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Entries in Possessions (2)

Thursday
May072015

A Wise Or Foolish Manger?

Luke 16:1-13

Whether you own your own business or you work for someone else, we are all accountable to someone in some way.  The boss can fire me if I don’t do a good job.  My business can go bankrupt if I don’t do a good job.  The government may send me to jail if I try to avoid paying my taxes, etc…  The parable that we are looking at today is about an unjust steward.  Another way of saying that would be an unrighteous manager.  Normally Jesus tells a parable of something good that we are supposed to be like, or something bad that we are not supposed to be like.  Today’s parable causes many to scratch their head because it uses a bad thing to illustrate something good we are to do (or at least it seems that way).

The Day Of Accounting Is Looming

In this parable, the manager is given notice to gather his books and prepare to give an accounting to the master.  Thus this sets up a strange period of time in which a person is still the acting manager, but his time is limited because he is losing his position.  The picture here is meant to highlight our position within God’s world.  He is the Creator and we are the managers of His things within the life that He has given us.  All things that we own are not our possessions outright.   Rush Limbaugh, a syndicated, conservative, talk-radio host refers to having “talent on loan from God.”  Although this comes across rather arrogant, the truth is that all of us have talent on loan from God.  Nothing we have was made purely by ourselves, our bodies included.  We use God’s stuff to make more stuff for ourselves.  In this sense we are managing His stuff.

The next part of the parable is that an accusation has been made against the manager.  The term accusation here is from the same root word as the devil or diabolical.  It means to cast at another and implies an accusation.  Now the accusation can be a false one out of ignorance, or true one out of a desire to ruin or destroy.  So we see this same pattern in the book of Job.  The devil casts his accusations against us.  However, in the story of Abel we can see that our own sins can cry out to God with accusations against us.  Yet, at an even deeper level, Paul talks about how our own conscience can accuse us in the secret place of our mind.  Thus we are in the same place as the man in this story.  An accusation from several sources has come to God and He has established a day of accounting for us.  We will lose this life and give an accounting for how we lived it because of our sin.  This is dealt with in Genesis 3 in the Garden of Eden.  God laid the decree that all men will die and surrender the life that they have been given.  In Hebrews 9:27 it says, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”  We are all in the situation that we have not been perfectly righteous in how we have managed the things that God has given us.  The key here is what are you going to do when you come to understand your situation?

We Need To Respond Wisely

In verses 3 through 8 we see the response of this unrighteous manager.  Now responding wisely to a bad situation is easier said than done.  We don’t always have a good example or good training to follow in those moments.    Now Jesus makes a strange statement, “the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”  When we think this through we will see the wisdom of what Jesus says.  Now the sons of this world are those who are not followers of God.  Within the context of their generation, they are much smarter than the followers of God (this is a general statement that allows exceptions).  The sons of this world don’t believe in a God or any accountability to Him.  They only believe in what they are smart enough to get for themselves on their own.  Because they believe this, they operate very shrewdly and cunningly within this world.   They are not wise in regard to their lack of understanding towards God.  But they are wise in that they act upon what they believe.  Now the sons of God say they believe in a God to whom they will be accountable and yet their actions and decision do not look as if they really believe that.  Jesus does not commend the man for being an unrighteous manager, but for recognizing the truth of his situation and working with what he had to improve it.  Many believers are wise enough to recognize the truth of God’s existence, but not wise enough to use their life now to prepare for the day of accounting.  This is not wise.

We need to think through our situation in light of the future.  Biblical thinking is a skill that we all need to work on.  We are all in the same situation as the man in this story.  Yes, I am a believer, and I have asked Jesus to cover my sins.  But, I am still going to have to give an account for what I did with God’s things in the life He has given me.  Also, we only have so much time to affect our situation.  We don’t have a specific deadline, and yet we know we don’t have forever.  Each day is a day that I can wake up and thank God for another opportunity to affect my future.

The second aspect to responding wisely is to make a plan to use what we have now in order to affect our future situation.  The man in this story takes advantage of the fact that he is still the manager.  He can use the authority that he still has to help those who buy from his master.  He plans to produce goodwill in their hearts towards him in hopes that they will help him later.  Now how can we use the things of our life within the time that we have left in order to please God?  This is the real question that Jesus expects us to think about.  What is your plan?  If it is to enjoy all the gifts God has given you for yourself, then you are in for a rude awakening when you stand before Him.

