What the Wisest Man Who Ever Lived Said About Money
Luke 16 is Jesus’ primary and definitive teaching about money and how to treat money as believers. It’s one of the most misunderstood or non-understood parables in the Bible, the parable of the unrighteous steward. The modern-day summary is that this is a guy who worked for The Man. He was going to get fired, so he goes and gives away all of his boss’s receivables, then the boss praises him and that’s the end of the story. Huh? When you get to the heart of the text, it is absolutely profound. These first few verses, and I’m going to take the time, and we’re going to unlock what God says about money and about benevolence.
Through this parable, God is bringing forth a new ethos in givers, what we call treasure bringers. Isaiah 60 says, “Your gates will be open continually. They will not close day or night that men would bring you the wealth of the nations, their kings and procession.” And here’s the picture: Jesus in a high castle, the kings of the earth — you and me — lined up, our arms full of treasure, waiting in line for our turn to lay it at His feet and run back and get more and do it again. That’s the picture of treasure bringers, spiritual Robin Hoods, in a way. Their joy is plundering the wealth of the world for their Lord, to do good. They will love money in one sense but be completely free from the spirit of mammon. They love what money can do.
So, we’re going to look at Luke 16, one of the least understood parables in the Bible that is actually one of the most important, in my view, especially for those that will touch money. There are eight revelations in these few simple verses that we’re going to look at that unlock a benevolent heart.
Now, in Luke 16 is the first revelation that God is the rich man. God is rich! Jesus became poor, but God is very, very rich. He became poor so that we might become rich in every way, and this is the essence of the first revelation that God is the source. He is the source of all wealth. David said it like this, “Wealth and honor come from You. You are the ruler of all things, and Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.” I think the ultimate self-made man in the Bible was Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was walking around his kingdom one day and just thinking how cool it was and how cool he was, and this is what he said, “Is this not Babylon the Great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” Isn’t that great? And of course he learned something. It was given to him. The Lord humbled him and he ate grass for seven years. The truth is, God is the source. You’re a single health crisis away from complete poverty. You’re one lawsuit away from being 100% wiped out, right?
So, the myth of the self-made man. If God is your source, it’s a lot easier to give it away. David is one of the most amazing guys in the Bible. He gave the equivalent of $5 billion in gold alone at the building of the temple. $5 billion, but he understood that God was his source. The story at Ziklag illustrates his perspective: Now, he was out with his army, away from home. The Malachites come and invade his home, take all of their possessions and their women and children and leave. David comes back. He is absolutely heartbroken. They wonder what to do. He says, “We’re going after them.” He takes his army and races after them, but soon 600 men chase them. Soon 200 are too exhausted to continue. 400 continue on. They defeat the Malachites, and the 400 come back and say, “We don’t want to share the plunder with the 200 who were too tired, because they didn’t risk their blood.” David came to the 200 who had been too exhausted to follow and were left behind. They came out to meet David, and he greeted them, but all the evil men and troubles makers of David said, “Because they did not go out with them, we will not share the plunder we recovered; however each man may take his wife and children.” Their view was that they fought in risk and they deserved the plunder. David’s view, however, was different. His view was that God gave them the victory. And here’s what David said, “No, my brothers. You must not do that with what the Lord has given you. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. Everyone should share alike.” Do you see the difference? Who is your source? Why do you have your resources? Is it because you’re the self-made person? Or because God gave it to you?
If it’s because God gave it to you, then it’s easy to give it way, because God is your source! God is the rich man. That’s the first revelation. He is the source! Who is the source of your success? The truth is God has been unbelievably generous towards you. That’s the truth. Unbelievably. The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver. If you really did due diligence, you likely wouldn’t give. That’s how God is to you. If he really did his due diligence, should he have given that to you? Have you done that great with it? God is an unreasonable giver. He has been unreasonable in the way He has blessed you! Unreasonable. Wow. God is the Source.
This friend of mine who is this large donor, he said to me one day, “Bob, it’s a revelation that it’s all His.” He understands that it really belongs to God, that God is the rich man. And, of course, when He’s the rich man, you have access to unlimited wealth, because God has unlimited resources.
