Robert Jeffress - How To Survive A Lay-Off
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Most people plan for the future by making investments or paying off debt. And while that's prudent for the short term, few people understand the more pressing need to plan for eternity. Today, we're turning to the parable of the unjust steward to discover what we should be doing now to prepare for our eternal lives in heaven. My message is titled, "How to survive a layoff", on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
In his book, "The One Percent Doctrine," Pulitzer prize winning author Ron Suskind describes how our response to terrorist threats changed dramatically after the events of 9/11. Before that historic day in our nation's history, government officials would assess the probability of a certain threat actually occurring and would respond accordingly. If for example there were a 90% chance that the threat would occur, then they would take evasive action. If however, the probability were say 30%, usually the threat was ignored. But that changed after 9/11. Two months after the events of September the 11th, government officials discovered that Osama Bin Laden had met in Afghanistan with a nuclear scientist trying to obtain a nuclear weapon to use against our country.
On that day, when our government officials learned of what had happened, vice president Dick Cheney called for a special meeting in the White House situation room. He said America has to learn how to deal with a new kind of threat, a low probability high impact event. The vice president said, if there is just a 1% chance that Al-Qaeda could obtain a nuclear weapon, then we must treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. That is the new 1% doctrine that now governs how we respond to terrorist threats. If there are just a 1% certainty, a 1% chance that an event will take place, we have to treat it as a certainty and deal accordingly.
Now let's take that 1% doctrine and apply it to another area of life. How many of you would say today, I am absolutely 100% sure there is a God, there is life after death, there is a heaven and hell, and one day I'm going to be judged by God? If I were to ask you how many of you believe that is all 100% certainty, most of you would say yes, and most of you would be lying. The fact is most of us here today are not 100% sure there is a God, there is life after death, that there is a heaven and a hell. Most of us have doubts from time-to-time, that is only human. So some of us if we were honest would say, "Okay, well I'm 90% sure that's going to happen". Some would say, "Well, I'm 50% sure that's going to happen". Some would say, "I really only think there's a 30% chance that's going to happen". The mistake most people make is they say, "Well, since I'm not a 100% sure, since I'm only 30% sure I'll ignore it and just see what happens".
But go back to the 1% doctrine. The 1% doctrine says, if there is even a 1% chance that a high impact event like your death and your judgment by God is going to happen, then you ought to treat it as a certainty and respond accordingly. So let me rephrase the question, how many of you think there is at least a 1% chance that you're going to stand before God in judgment? How many of you think there's a 1% chance that's going to happen? Raise your hand. If you believe there's a 1% chance that is going to occur, Jesus says, you ought to treat that event as a certainty and prepare accordingly. And that's the theme of the parable we're going to look at today.
If you have your Bibles I want you to turn to Luke 16 as we discover how to survive a lay -off. Luke 16. This is one of Jesus' most confusing parables. It's confusing to a lot of people because they forget that parables don't teach many truths, they only teach one truth. People read this parable and they get hung up on the details and they think Jesus is commending dishonesty, no. Every parable teaches one major truth, and I want you to write down on your outline the truth that we're going to see in this parable and that is simply this, we should use our present opportunities to prepare for eternity. A wise person is one who uses present opportunities to prepare for eternity. Now let's see how Jesus illustrates that truth in today's parable. Luke 16 beginning with verse 1, "Now Jesus was also saying to the disciples there was a certain rich man who had a steward and the steward was reported to him as squandering his master's possessions".
Now in Old Testament times in Jesus' day, it was very common for a wealthy person to hire a financial manager, somebody to oversee all of his financial dealings. He had a steward who was either ill-equipped or dishonest because the Bible says, "It came to the masters attention that the steward was squandering his possession". And we don't know exactly what he had done to squander the money. Maybe he invested in some high flyers stock and lost all of his masters money. Perhaps he was siphoning it off and sending it to a secret swiss bank account. We don't know exactly what was happening but word came to the master that this steward was not acting in a faithful way. Verse 1, "And so he called him and said to his steward, 'what is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship for you can no longer be my steward'".
