June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 16: Kingdom Economics

Let me warn you. What I’m about to say might SHOCK you. It’s not the sort of thing that’s normally discussed in polite circles. Or even at church. I’m going to talk about MONEY.

This week’s Bible study for home groups began with the introductory question, “Why do you like money?”

It’s a bit of a shocking question, isn’t it? Because the assumption is/ that you DO like money? Is it WRONG or RIGHT to like money? Is money a GOOD or BAD THING?

I think we’ll get some help from today’s passage. Luke 16. It’s all to do with KINGDOM ECONOMICS – how MONEY/ and the KINGDOM OF GOD/ fit together. And you might be surprised at some of the results.

Do you ever day-dream about what you’d do if you won Lotto?

Brother and sister, George and Nola Mezher used to do just that. At the Haberfield hairdressing salon they owned and ran, they often joked with customers about the new Rolls Royce or BMW they’d buy.

Then came the day when they weren’t just TALKING about it – they WON it. In 1982, they won $429,000!

.. And they DIDN’T buy a new car or a mansion. They did something that most people couldn’t understand. Financial advisers would laugh at it.

They started a soup kitchen. It’s called “Our Lady of the Snows,” near Central Railway Station. And not only did they provide the money, but they spend their days there, cooking and serving and shopping and cleaning.

For many of the area’s homeless, it’s the place to go for a hot meal, some clean clothes and supplies, and some company.

George says, “Other winners go on trips and buys shares. But it’s better to get out and DO SOMETHING GOOD WITH YOUR MONEY, Because YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU.”

“You have to do something worthwhile in this life and in this world. Besides, the country has been good to us and we feel we should put something back into it.”

Now, I’m not sure whether they’re Christian, or not. And I’m CERTAINLY not telling you to play the lottery.

But let me suggest that George and Nola have EXACTLY THE SORT OF ATTITUDE TO MONEY Jesus wants/ when it comes to LIVING IN HIS KINGDOM. “Using worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves. So that when it’s gone, you’ll be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Let me prove it to you..

Context

But before we dive into Ch 16, flip back a of pages to have a look at the CONTEXT of what Jesus is saying. Because it goes a long way to helping us understand where he’s coming from.

Right back at the start of Ch 14 we can see it. He’s eating dinner at a Pharisee’s house. And when Jesus sees how everyone heads straight for the IMPORTANT PLACES, he says they’ve got it all wrong. (v12)

“When you give a luncheon or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, INVITE THE POOR, THE CRIPPLED, THE LAME, THE BLIND, 14 AND YOU WILL BE BLESSED. ALTHOUGH THEY CANNOT REPAY YOU, YOU WILL BE REPAID AT THE RESURRECTION OF THE RIGHTEOUS.”

And then he goes on to tell them a parable about a great banquet. Where the rich and important people are invited. But they don’t bother turning up. Too busy. And so, the guy throwing the party/ goes out and finds THE POOR, THE CRIPPLED, THE LAME AND THE BLIND instead.

And Jesus’ point is that THESE are the sorts of people who BELONG in God’s kingdom. THESE are the sorts of people GOD’S inviting to HIS great banquet. He’s not interested in external appearances.

And it’s these same sorts of people Jesus loves having dinner with too. We can see that at the start of Ch 15.

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man WELCOMES sinners and EATS with them.”

And so Jesus tells the Pharisees the three parables about LOST things in Ch 15. The sheep, the coin, and the lost son. Lost people like these tax collectors and sinners/ are the ones Jesus is interested in.

The kingdom and riches 1: A parable to ENCOURAGE (1-13)

And so we come to Ch 16. Where we get two parables about the kingdom and riches. And the point of BOTH can be summed up in v9. Look down there to it.

Use worldly wealth to GAIN FRIENDS FOR YOURSELVES, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Two parables. Both with the same point. And it’s got a lot to do with HOSPITALITY. The first one is a parable TO ENCOURAGE. That’s for his disciples. And the second is a parable to WARN. And that’s for THE PHARISEES, who are still listening in.

Let’s have a look at the first. Jesus BEGINS/ with a parable about a rich man. And the rich man finds out his manager is blowing the profits. Either by incompetence, or dishonesty, we’re not told. But he can’t do his job properly, so he has to go.

He calls him in, and asks him to present the books. To show the evidence of his mis-management.

And the manager’s got a problem. Look at it there in v3.

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-

He’s between a rock and a hard place. His options are limited. He’s a PROUD/ WIMP. Too ashamed to BEG. And too PUNY for physical labour.

And so he comes up with a plan. V4

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 “‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’ 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.’

The theory is/ if he can make some friends/ while he’s still got some influence, when he’s turfed out of his job, he can call in some of his favours, and perhaps score another job.

Now, commentators argue about whether the guy’s done anything illegal or not. Some say he is – he’s defrauding his boss.

