Dr. Ed Young - Money Makes us Wise
Several years ago in the "Wall Street Journal," a writer penning words that went something like this. He said, "Money is the passport that will take you anywhere you want to go, except to Heaven". And said, "Money also is a provider that will give you anything you want or need, except happiness". Isn't that true? Money will take you anywhere, except to Heaven. And if you have enough of it, you can have anything you want or need, except happiness. The Bible teaches about money. Jesus said more about material stuff than He did anything else. Did you know that? The Scripture that most of us are familiar with that deals with material stuff-it says, "Money is the root of all evil". You've heard that one. It's Bible. And we say, "Well, let's tear-out the roots". Oh no!
I think the Bible would teach we're to cultivate the roots of the money tree so it grows a fairer tree. The bottom line is, to say in modern terms what Jesus teaches over and over again, that if you get your material house in order... in other words, if you and I manage a little or much Biblically, what do you have to have to do that? What do you have to do to manage stuff? You have to have wisdom, right? You have to project in the future. You have to be a planner. It's a good idea to be honest. It's a good idea to be conscious and pay attention to detail, right? This is what you and I need to handle what God has entrusted to you and entrusted to me. We need those ingredients.
Now if we're faithful in the handling of material stuff, guess what? What do you and I need to be faithful in our relationship to others? If we manage others, or work with others, or live, what do we need to have good relationships? The same characteristics we needed to manage money. Same thing! Integrity, transparency, openness, look to the future, sensitivity, discernment-all the same stuff that you and I need to be good managers of what entrusts us with is the same stuff we need to be good managers of people working for, or working with people in family, or in our business. Same things... And then we're going to discover in our Scripture that when we have these characteristics in our life in our own personal management of affairs; in our own relationship with people, then it moves up. Then we can handle true riches.
What's true riches? More money? Oh no, no... True riches are riches that we'll have forever. That's the spiritual stuff that really is the biggest stuff of all, the biggest endowment of all, the biggest asset of all. We could handle that if we have these characteristics. And so, we're going to handle a parable, a story Jesus told in the Bible that is, I think, one of the most difficult passages of Scripture to understand. It really is. You could read the whole Bible, and if you read this parable, you'd say, "Whoa! What in the world is Jesus talking about"? You can read any fine commentaries on this parable-any five of them, and they'll all take a different turn. It is really a confusing story Jesus told. Just read it up front. To summarize it in a sentence or two, here is a guy who was very wealthy. He hired someone, a manger to take care of his whole assets. The manager lived an exorbitant lifestyle.
The wealthy man went and said, "I'm going to remove you from the places of managing, being a steward of my money, and then the guy who had exploited his position already, stole some more money from the wealthy guy, but did it in such a slick, smooth way that the wealthy guy commended him". Did you get that? Commended him for being a con-artist. Now if you just read it, pshewt! Rip through it! That's how you'll come out with an interpretation. But I'm going to walk you through it in a different way, because to understand this parable, we have to see it like perhaps no other parable, from Middle Eastern eyes. We have to see it from the culture of that day, or we'll totally miss it! It'll go right by us or over us-shoop! There it went! I didn't get it. Because a precursory reasoning, you'll come out with the same conclusion I just told you there about the story.
You'd say, "Boy, that doesn't make sense! Jesus commending in a story a con artist"? Heh! You know, a total crook? A slick operator? But we're gonna walk through this story, and you're gonna see, it teaches some very profound lessons, and it's not like you would understand it at first blush. All right! Let's look at it, Chapter 16, the Gospel according to Luke: "Now He", Jesus, "was also saying to the disciples, 'There was a rich man who had a manger...'", follow me, "'And this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.'" Now notice Luke 16. Luke 15 is the story of the prodigal son. What did the prodigal son do? He squandered, right, his inheritance he'd received from his father. He misused those funds. He wasted them. He threw them away.
The same situation here. Here's a man who was a steward, and he squandered-same word, he wasted the inheritance, the money, the stewardship he was over. Just like the prodigal wasted his inheritance. Verse 2: "And he called him and said to him", this is the rich landowner, talking to the manager, the steward, the CPA, "What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management". In other words, literally that says, "Show me the books; show me the records, the I.O.U.'s, that which you've handled for me, but you can no longer be manager. Clean out your desk"! Heh, heh!
