9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 10 ‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth,* who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’*
MONEY: A RESOURCE FOR MINISTRY
Back in 1985, Neil Postman in his Amusing Ourselves to Death, wrote that the average American was exposed to one thousand TV advertisements a week. When you factor in cell phones and computers, how many more ads are we exposed to thirty years later! Money and what money can buy dominate our minds more than we realize.
Two thousand years ago Jesus knew how money tugs at the human heart. In fact, he spoke more about money than about anything else.
With the first words in Luke 16:9, there is a change of subject: ‘I tell you’ (literally, ‘To you I say’), make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth, so that when it is gone they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
In 16:1-8, Luke records Jesus’ parable about a dishonest manager who faced an existential crisis in his life. Now, in 16:9-13 Jesus urges his listeners to consider how they should live in the light of the temporary nature of life. Specifically, how will they view and use their money and resources?
The words translated dishonest wealth capture the idea that it is possible to obtain money or hold on to it by unworthy means. Jesus may have in mind the way some fail to pay their taxes. He is not saying that money in itself is necessarily wrong or evil.
In Luke 12:33 we noted Jesus’ injunction that we need to acquire ‘treasure in heaven’. Here he is saying, ‘win friends now so that ‘they may welcome you into the eternal homes.’ While ‘they’ has been thought to be a reference to God or to the angels, it is more likely to refer to people who heard the gospel through the generous giving of God’s people.
‘It is absurd to make money and possessions your life’s goal,’ Jesus is saying. Support the ministry of God’s gospel in your church and beyond. Alongside this, show practical compassion to the poor.
There’s a story about two men laying bricks. Both were asked what they were doing. The first replied that he was building a wall. The second responded that he was constructing a magnificent cathedral. Jesus wants us to see life now in the context of eternity.
How do we do this?
Here are some practical ways we can apply Jesus’ principles:
- Adopt a biblical pattern of percentage giving: 10% is the guide.
- Support the ministry of your church as a first commitment. We may not always agree with all the policies of our church, but if the Bible is being taught and the gospel proclaimed we should have no hesitation. It is through the effective witness and ministry of Bible-based, gospel-centered local churches that people are normally built into God’s kingdom.
- Invest in the training of ministers: the future of the church depends on it.
- Support mission in the wider world and include Christian ministries that care for the poor.
Let me encourage you to pray
© John G. Mason, Reason for Hope – 40 Days of Bible Readings and Reflections – 2016. All Rights Reserved.
- Comments on the text of The Gospel of Luke are adapted from, John G. Mason, Luke: An Unexpected God, Aquila: 2012