Other’s say the boss was actually ILLEGALLY CHARGING INTEREST on the loans. And all the manager was doing was wiping off the interest charge.

Whatever the situation is/ the manager’s been CLEVER. SHREWD. Sharp as a tack.

But now the plan’s been finished, we’re dying to find out what happens. What will the boss do when he finds out?

And his response is surprising. Look at it there in v8.

8 “The master COMMENDED the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.

We may not agree with his MORALS, but we have to applaud his CLEVERNESS. Notice, the boss commends the dishonest manager for his SHREWDNESS. It DOESN’T say he commended the SHREWD manager for his DISHONESTY!

Jesus’ point is NOT that we’re to COPY the dishonest steward. There’s actually a CONTRAST between us and him. Look at his conclusion. Halfway through v8.

For the people of THIS WORLD (that’s the dishonest manager) are more SHREWD in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light (that’s US). (And here’s the lesson) 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 worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves”. But what does THAT mean?

I think Jesus is saying just what he’s been saying for the last of chapters. The kingdom’s about the poor and crippled and lame and blind. The outsiders. The tax collectors and sinners. They’re the ones God wants in the kingdom.

Use your money to be HOSPITABLE TO THEM. To look after them. To invite them into the kingdom. Because it’s just what Jesus did.

Obedience like THAT results in a welcome into eternal dwellings. Being hospitable NOW leads to ETERNAL hospitality at God’s banquet table.

And it’s not just about being hospitable with your MONEY. The word’s much BROADER than money. It’s worldly wealth. Literally it’s UNRIGHTEOUS MAMMON.

It can be your home, or food, or car, or trailer, or tent, or holidays, or boat, or books. All you have/ is for the use of MAKING FRIENDS FOR ETERNITY. That’s the only value it has.

It’s not for hoarding, or gloating over. Or collecting. Because it doesn’t LAST. Which is just what George and Nola said – you can’t take it with you!

If the rich man sat down to take a look at YOUR books. What would they say about YOU? How have you used YOUR wealth to make a difference in ETERNITY? What percentage of your money is used for OTHERS? For missionaries? For hospitality? For Christian books or programs or music? For ministry? For Christian camps or conferences?

It’s the sort of approach we’re going to encourage you to be doing NEXT YEAR. We want to encourage you to read “Hospitality Evangelism”. It’s a book about building your relationship with friends and neighbours by inviting them to a meal.

And our plan will be that over a period of a few months, EVERYONE in church will read the book, and then start praying about friends to invite. Then in May, we’ll all host some non-Christian friends for a meal. And we’ll share with each other how it went.

And the aim will be to build your friendship with them, so that discussing Christian things will be a more thing to do.

It’s using worldly wealth to make friends for eternity.

Jesus goes on to say / it’s all a matter of being a good steward with what you’ve got. Making the MOST of it. V10.

If you use WELL the things God gives you HERE/ then you’re shown to be trustworthy with ETERNAL things. TRUE riches.

And the attitude BEHIND it is seen in v13. You can’t serve TWO MASTERS – God AND money. You can’t LOVE BOTH.

You can never use worldly wealth WELL/ if you LOVE it. (If you VALUE it, for its own sake. If you covet it. Make it your IDOL.)

To love God. To be a good steward. You must money.

Worldly riches are their MOST EFFECTIVE when they are treated like medical radioisotopes. DANGEROUS, BUT USEFUL.

The major use of the Lucas Heights Nuclear Reactor is to produce medical radioisotopes. Radioactive chemicals used in hospitals. They’re HIGHLY DANGEROUS. And nuclear scientists have to take MAJOR SAFETY PRECAUTIONS.

But when they’re used in THE RIGHT WAY, they’re LIFE-SAVING.

And it’s the same with worldly wealth. Treated with caution, and used wisely, it can have WONDERFUL AFFECTS. But when people don’t take its dangers seriously, it can be LY. It’s DANGEROUS, BUT USEFUL.

2. Eavesdroppers

And as if to be a life-lesson to that sort of danger. It’s at THIS point that we hear from the Pharisees (v14). Who’ve been eavesdropping in on Jesus’ teaching.

They’ve been listening to all this talk about money and God. And they LAUGH! It seems ridiculous that God and money are poles apart. Because, as they see it, financial prosperity was a sign of God’s BLESSING. Their wealth was a measuring stick for their obedience and law-keeping. Worldly wealth was something to be PROUD of. And so, they LOVED money.

But Jesus has some words of WARNING for them. V15

You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but GOD KNOWS YOUR HEARTS. What is highly valued among MEN is DETESTABLE in God’s sight.

Jesus wants to see GENEROSITY, and true obedience and love for God. But all the Pharisees are concerned with is GREED, and then making up excuses for why they’re NOT generous.

They PRETEND they’re godly. They PRETEND they follow the Law. But God sees the heart. He knows they love MONEY more than HIM. And it’s DETESTABLE to him.