Now the master said two things basically. He said, word has come to me that you're squandering my money, I want an accounting of every dollar that has been placed under your charge. And secondly, you're fired. Now look, verse 3. "So the steward said to himself, 'what shall I do since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I'm not strong enough to dig and I'm ashamed to beg'". He began to panic. He realized that pretty soon he was going to join the ranks of the unemployed. He was going to be without a paycheck. And so he panicked wondering what am I going to do to make a living? One thing you have to say about the steward is he was pretty self-aware. He knew his limitations. He knew that he was filled with pride, he didn't want to stand on the street corner and beg for money. He also knew he was allergic to hard work. He certainly didn't want to have to exert any effort. So he thought to himself, "What am I going to do"?
But then he embarked upon a shrewd plan. Look at verse 4, "I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from my job," that is the stewardship, "They will receive me into their homes". In other words he said as soon as I leave my master's employ, I need to make sure I've got some friends out there who will take care of me, support me when I no longer have any money coming in. And he embarked upon a plan to make sure that he had friends on the outside ready to take care of him. And here was the plan, verse 5, "He summoned each of his master's debtors and he began saying to the first, 'how much do you owe my master'? And he said, 'i owe a hundred measures of oil'. He said, 'take your bill and sit down quickly and write 50'. And then he said to another, 'how much do you owe'? And he said, 'a hundred measures of wheat'. He said to him, 'take your bill and write 80'".
You see what he's doing here, he calls in everybody who owes his master money and says, "Congratulations, today we're having a sale". It is a one day only sale, I'm going to discount how much you owe my master. To you you get a 50% discount, 100 to 50. You get a 20% discount, 100 to 80. And why was he doing this? It was very obvious, he wanted to make friends for himself. He knew he wasn't going to be in his master's employee much longer so what did he care what his master thought? He wanted to use the final few days of his job to prepare for the future. You say, "Wasn't that dishonest? Wasn't that illegal"? Probably, but again, he was thinking about the future. Well, word came to the master about what his employee was doing. And his reaction is startling. This is one other instance where Jesus turns our thinking upside down. Look at the masters reaction in verse 8, "And the master praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly".
Did you know people get hung up on this and think was Jesus praising dishonesty? No, that's not the theme of the parable. The master praised the steward because he acted shrewdly. I want you to underline that word shrewdly in your Bible. It is a Greek word that means, to act with foresight. That is, this steward was wise because he acted with foresight. He used his present opportunity as an employ to prepare himself for the future. And then Jesus says in verse 8, "For the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light". Jesus is saying sometimes unbelievers, non-Christians, pagans are actually wiser than Christians especially when it comes to how they handle their money. Jesus makes this application in verse 9, why is it that we ought to act shrewdly with foresight when it comes to how we handle our money? Notice the three applications Jesus makes beginning in verse 9. First of all, he says, "Our money can be used to make an eternal difference. Our money can be used to make an eternal difference". Look at verse 9, "And I say to you make friends for yourselves by means of the Mammon of unrighteousness. That when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings".
Have you heard the expression before, you can't take it with you? Or there are no u-hauls in heaven. Yeah, that's true. You can't take it with you when it comes to your money. But Jesus said, "You can send it on ahead of you". And that's what he's talking about here. Jesus says one day money is going to be of absolute no use to you whatsoever. There is a day coming when money is going to fail you and that's the moment of your death. When you die, money is absolutely of no use. Your currency will be worthless in heaven. But, until that day you can actually use your money to prepare for the future. You can use it to actually make friends for yourself. Now, what does he mean by that? Well, again, consider what the steward did. He used his present opportunity as an employee to make friends for himself on the outside so that when he joined the ranks of the unemployed there would be people out there who would greet him, welcome him into their homes and take care of him.
Secondly, Jesus said our use of money is a test of our faithfulness to God. Our use of our money is a test of our faithfulness to God. Look at verse 10, "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much. And he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous Mammon, who will give to you true riches"? What is he talking about here? Jesus said, money is a very little thing to God. You know we get all impressed about money, we get impressed by people who have a lot of money. Jesus says money is a very little thing to God. But here's where a little thing becomes a big thing. Money is a big thing in this sense, it is a barometer, it is a test of our faithfulness to God. How you use your money is perhaps the best test of all of your faithfulness to God. He who is faithful in a little thing is also faithful in much.