The third aspect to acting wisely is to diligently execute that plan throughout the time that you have left.  A plan is no good if we don’t start doing it and if we aren’t faithful to complete it.  It has been said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  We could say that in this case diligence is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  You have to start doing it and continue doing it.  Believers should pray, read the Word, and interact with one another with loving diligence because we know that these things are very real.  So Analyze your situation, Make a plan, and then do it.

The Instructions Of Our Lord

In verse 9-13 Jesus gives us some action items to work on.  So let’s look at them.  He first tells us to use our earthly possession to build eternal relationships.  Vs. 9 says, “make friends for yourselves.”  He is not just talking about friends for this life, but friends who will continue to be so in the life to come.  Eternal friends are those who are not just connected to our life, but also connected to our God.  Jesus says that if we were wise then we would use our earthly possessions to help others both in natural things and in spiritual things. 

Now we need to deal with the phrase “unrighteous mammon.”  Mammon is a term that means wealth and involves both possessions and money.  It is called unrighteous not because it is ill-gotten, but because of how it influences our heart and life.  Power has a corrupting influence on sinful hearts and don’t doubt that money and possessions are power.  In light of this directive of Jesus, we might ask the question, “How many people will rejoice when I enter heaven?”  We cannot fathom the age to come and how our relationships now might be important now.  However, I think the point of Jesus is not quite as pointed as that.  He is more focused on us acting wisely now and using the wealth we have to make eternal friends.

The second instruction our Lord gives us is to be faithful in the lesser things of this world.  In verse 10 Jesus calls the riches of this world, “the lesser things.”  People like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet may have great power because of the amount of money and wealth they have.  But no matter how much you have, it is still the lesser riches.  The true riches are those things that we receive from God that can never be taken away and destroyed.  The wealth of this world can be lost in a moment as the political and social tides storm their way over us.  But the brotherhood of believers is never lost even in the face of death.  Ours is a bond that cannot be taken by tyrants, criminals, nor devils.  The true riches starts with God’s love that we can share with Him and with one another.  Add to that the assurance we have of our salvation and future with God and His people.  On top of that we are promised a new glorified body that cannot be destroyed.  Such things cannot be taken away from us by this world.  Finally, in verse 12, Jesus promises that if we are faithful in the lesser things then we will be able to have “that which is our own.”  Simply put, Jesus looks ahead to the age to come and reveals that in that day God will give us things with which we can do anything we want.  But today we are in a relationship of managers and stewards.

The third instruction Jesus gives is to make sure your loyalties are with God and not your possessions.  Though we can think of selfish people as being their own master, in actuality they become a slave to their own flesh and its desires.  The truth is that those with great amounts of earthly possessions are often possessed by those very things.  When a person makes $12,000 a year they think to themselves, “If I only had $24,000.”  But when they make $24,000 they think, “If I only had $48,000.”  And the curse goes on.  It is never enough and we become more and more ruled by the fear of losing it.  This life is the proving ground of where our loyalties lie.  As much as God loves us, He will not bless rebels and fools at the Day of Judgment.  So how can I know if I am a slave to my possessions?  When I am always waiting until I have more to get serious about serving God with it, then I am a slave to it.  The widow put in her last coin because she was wise, not because she had money to spare.  She was not a slave to her money.  She mastered it because she was serving God with all her heart.  How am I using my money and possessions today to demonstrate that I serve God?  Don’t go away sad today.  Instead rejoice because you have received a great light that can deliver your soul from the corruption of the possessions of this world.

Wise or Foolish audio

Tuesday
Dec302014

When Your Time is Up

Today we are going to be in Luke 12:13-21.

