have much money at all.

Do you invest any of that? It reminds me of a story I thought about this morning. In fact, early this morning, as I was going through my notes, where Peter Marshall, the chaplain of the Senate, several decades ago, a bold, faithful evangelical leader was known for his prayers before the session would open. He was approached by a senator, and the senator asked Peter Marshall if he would pray for him. And Peter said, well, certainly, what's the issue? And the man said, well, I want you to pray that God will help me give at least 10% to his work.

I used to do it. When I made $50,000 a year, I was able to give at least $5,000 to the Lord. But now that I'm making $250,000 a year, $25,000 is just a lot of money. So would you pray for me? And Peter said, I sure will. In fact, let's pray right now.

And they bowed their heads and Peter prayed, Lord, would you please reduce this man's salary so he can afford to give again? You want to become a better steward? Well, be strategic with the opportunities you have. Be intentional with the money you have. Be faithful no matter how much you have. One more.

Be honest about the dreams you have. Verse 13, there we are again at the end of this parable. No servant can serve two masters.

Either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave, you could run to that. You cannot slave after God and slave after money. What possesses you is the issue, not so much what you possess. So if the stuff of earth, of this world, is at the core of your dreams and your desires, if it's driving everything about your life, Jesus is saying to his disciples, you're devoted to the wrong thing.

That's all temporary. What drives you? That was Stephen Davey and a message called A Parable for Smarter Stewards. We'd really enjoy hearing from you and learning how God's using this ministry to build you up in the faith. Please take a few moments and drop us a note. Our mailing address is By the way, please consider including a gift when you write. Your partnership is vital to us and we're thankful for it. We'll continue this series from Luke next time so join us then on Wisdom for the Heart. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-08 00:46:09 / 2024-03-08 00:55:42 / 10

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