They have ONE idea for who should make up God’s Kingdom – the wealthy, righteous, respectable people – the GOOD JEWS. The LAW-KEEPERS.

But God’s on about something DIFFERENT. Look at v16.

16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and EVERYONE is forcing his way into it.

I think what Jesus is saying is something like this. It USED to be that God’s kingdom was about keeping the Law and the Prophets, and that’s what you guys reckon you’re alright at. But NOW, there’s GOOD NEWS. The kingdom’s being preached, and EVERYONE is being strongly encouraged to come in.

There’s no good and bad. Acceptable and unacceptable. Rich and poor. EVERYONE has the chance to respond.

And then he goes on. Just in case you think I’m saying that the Law doesn’t matter. That’s not it at all! Nothing drops out of the law! From Old to New, it’s all still valid.

In fact, I’m saying you need to be even STRICTER on some things – like adultery! You say it’s okay for a man to divorce his wife and re-marry. Whenever he feels like it. But that sort of attitude is nothing more than ADULTERY! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

3. The kingdom and riches 2: A parable to WARN (14-31)

Remember, his main point is about using worldly wealth to gain friends for yourself, so you’ll be welcomed into eternity. And the Pharisees want nothing to do with it. Because money’s MUCH more important than that!

And so Jesus has a parable for THEM. Another parable about the kingdom and riches. This one’s for those who DON’T want to hear. A parable TO WARN.

In many ways it’s a parable about Blacktown. Over-the-top wealth/ side-by-side with utter poverty. About two guys at opposite ends of the scale. One guy who has EVERYTHING living next door to another guy who has NOTHING.

Look at it there in v19. One guy who’s rich, and who spends every day in luxury. Spares no expense on himself. WASTES money on himself. We’re not told his name – he doesn’t deserve it.

And then there’s Lazarus. A beggar who’s lying at his gate. Covered in sores. Starving to . Too weak even to stop the dogs licking his sores.

Normally THIS would be the guy who’s name-less. But things are upside-down in God’s kingdom. As we’re about to find out.

Jesus continues. V22.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

The tables are turned. This guy HASN’T done ANYTHING with his wealth. Apart from blow it all on himself. He’s failed to heed the teaching of v9.

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

The opportunity was there to HELP Lazarus. But he MISSED it. And so he hasn’t been welcomed into eternal dwellings. Which is just what Father Abraham reminds him. V25.

‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

Which is where the story COULD stop. The eternal consequences of your choices TODAY.

But it doesn’t. If all Jesus was saying is that we need the attitude that gives money to poor people so we can make it to heaven, THIS MUCH of the story would be enough.

But it’s NOT what he’s saying. There’s a sting in the tail. Because for the first time in the story, the rich man shows some concern for someone else. He wants to send a message to his five brothers. Who, presumably, have inherited his wealth. And are busy doing THE VERY SAME THINGS with it. V27.

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

The right way to treat your riches is right there in the OT. There’s no excuse.

In other words, the Pharisees should be looking after the poor, and being generous with their money. The OT already tells them to. But their GREED won’t let them. They love MONEY more than they love God.

The rich man continues. V30. No. That’s not enough. But if you sent Lazarus. Someone from the . Then they’d listen. Then they’d REPENT.

But look at what Abraham replies. And through him, Jesus speaks a word of judgment against the Pharisees. V31.

If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, THEY WILL NOT BE CONVINCED EVEN IF SOMEONE RISES FROM THE .'”

And that’s the heart of the matter. It’s not, ultimately about whether or not you give money to the poor. But the HEART ATTITUDE that loves God more than money. It’s the heart attitude that REFUSES TO LISTEN TO GOD’S SON, who comes preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins. And who welcomes tax-collectors and sinners. And who, ultimately, will rise from the .

It’s not listening to THAT message that’ll result in their judgment.

What’s YOUR attitude been to Jesus? He’s COME BACK FROM THE to PROVE he’s God’s King. What have you done about HIM?

And what have you done about his message of how you use your wealth?

Two parables from Jesus. Both about the kingdom and riches. Both with the same message. Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Be ENCOURAGED. Treat wealth like medical radioactive isotopes. Dangerous but useful.

Be WARNED. Don’t LOVE money. Put God first. Listen to the witness of his Word.

How are YOU using your worldly wealth? Is it making an ETERNAL difference? We’re interested in what sort of FINANCIAL return our money can get – 6%? 10%?

But what about the ETERNAL return on your money?

How is it building the kingdom? How is it making friends for eternity? How is it welcoming tax-collectors and sinners?

And do you give JOYFULLY or GRUDGINGLY. Because the ATTITUDE makes all the difference!

According to Jesus, your financial budget is a reflection of where YOUR HEART lies. 13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Where does your heart lie? Where is YOUR joy? What is YOUR treasure?

Matt 13:44-46 says this. Does this describe YOUR experience?

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

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