Our time is up for 2014 and 2015 is soon to begin.  We cannot go back and change what we said, did, or accomplished this previous year.  The New Year reminds us that we are mortal and we are now one year older.  How many years do I have left?  Am I living in such a way as to bring judgment or grace upon me when I stand before God?  These are some heavy questions that we may tend to avoid.  However, it is imperative that we deal with them now while we have time, rather than waiting and being caught off-guard.  The Bible tells us that “it is appointed to men to die and then the judgment.”  Instead of seeing these things as dark and foreboding, we can look at them as powerful understanding of what is to come.  When you know what is coming in advance, you can make preparations now that will help you be successful when they come.  That is the wonderful thing about the present.  Even though your past is “etched in stone,” the present allows you to affect the future that those past decisions are taking you towards.  We can make course corrections and thereby overcome things that we cannot change.

A Person’s Life Is Not In The Abundance of Possessions

In verses 12-15 Jesus is interrupted by a man who wants Jesus to do something for him.  Jesus then turns to his disciples and teaches them because the man is an illustration of an important principle.  Life cannot be found in the abundance of possessions.

Now this man addresses Jesus as “teacher.”  Thus he approaches Jesus as a disciple.  However, there is no sense of wanting to learn in his request.  He simply wants Jesus to do something for him.  So is he a disciple or is he only a manipulator trying to get something out of Jesus?  Jesus exposes his true motivation: covetousness.  This man wants what his brother has and is hoping Jesus will get it for him.  Now notice the response of Jesus.  He calls him “man.”  This is quite different then the “my friends” he used with his disciples back in vs. 4.  This is a more curt and formal address.  Jesus clarifies that he is not really the man’s teacher and the man is not really his disciple.  Jesus was merely a means to an end for this guy and do not be deceived, God will not be mocked and used by us for fleshly means.

Now the man’s issue has to do with an inheritance.  He wants Jesus to make his brother divide the inheritance with him.  Now it makes sense to come to Jesus to settle an issue of justice.  The Scriptures said that the Messiah would rule with perfect justice and would cause righteousness to shine.  He would be the ultimate arbiter of mankind.  Yet, we are not given enough information about this particular situation to judge the merits of this man’s appeal.  Was his brother being wicked and squeezing him out of his proper inheritance?  Or was this man wicked and trying to get more than his proper share?  Or were they both wicked and covetous?  Regardless, one thing is true, Jesus does care about justice.  He does not reject this man’s appeal because he doesn’t care.  Even if this man’s cause was just, Jesus recognizes that something deadly has happened in his heart.  He has been overcome with having what his brother has.  Much covetousness lies behind the talk of justice.  Christ cares too much about this man’s soul to prostitute justice for the sake of his flesh.  Is it possible that getting justice might be the last thing we need spiritually?  Jesus essentially tells the man that his problem is not his brother, but his own heart.  He has become greedy and is coveting.  To give him what he wants would only make his spiritual situation worse.

In verse 14 Jesus asks him, “who made me judge over your case?”  Legally no one had.  Thus Jesus points out that the man is only seeking leverage over his brother.  Had his case been heard by the authorities and denied?  We are not told.  But there is far more to this story then is made evident by the man’s appeal.  Why come to Jesus and not the proper authorities? 

Jesus may also be reminding those who are listening of the situation of Moses.  When Moses first decided to do something about the plight of his people, he ended up killing an Egyptian taskmaster who was harshly whipping an Israelite.  Later he sees too Hebrews fighting and tries to get them to quit quarreling.  One of the men responds, “who made you ruler and judge over us?”  As much as people want justice and cry out for it, when God does supply the man to get it for us, we complain.  Justice is a double edged sword.  It not only cuts those who have treated us unjustly, but it cuts us as well.  Thus as Messiah, God had made Jesus judge over all mankind.  In fact we see this in 2 Timothy 4:1, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom…”

The real issue here is the man’s relationship to Jesus.  If Jesus really were his master and judge, then the man would have left everything in order to follow him and know true justice.  From the point of becoming his disciple and following, the only purposes and intention that would matter would be those of Jesus.  Thus we see the problem of my agenda versus the agenda of God.  God’s agenda is generally not the same as ours even when we claim to want the same thing as him.  Our understanding of justice is not always just.  We live in a world that loves to co-opt the person and message of Jesus for its own understanding and intention.  Yet, in the end they will not follow Jesus as Lord.  Check your own heart and see if there are desires and agenda items that are more important to you then having Jesus as your Lord because this will reveal your true relationship with Jesus.  He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all.