You know, have you ever had somebody say to you, "Your service is no longer needed"? Oh yeah. A lot of us have... and sometimes, we've had to say the same thing to those who work for us. And usually in a situation like that, what happens? The person being dismissed begins to negotiate. And you don't see any negotiation here. The manager doesn't say a word, evidently. It says he began to talk to himself. That's rare. Usually, when someone's dismissed, we say, "Well, let me tell you something: Let those people who charged me with this come here, and I'll tell 'em..." Or you'd say, "Well, you know, I, my dad worked for you, and my grandfather worked for you, and I man, I may not have handled things right, but..." we have an excuse, a reason.
We spin it around a little bit as to why we weren't performing, or why we did this, or what the misunderstand... We say, you know, "Let those people who accuse me come here and say that to my face..." We got all kinds of ways, but this guy doesn't... he just talks to himself. His silence evidently admits his guilt. And then look what he says. It's very, very interesting here to me. The manager said to himself... By the way, excuses for doing wrong begin early. You remember Adam? Adam said, "Oh, I ate the tree, but it was my wife..." and we've been making excuses for making mistakes ever since, every one of us, haven't we? We're good at it. I'm real good at it. Some of you are real efficient at it.
"Uh, uh, I wouldn't have done that; I wouldn't have said that, blah, blah..." This guy didn't say a word. Guilty. The manager said to himself, "What shall I do? Shall my master-my master has taken away the management away from me. I am no, I'm not strong enough to dig. I'm ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do"! Bang! He high-fives himself! Bang! "I know what I can do..." Now, is he in a tough place in a community of that culture? He's been managing a large amount of property, and money, and funds for a guy evidently for a long time. Now the guy unilaterally dismisses him. I mean, he will be shamed. He'll be unable to make a, get a job; but now he says, "Bang! I know what I'll do..." To come out of that kind of downward spiral is really tough, isn't it? Downward spin? The manager said, "What shall I do"?
Verse 4: "I know what I shall do, so that I am removed from the management, people will welcome me into their homes". "Welcome me into their homes" is the idiom in the Greek, which means "they will give me a job". Even though I'm dismissed; even though the rumor will be out, you know, I spent too much money and had not handled it properly, "Hey, I'm gonna handle this thing so that I will get a job"! And watch how this guy falls uphill. Pretty hard to do that, isn't it? But some people fall uphill. It's amazing to me. And he summoned each one of his master's debtors, and he began saying to the first, "How much do you own my master"? And he said, "A hundred measures of oil". And he said to him, "Take your bill. Sit down quickly, and write fifty". Wheww! "And another", he said, "And how much do you owe"? And he said, "A hundred measures of wheat..." He said to him, "Take your bill and write down eighty".
Now, let me tell you exactly what's going on here. By the way, they weren't dealing with little bitsy amounts of money. They weren't dealing with little bitty sums. No, no, no, no! A hundred measures of oil would be eight hundred gallons of olive oil-virgin olive oil. A lot of money today, a lot of money then. This would be the yield for about a 146 olive trees. And they would take virgin olive oil, and they would water it down, and they'd have many times more than that. What happened? Here's a wealthy owner of land. He turns his total affairs over to this manager. He says, "You take care of everything. I'm not going to get involved in any of it. It's your task".
And he cuts deals with these and lets them farm, wheat, or olive oil, or whatever, and they would, he would pay them back for using of the rich man's land, like ancient share croppers, back to the owner. You follow me? And they'd agree to amounts that could be paid back. Now there's one problem with this in Jewish culture. You couldn't charge interest to a fellow Jew. There was no principal plus interest in these negotiations. Didn't happen. Against the law. Therefore, the payback would have to be in the harvest and a portion of the harvest, and with the poor, you couldn't do that, and certainly one of the real big sins in the culture was called usury. More interest than required.