Number three, Jesus reminds us that a love for God is the basis of all stewardship. A love for God is the basis of all stewardship. Have you ever wondered why it is some people get so upset whenever money is talked about in the church? You know what the bottom line problem is with people like that, they don't love God. That's what it comes down to, they really don't love God. That's what Jesus said in verse 13. He said, "No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will hold onto the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon".
That term Mammon is an Old Testament term that refers to not just money but all of our material possessions. You see Jesus said, we are created in such a way that we can only have one emotional focus in life. And we're either focused on God or we're focused on money. We're either focused on the spiritual or the material. It's one or the other, it can't be both. Let me ask you this morning, what is the focus of your life? As you answered that question, honestly, maybe you realize you are in the clutch, the grasp of materialism. It has become the center of your life. How can you make money your slave rather than your master? Let's go back and see what this steward did.
James Boyce in his commentary on this passage notes three actions of the steward worthy of our emulation. First of all, he viewed the future realistically. He viewed the future realistically. Up until this momentous day in his life, he probably thought he was going to have this job forever, that he was going to retire from this job. But when his boss called him in and said, "You're fired". Suddenly he had a sobering dose of reality. He realized a great change was about to occur in his life. He for the first time had a realistic assessment of his future. You know I'm amazed at how many Christians don't have a realistic grasp of what awaits them. Most Christians live their lives as if they are going to live on this planet forever. They treat death as a remote possibility instead of an absolute inevitability.
Do you realize you are going to die? Death is not an option, it is a certainty for every one of us here today. In fact, in order to help you understand and grasp that truth, I want you to repeat a phrase after me, okay? The phrase is simply, "I am going to die". Would you say that with me? "I am going to die". Say it again. "I am going to die". You are going to die and you're going to leave everything behind. The manager understood that, he viewed the future realistically. Secondly, he made preparation for the future. He made preparation for the future instead of being paralyzed with panic over what awaited him, he decided to take some action. He decided to start making preparations for that inevitable future that awaited him.
Ladies and gentlemen, you and I are going to face a change. We're going to move from this life to eternity. And a wise person is one who starts to make preparations for that inevitability. This parable is not for non-Christians, it's basically a parable for Christians. And if you are a believer today, the next most important preparation you can make that will affect your eternal destiny is to make sure you're investing your time, your efforts, and yes your dollars in God's eternal work. That's what the steward did, he made preparations for the future. Number three, he acted quickly. He acted quickly. Once he realized that the days of his employment were severely numbered, he realized he had no time to waste. He needed not to wait till motivation hit him, he needed to right now begin make preparations for that inevitability. Do you realize that the date of your death, the year, the month, the day of the week, the hour is already written on God's calendar. It is a fixed date on God's calendar, there is not one thing you can do to postpone it. And every second that passes, moves you closer and closer to that inevitability. A wise person is one who acts quickly to make preparation for the future.
Gary Inrig tells the story about a man who found himself shipwrecked on what he thought was a deserted island. Soon he found that the island was filled with a large tribe. He didn't know what the tribesmen would do to him but to his great pleasure, they treated him very, very well. In fact, they met his every need and to his great delight they even placed him a throne and made him their king. Later on as he began to understand the language more he realized that this is one of their customs. They would select a man, make him king for a year, and then at the end of the year, they would place him in a boat, send him to a nearby island that was abandoned and they would leave him there to die. Suddenly his delight turned to distress as he realized what was about to happen to him. But then he came up with a plan, in the final few months of his monarchy, he decided to take some of those tribes men and send them to that abandoned island ahead of him where they would till the land and plant crops.
He sent another group of the tribes men to that island to build for himself a beautiful mansion. And then he sent some of his best friends that he had made among those tribes men, he sent them there to that island as well to greet him when he arrived. And finally on the day of his exile, the tribesmen placed him in the boat, they send him to that island that had been carefully prepared, filled with friends who were there to receive him. Ladies and gentlemen, the Bible says, if you're a Christian, you're about to take a journey and your destination is not some remote island, it's heaven where Jesus Christ himself will be there to greet you. Nevertheless, Jesus says in this parable, the preparations we make in this life will follow us throughout all eternity. Inrig says, "Fools serve money and leave it all behind, shrewd believers serve God and invest in eternity".