Jesus then turns to his disciples and warns them to watch and guard against coveting.  Our sinful nature will seek to suck life out of material things instead of turning to God from whom all life flows.  Our life is in the words of Christ to us, not in what Christ says to our brother.  Even if the entire world turns against Jesus and you are left alone, his words to you can supply life to you, if you believe.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  All else is peripheral and often detrimental.  When we covet we want to have more, especially that which belongs to another.  In Colossians 3:5 we are told that coveting is idolatry.  This man looks to the inheritance that his brother has as more important than God.  He is not really interested in justice, but in satisfying a craving for more possessions and wealth.  Jesus says to watch and guard against such sins.  But what are we guarding?  We are guarding our hearts from being infected by such sin.  This man was being swallowed up in sin.

The Parable of The Rich Fool

In verses 16-21, Jesus tells a parable to his disciples to slam home the main issue here, this man’s soul is in jeopardy and he is being foolish.  When you look at the man in the parable you will notice that his thoughts are all centered on himself.  If you count the personal pronouns he uses you will get the picture.  Also note that there is no mention of God in all of his thinking.  It is irrelevant if he goes to synagogue every week and prays loudly in front of everyone.  We see here in the private counsels of his own heart that God has no place.

In the parable the man has bumper crops to the point that he has a “problem” of figuring out what to do with the excess or overflow.  Instead of asking why has God blessed him and figuring out what God’s purpose is, his solution is to build bigger barns and amass the increase for himself.  Even though he doesn’t need more, he heaps it up.  Today we would call this hoarding.  Now here is a problem.  It is one thing when Jesus calls us out on our hoarding.  We know that he has no ulterior motive.  But, often those who point out the sin of hoarding only want to have what they have.  We see a big pile of money or possessions and the wickedness of our heart covets it.  This reminds me of the movie that just came out, The Hobbit.  In it we see how the amassed gold and riches ate into the heart of all who saw it and obtained it.  So we will be judged on both accounts: a greedy amassing for self and a greed desire to take from others.

In verse 19 we notice that his soul is at ease.  Godly people in every generation have spoken of the need for a holy discomfort with our life and the world around us.  When Christ is our focus then this world causes us trouble and discomfort at least.  Too often Christians stop at being uneasy about the world, yet refuse to walk with the Lord seriously enough to become uncomfortable with their own sin.  Our rest is to be found in trusting Jesus and His teachings.  This man is trying to find rest in material abundance outside of Christ.  We need to refresh ourselves in Him and rest, but we should never rest in being vigilant over our soul against sin.

Similar to the handwriting on the wall before Belshazzar, a message from God comes to the man.  He is about to die and he has been judged as a fool by God.  He is a fool because he focused his life on what couldn't save him, nor could go with him.  He lived without a sense of accountability to God.  This life is a gift and how we go about living it determines our judgment.  Will you live for the Lord Jesus or will you continue as master?  His judgment comes without warning and the man will die that very night.  Although some of us are given fair warning that our time is coming, many will go into eternity without the ability to "make quick amends."  We need to live so that nothing is left undone between us and the Lord.  

In Matthew 19:21 Jesus says to the rich young man, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me."  This idea of putting treasure in heaven by helping others is explained there.  Here the phrase is called, "being rich toward God."  It is interesting that it clearly means to help people, but the emphasis is on God.  When we help others simply because it makes us feel good, we need to be careful.  This is not what saves us.  In fact such giving often cuts God out of the picture.  It is purely about bringing pleasure to one's self.  But, when God becomes the Lord of all our possessions and money, we will truly become a free person.  We are free to bless others as he enables and directs.  You are under no compulsion by the people who covet your money and hold the words of Jesus over your head.  Their greed will continue to destroy them unless they repent.  But you are free to give and help under the compulsion of the Spirit of God.  Lest this seem like a cop-out, know this: you will give account to God for all you have done or not done on this earth and He is not mocked.  James lays out a warning for those who either have riches or desire to get them.  James 5:1-7  , "Come now you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!  Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have heaped up treasure in the last days.  Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.  You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.  Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord."

 

Time is up audio