In other words, you would borrow a dollar. Usury would be you pay interest, 40 or 50 percent when you pay it back, you know? Usury... And so here's what happened. This steward-he no longer had his position. He, he was about to clean out his drawers and turn in the books; but he has a little window there, and the Bible says quickly, he called in all those respectable business men, and he saw them privately. He said, "How much do you owe"? You know, "A hundred-eight hundred gallons of olive oil? He-write me out-here, take that that you owe, this little bill, this I.O.U. and I'm tearing it up, and you write out one for half that amount. Four hundred gallons". A lot of money, folks! Big bucks! And he said, "By the way, you write that out and cut me in for about half of that". Wheww! "Okay..."
You know how much that would be worth in that day? A year and a half of average wage-a year and a half of wages. We're talking about a lot of money. And this worked with the wheat-you talking about a thousand bushels of wheat if you transfer this into how we understand wheat. He said, "Man, take 20 percent off that and hey, write out a new bill. You owe only 80 and cut me in for half of that..." you see? That's how this shrewd guy operated. And now, what happened? When he was dismissed, now he has all the other business men, and they all went along with it, evidently. They are part of the conspiracy! The slick guy has got all the other people who had business relationships with the owner through him, in it with him so they wouldn't turn him in. Pretty smooth, isn't it? Hey!
And then the rich man, of all things, in the 8th Verse here, or is it the 7th Verse here? You know what he says about this? And he says, "And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he'd acted shrewdly". Can you believe that? Now the rich landowner praises the guy who had overspent his accounts. That's the reason he fired him, and now he had conned him out of more money. He knew as he looked at the books there were new I.O.U.'s in there... Instead of getting 800 barrels, now he was going to get 400 barrels, and he brags on him! What's that about? Follow me carefully. You need to understand this... The rich guy had a problem. He knew his manager had conned him; and then he knew his manage had had all those people re-write that which they owed him. Then he cut private deals with them, see?
Now they are part of the conspiracy; but what was happening in the community, they were players, they were all praising him! I mean, you talking about a lot of people involved. They were saying, "Man, we have the most generous rich man, you know, I owed him 800 barrels; now I owe him only 400! What a great guy he is"! Wherever he went, the children, the family were saying, "Man, it's wonderful that you have just written off so much of that which my dad, or my brother, or my sister owed you". He became heroic overnight! Then he had a problem. He could go back to the steward that used to work for him and say, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no"!
He has re-written all these debts, and he's re-written this stuff, and by law, he could have put the steward and made him a slave, or made all of his family-put them in slavery; but he was benevolent and generous, and he knew those who he'd cut a deal with privately, they wouldn't tell anybody, and the rich man had a problem because if he went back and said, "Well, he really owes me 800 gallons of olive oil... he really owes me a 1,000 bushels of wheat", all the people would know he was aware of the usury that was involved. You see the guy way up at the top, the CEO, the chairman of the board, he had deniability. "Oh, I didn't know my steward had charged you all that much! Oooh, I just-oh..."
But see, he didn't want to go into there. He didn't want to go there. He wanted to stay way up in the ionosphere so he'd go to the, go to the synagogue, "Oh, here he comes! Here comes Abraham! Whoa ho! Boy, he brings his down and puts all of his money in the plate". BBbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! "All-man! what a wonderful, moral..." and now he was recognized as being generous, and he just went along with the flow. And he was the chief crook of them all. He had deniability. He didn't want the fact he charged all these exorbitant rates of these business people known. See? So you don't have just one crook. You go all those that did business with him. You have two crooks.
Now the rich guy who's waaay up in the ionosphere. He had no responsibility for this... He's a crook too, the chief of all of them. Does that sound modern enough for anybody? Did you miss that? You say, "Boy, I never heard of such a thing! Oh, no"! Folks! Did you know that a CEO in a corporation in America, if he gives bribes for his product to be bought in a foreign country, and he's found out about; that CEO will go to prison; not the person representing the corporation in the foreign country. Did you know that by law? So therefore, what do big corporations do? They set subsidiary corporations in that foreign country, and they let the subsidiary corporations, right counselor? And they offer bribes, and the CEO can say, "Oh, I can't believe that corporation did that..." and he gets off scot free when he set the whole thing up! Hello! Jesus pulls no punches! Does He? You see what this parable means? You got a whole lot of cheatin' goin' on!