So, back to the scriptures. He was saying to the disciples that there was a rich man who had a manager, and the manager was reporting and squandering his possessions. Here is the second revelation: we are stewards. The earth and all it contains, including everything in your bank account, actually belongs to the Lord. In the parable, the steward acted like he was the owner. You see? He was treating his master’s business as if he was the owner and squandering things, spending things on himself. Has anybody ever acted like he or she was the owner of his or her bank accounts? Anybody? So, this is a revelation that we are but stewards, that He is the owner.
The third revelation is this, that we have been unreasonably entrusted. Truth is, we deserve nothing we’ve received, and we have squandered the Master’s resources, and God is an exhilarated giver when He gives to us. This is so crucial. When David gave the offering, $5 billion in gold, it says, “David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, ‘Wealth and honor come from You. You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to honor. Now, our God, we give You thanks praise your glorious power, but who am I and who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this?” He says, “I’m a guitar player. I was taking care of the sheep! I was the least of my family! Who am I that I should give $5 billion in gold to God’s temple?” It’s unreasonable! So, it’s this revelation that we are stewards and that we have squandered His possessions, that we have been unreasonably entrusted.
The fourth revelation —This is where it gets good— We have a brief window of opportunity. In the parable the owner called the manager and said, “What is this I hear about you giving an accounting of your management, for you’re fired.” The manager said, “What can I do, since I’m going to lose the management? I’m not strong enough to dig. I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do. When I’m removed from the management, people will come and welcome me into their homes.” He summoned each of his master’s debtors. He begins saying, “How much do you owe?” He said, “100 measures.” He said, “Write down 50.” Another debtor. “How much do you owe?” He said, “100 measures.” He said, “Write down 80.” And so the steward gives away the master’s wealth and gets personal credit for it. Now, this is dishonest.
But the revelation is that we have a brief window of opportunity. The truth is, you are a steward of everything you’ve been granted in this life, and you a brief window of opportunity called your time on planet Earth. Let’s say I’ve got 20 years left. Do you know that’s 7,000 days? Tick-tock, tick-tock. You have a brief window of opportunity, a limited-time offer. We have one minute on the earth. You have one minute on the earth, and eternity is waiting forever, and in the blink of an eye, it will be over. So, you have this limited-time offer to change the temporal earthly wealth that doesn’t belong to you that you cannot keep into something that’s yours that you can keep forever and ever.
Here’s the picture: you’re a manager of a bank, full of a vault of money, and you find out that tomorrow, they’re going to take all the paper money, including the money in your vault that you don’t own, and it’s going to be declared worthless. But you find a buyer, a guy who’s willing to exchange that money for you, and you ask your bank owner, “Can I take that money and exchange it for something, for real gold?” And he says, “Yeah, go for it.” OK, that’s, in essence, what this is. You have an opportunity to take that which does not belong to you, which you cannot keep, which is but temporal and passing, and turn it into something that is eternal. It’s a good deal. How many of you would jump on that deal?
The parable then says, “His master praised the unrighteous manager, because he acted shrewdly, for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” In this case, shrewd means you’re smart. Here’s the truth: 100% of your wealth will be given away when you die. Right? 100%. The only question is, by whom?
I love what Rick Joyner said, “You know, people tell me, ‘You just want my money,’” and he said, “Yeah I do. I want your money. I want to make a billion dollars for God, but I want to die penniless.” I love that.
Time is running out, my friend. You have no idea when your time is up. You have no clue. The Bible says this, Numbers 19:10, “Teach us to number our days that we might present to You a heart of wisdom.” Wow. Number your days. 7,000. 6,999. 6,998. 6,997. Now you’re getting wise. That’s Numbers 19:10, to understand the limited time. How many of you have a sense of a window of time? Number your days that you might present to Him your heart of wisdom. Jesus called the man who stored up in Luke 12, “You fool.” Not wise. “This very night your life is demanded of you.” This very night. Wisdom. One of the key cornerstones of wisdom is understanding your limited time.
Check out Part 2 for revelations five through 8!