Have you ever purchased or thought of buying a boat? Are the stories true, that the best days of boat ownership are the day you buy it and sell it? I’ve never owned one or been tempted to buy a boat of any kind. But I’ve owned cars since I was a teenager, and I know how much maintenance is required. The older the vehicle, the more money, time, and inconvenience are involved. Whether it’s a boat, car, truck, house, or any other material possession, it will be sold, used up, or junked one day. Hopefully, the time between our acquisition and its end is what we remember the most. Were we happy to have it? Did we take care of it, so it was useful and good value when we sold it? Did we use it to help or give enjoyment to others? The Bible teaches good stewardship of the earth, including all the things that we own and all aspects of nature. And, if these things are good, how much better is “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places?” (Ephesians 1:3) God’s grace and spiritual blessings are given to us freely through Christ for all eternity and are our most important possessions. We will never lose or sell them because they are our treasure, that only grows more valuable (See Related Scripture Passages.) Our faithful stewardship of them is the focus of today’s devotion. Faithfulness with integrity for little, inconsequential things and worldly possessions is evidence of our ability to be faithful with the great truths of God’s Word. Our faithfulness in earthly things reflects our stewardship of God’s truths and love for us. Hopefully, we will prove our desire to be faithful to God by our faithfulness with the world’s goods, be they little, significant, ours, or others’.
In Luke 16:1-9, Jesus tells a parable of a trusted manager responsible for the affairs of his owner’s estate. As the owner’s agent, he had all authority to conduct trade on behalf of his master. But the manager’s dishonesty about wasting his boss’s possessions became known, and knew he would be fired. So he contrived a way to safeguard his financial future. “The point of this parable is not to give us a lesson in stewardship, but it does serve to remind us that every human being is a steward on this earth. God owns the world. He owns us, and what we do with our lives, our money and the earth are matters of stewardship. We have an indication here of divine displeasure when stewards waste the goods in their trust.” (1) What does Jesus have to say about the parable? “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:10-13)
Jesus’s audience was his disciples, but the Pharisees also heard him speaking and ridiculed him. We, who are in Christ, would never denigrate the words of our Savior, but do we disrespect his blessings by our carelessness with his revealed Word? Do we prove our faithfulness with the “little,” temporary things of this world? If I’m not careful, attentive, and generous with my time, money, possessions, and energy, what does that say about my stewardship of God’s mercy, love, holiness, and spiritual fruit? We Christians like to say everything we have is from God and belongs to God, but the has given us some things to possess as our own. Among those is an inheritance in Christ—eternal life, with all its accompanying blessings. And, a gift is a gift. But how we use our gift matters, especially if it involves others. For example, giving someone a gift of stationery, greeting cards, a phone, or a computer enables them to communicate with others. Viewing a boat or a car as a gift from God may encourage us to use it differently, more faithfully. Even more, God’s love is ours, as is his peace and spiritual well-being, and righteousness. “The one who can be trusted with the little things can also be trusted with the big things. But the converse is also true; Jesus said: ‘So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?’ If you are a bad steward of material things, don’t expect God to trust you with spiritual things.” (2) “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” (v. 11) “Unrighteous wealth probably refers to…unrighteous means in acquiring wealth by taking advantage of others; unrighteous desires in the use of wealth for personal gratification and selfish purposes, rather than for the care and well-being of others; and the corrupting influence of wealth that often leads people into unrighteousness.” (3) If we deceive, excuse, or justify ourselves regarding poor fiscal management, we are guilty of being unfaithful with our “unrighteous wealth.” If we hoard or use our means to promote our welfare exclusively, ungenerous and stingy with our worldly goods, and we will handle God’s grace correspondingly. Practicing faithfulness with integrity for little, inconsequential things and material possessions is evidence of our ability to be faithful with the great truths of God’s Word and spiritual gifts.
Luke 16:12 seems to serve as a transition to the principle that our Lord wishes us to embrace—the impossibility of serving (worshipping) both God and money. Once again, we are reminded that we either put our hope in the gift or the giver. “And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (vs. 12-13)” I appreciate the note in the ESV Study Bible: “Jesus does not say ‘should not serve’ but ‘cannot serve.’Those who are Jesus’ true disciples must make an either/or choice between serving God and serving money…The way to serve God rather than money is to put one’s resources to the service of others and the work of the kingdom.” (4) The Pharisees and Scribes had received the Law through their birth into the Jewish religion. But they used it dishonestly and legalistically, as a burden for those who would believe in God. Jesus rebuked them, “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath. You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (Matthew 23:4, 16-19) “Although these words were obviously aimed at the Pharisees, there is also a broader application. What God is looking for from his people is not success, but fidelity. He doesn’t measure us by our bank balance or the degree of our authority. Maybe your task seems insignificant, but God has given it to you and wants to see that you are faithful in it, before he will promote you in his kingdom.” (5)
Practicing faithfulness with integrity for little, inconsequential things and worldly possessions is evidence of our ability to be faithful with the gospel. Will we prove our desire to be devoted to God by our fidelity with the world’s goods, be they little, big, ours, or others’? Is our commitment to Christ proved by our faithfulness to be generous with our earthly and spiritual blessings? Do we use our resources (even boats and cars) for the Kingdom of God, the gospel, and those who are serving Christ? Will you pray with me, as I have been doing this week, to be a generous, faithful owner of God’s grace and the riches of his indwelling Spirit, bearing fruit through these gifts? Does the gospel influence your faithful stewardship? “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
Related Scripture Passages: Matthew 6:19–21, 24; 13:44, 52; Luke 12:32-34; 18:22-25; 19:17-19 ; Romans 6:16; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10; 2 Timothy 2:21-20; James 4:4-5, 13-16.
- Sproul, R. C., “A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel,” Luke 16:1-18, Electronic Book, 2016.
- Sproul, Ibid.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Luke 16:9, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- ESV, Ibid (Luke 16:13)
- Sproul, Ibid.
September 25, 2020