Now, look at the lessons that are drawn from this. They are powerful for you and for me. Look at the later part of Verse 8. It says, "For the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind (to money and property) than the sons of light". What's he saying here? He's saying that the sons of this age, the secular people, spend more time and money and interest in physical stuff, the things they own, the things that they touch, than do those who are Christians, handle the things that they own, and the things that they touch. There, there, there's a big, big principle here we need to see. It is simply that as Christians, we are to use our street smarts for God. Our street smarts. Other words, do we approach the utilization of our material stuff-wealth, money, stocks, bonds for God as seriously as we approach and use them in secular affairs?
We gotta use our street smarts for Kingdom stuff; be as thorough; be as conscientious; be as hard-working; be as honest. Be as open. Man, that's how we need to be function as members of the family of God. You got it? Use our street smarts. And the next lesson that Jesus teaches us here, because the sons of the world beat us at that, He says, is Verse 9: "I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness so that when it fails", and it will; this is human stuff, "they will receive you into the eternal dwellings". The point here is to use your influence. Use your street smarts for God; use your influence for God. What does this Verse say? It says we all get to Heaven (eternal dwellings). That sounds like Heaven to me, doesn't it?
We all get to Heaven, people will come up to you and me and say, "I want to thank you! Man, I want to be your friend! Did you know you plopped down some money in that plate, in that church, and someone came all the way to Nigeria, introduced me to Christ, and my family, and I'm in Heaven today because of you"? You never met them; you've never seen them. If we're faithful to the things of God, that is multiplied hundreds, and dozens, and dozens of time. A part of the thrill of eternity, we'll see how in spiritual riches we have invested in eternity, and people come up and say, "Man, let me tell you what you did! Let me tell you that word of witness. Let me tell you that which you gave..." and we'll be making friends on, and on, and on, and on, and on, ad infinitum, literally. A billion years, plus a day, we'll be making friends. We'll send it on ahead.
Use your influence now. I've had the privilege, or the responsibility, or the accountability of presiding over a lot of funerals in my 34 years in this area of our state-34 years, and I have buried some lions of industry; names that most everybody here would know. Also, I've heard the story, if you've been around Houston, that there was a room in a hotel-they named the hotel, and six or seven men were in there, and they ran the whole metropolitan Houston all those years... All those guys are dead, by the way. Every one of em! And I wonder, and all of 'em had "Christian funerals" I think... And I think they got to Heaven, if they got there, God makes that choice.
I think God would say, "You had all that firepower; all that influence over all that area of the country. You didn't use it hardly zip for My Kingdom, for things that are lasting... why didn't you use your money, your time, your influence? If you had, metropolitan Houston wouldn't be in trouble as it is today morally. Why didn't you use it? What did you think I gave it to you for"? Influence-influence. Send it on ahead! Use it now! You can't take it with you. "Well, I don't have much"! Take what you have and use that, and that's the next principle we come up with. Look at it right here. Use that influence for God, whatever it is, neighborhood, friends, organizations.
Look at Verse 10: "He who is faithful in a little is faithful also in much". What is this saying? Use what you've got in your hand. Say, "Well, if I had a place of influence, I'd use it..." You have a place of influence! It may be little; it may be medium; it may be big. Use what God has entrusted to you for Him. Stand up! Be counted quietly, humbly, sincerely. Use what He's placed in your hand. If it's a law book, use it for Him. If it's a scalpel, use it for Him. If it's in sales, use it for Him. Use what you've got! He said we are faithful in a little; He'll make you faithful over much.
By the way, what does the Bible say that we're to be as Christians? What is the biggest operative word in the Bible, as far as those who are Jesus followers? You know what that word is? Faithful! He just wants you and me to be faithful! That's it. Just be faithful. He doesn't say, "I want you to be spectacular"! No, no, no. Just faithful. Use your influence for Him; use what He's placed in your hand for Him. Just be faithful. Use your street smarts, what God has given you in consciousness for Him. Little is much when God is in it. He multiplies it, and He goes on. The Scripture said, "You can't serve mammon and God. You've got to serve one or the other". Serve God through mammon. Serve God in every way you can. Use that influence; use what's in your hand. Use your street smarts. That's what God wants us to do, and little becomes multiplied-multiplied.