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Luke 16:1-13

“The Things We Can’t Buy with Money”


I want to start with something funny. I found this story on an internet site: There was  an 85 years old couple, having been married almost 60 years, who died in a car crash. They had been in good health for the last ten years, mainly due to her interest in healthy food and exercise. When they reached the Pearly Gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion, decked out with a beautiful kitchen, master bath suite, and Jacuzzi. As they “Oohed and aahed,” the old man asked Peter, “How much is all this going to cost?” “It’s free,” Peter replied, “this is heaven.” Next, they went out back to survey the championship golf course that the home backed up to. They would have golfing privileges every day, and each week the course changed to a new one representing the great golf courses on earth. The old man asked, “What are the green fees?” Peter replied, “This is heaven; you play for free.”

Next, they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with all the world’s cuisines. “How much to eat?” asked the old man. “Don’t you understand yet? This is heaven. It is free.” Peter replied with some exasperation. “Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol tables?” the old man asked timidly. Peter lectured, “That’s the best part. You can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and never get fat or sick. This is heaven.”

With that, the old man went into a fit of anger, throwing down his hat, stomping on it, and shrieking wildly. Peter and his wife both tried to calm him down, asking him what was wrong. The old man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault. If it weren’t for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!”

Today, I want to talk about “the things we can’t buy with money.” Basically, we can buy almost everything that we want if we have enough money. We can buy a beautiful mansion, golf club membership, clothes, shoes, jewelry, and good food. We can even pursue good health and nutrition by buying special food, health supplies, and medical support if we have enough money. Also, we can take a worldwide cruise or extravagant vacation if we had enough money. What else could we buy if we had a lot of money? Simply put, we could buy almost anything if we had the money.  Therefore, many people pursue wealth to have enough money to meet their needs. I wonder what it would be like if we said “enough” focusing on money. Perhaps, those who seek to be wealthy would never be satisfied. Such people, tend to place value on things based on money, even with regards to their quality of life. For such people, money is everything. In other words, they live in a money-centered world, so-called “Mammonism.” At this point, let’s think about what things we cannot buy even though we have enough money?  Things like life, faith, salvation, and eternal life.  These are things that cannot be bought.

Jesus used to say if we pursue “mammon,” we cannot serve God. Furthermore, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money. Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:24-25). It sounds like he means if we pursue money, or we are rich, we are not suitable to be Christians. In other words, it sounds like, “don’t worry about money or materials because God provides you everything you need.” Furthermore, it sounds like, “you don’t need to work for money.” Suppose it does explain why we see people in poverty and why my neighbor is rich and not me. Therefore, we should understand God’s Word correctly. I hope today’s scripture helps us better understand what Jesus meant about money.

In today’s scripture, the master heard his steward squandered his property, called him, and said, “I heard about you. Give me an accounting of your management because you cannot be my manager any longer.” The steward is about to lose his job and thinks about his situation, ‘What can I do? If I lose my job, how can I get the other job? What do I do? If I get a job to be a farmer, I don’t have enough strength to dig. But I don’t want to be a beggar on the street because it is too shameful. What am I going to be?’ At this point, we must know about “the steward” in Israelite society. A steward was the person to manage everything the master had. In other words, the master gives the steward all authority to manage his property, such as selling or buying, lending or borrowing, dealing with trading all his master’s possession; he could make all trade related decisions for his master. The steward even  had the right to use his master’s signature, which means he must be his master’s most-trusted person.

Back to the scripture; the steward has a chance to correct his accounting record before submitting it to his master because his master told him, “Give me an accounting of your management.” He decides to fix the trading account recorders before losing his job. In other words, he decides to give the master’s debtors mercy with his final authority. He thought if he did so, the people might welcome him into their homes even after losing his job. So, he called his master’s debtors individually and discounted their debts. We can find how he used his master’s money in today’s scripture, verses 5 -7. He asked the first, ‘how much do you owe my master?’ He answered, a hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’

What do you think of his work? He even fabricated documents, not by his hands, but asking the debtors to create them themselves. Even though the master sees the documents, he may not find out it is the fabricated document. We may assume the master gets angrier with him. However, surprisingly, the master commends him. Let’s see verse 8: “His master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.”

According to the Book of Deuteronomy, Israelites couldn’t charge any interest between their people, “You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent” (Deuteronomy 23:19). However, the leaders made the laws distorted for their greed. They added the interest to the actual portion they lent. The reason the master commended him is he noticed what he was wrong and corrected it shrewdly. So, “the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light” means, somehow, non-Christians are wiser than Christians in dealing with worldly wealth.

The dishonest steward thought if he gave charity to the debtors, which would be his last decision of authority, they might welcome him into their home. That’s a non-Christians’ limited idea. They live in a limited world and may pursue to gain more wealth. However, an eternal home can’t deal with money. Christians pursue eternal life, and we don’t store wealth in the world but in heaven. We save our money in heaven to share it with our needy neighbors. Jesus says, “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.” Dishonest wealth means worldly wealth. Worldly wealth itself is not a wrong tool. Instead, it is essential for our earthly lives. However, depending on how we use material wealth, we may be dishonest or honest stewards of God. God chose us as his stewards and entrusted us with everything to manage in the world. You have the authority to handle everything God has given you. How are you going to manage it? That’s your choice. Thanks be to God, Amen!