“The Prudent Use of Wealth”

Luke 16:1-13

September 18, 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 16:1-13

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’

Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’

So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly;

for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?

No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

| Centering Prayer |

Our Gospel passage for this morning

is a parable

followed by three declarative applications.

It is traditionally titled “The Parable of the Dishonest Manager.”

While true, the manager was squandering his master’s property,

Naming him dishonest can misdirect the faithful from the points Jesus is attempting to make with his audience.

What is his point?

Context is important.

Here are some observations.

1. First, Jesus is in his final weeks before his

Arrest, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension.

It’s crunch time.

He is on the road,

Traveling from Galilee in the north

To Jerusalem in the south.

The closer to Jerusalem,

The larger the crowds.

Luke reports that the crowds were composed of

All the tax collectors and sinners, and,

Pharisees and scribes who complained about them.

2. Jesus is teaching in parables.

The parables of the Lost Sheep,

The Lost Coin, and

The parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

Immediately precede today’s

Parable of the Dishonest Manager.

The narrative of the Rich Man and Lazarus follows.

It is important to recognize that our parable for today

Is bookended by the Prodigal Son and His Brother and the Rich Man and Lazarus.

From a younger son who squanders his father’s possession by dissolute living to

The crisis of eternal life of Lazarus and a rich man sent to eternal Hades

We find a dishonest manager of his master’s treasure today

Smack dab, right in between.

3. The use of treasure and wealth

Is a common thread that draws our attention.

Jesus is teaching about what’s in your wallet and how are you using it?

He’s talking cold, hard cash.

Not volunteer time.

Not putting your skills and talents to use.

Jesus is talking about mammon

(Μαμμωνάς, Greek, def.- riches, money, possessions, property).

Cash, savings, pension, 401(k) and 403(b)s.

House, properties, and businesses.

The beginning of understanding Christ’s parable of

The Dishonest Manager

Starts with a personal review of your personal wealth.

4. The parable is a fictional story

Jesus created to

Communicate a deeper truth.

In the time of Jesus

It was common practice for wealthy landowners

To employ a professionally trained manager to manage their financial affairs.

They would have power of attorney,

The ability to buy, sell, borrow, and engage in business and commerce on behalf of the wealthy owner.

This shielded the rich from Jewish usuary laws, and,

Freed them to do whatever it is that wealthy people do.

Pass the Grey Poupon, please.

5. A professional manager, as we have in today’s parable,

Would earn their wage by adding a percentage of a loan

And skimming it off the top.

Let’s call it a “Steward’s Commission.”

Say a wealthy person had 60 containers of wheat to loan.

He could tell his manager to loan it out at an interest rate

Such that it would take 80 containers of wheat to pay off the loan.

The manager would mark up the loan to owe 100.

The rich man makes twenty.

The manager makes twenty.

It’s a pretty slick system for the wealthy;

Not so much for the poor debtors covered in sores laying at the gates. 

6. In today’s parable the rich man catches his manager with his hand in the cookie jar.

He was charged with squandering his property.

The manager neither denied the accusation,

Tried to defend himself, or

Attempted to beg off.

Guilty as charged.

What to do? He thought.

How does one respond?

How does one respond such that it his future is assured?

7. This is his plan:

Mark down each loan

By the amount of his cut.

This makes the debtor happy;

He or she feels they’ve received a discount.

This makes the wealthy man happy;

He or she has their loan paid off with interest.

The prudent manager doesn’t burn his bridges;

He makes certain

That the present crisis

Provides future opportunities.

What are we to learn and

how are we to apply what we’ve learned

to our circumstances?

Four things.

1. Keep yourself

future oriented;

You, personally,

And, in general, the Rush church family.

The temptation is to relive yesterday.

“Remember when” …

Our idyllic life growing up?

“Remember when” …

Our church was growing families, staff, and programs?

An equally dangerous temptation is to complain about today.

It is easy to become the victim of unrealized grief or loss,

To fester lingering feelings of rejection,

To blame the pandemic, prior or current pastors, and society as a whole.

Like the dishonest manager,

We can take control of our own destiny.

It is our choice,

Individually and collectively,

To plan and implement means to

Maintain our personal spiritual lives, and

To maintain and grow the vitality of the Rush church family.

The responsibility is shared.

The responsibility is ours.

2. We, children of the light,

(Disciples of Jesus)

Can learn from the children of the world,

Such as this dishonest manager.

The lesson isn’t dishonesty;

The lesson is prudence.

Prudent stewardship can be learned from

Your financial advisor from Goldman Saks as well as

The treasurer of the local Hell’s Angels gang.

Prudence is a universal virtue

that Jesus is teaching us to apply to our own lives,

Individually and collectively.

Discipline your financial and business life as much as possible.

Budget. Plan. Pay attention to details. Stick to it. Improve every day.

Trim spending on the self as much as possible.

Stick to the bare necessities.

Prudently put to use savings, assets, and property

To capitalize on present and future opportunities.

I’m look at Cindy, Michelle, and Eric;

Our chairpersons of the

Board of Trustees,

Finance Committee, and

Endowment Committee.

Is your committee acting with prudence?

Practicing good stewardship?

What are you and your committees doing well and what can you improve?

Budget. Plan. Pay attention to details. Stick to it. Improve every day.

3. Responsibility and fidelity in small things corelates with responsibility and fidelity in large things.

When it comes to personal wealth

God gives to some little,

To others much,

Each according to God’s will.

When it comes to the wealth entrusted to the church,

We’re talking about God’s money,

God’s property,

God’s affairs.

Handle with care.

‘nuff said.

4. Lastly, check your attitude about wealth.

No one can serve both God and wealth.

Ask yourself, will wealth govern my life?

Or, will God govern my life?

Are finances and property the purpose of our congregation,

Or, is our purpose

Discipleship to Jesus and

Loving neighbors in his name?

When wealth is managed prudently,

There is no anxiety,

There is absolute freedom to serve the Lord.

If all we’re focused on is wealth,

Obtaining wealth,

Growing wealth,

Using wealth for our own benefit,

Then we’re squeezing God out of our lives.

Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Trust in the Lord to take care of the rest. 

God has already given us more than we need.

Today’s question is

how will we use this amazing, abundant  grace of

Money, property, and income?

How will you put to use

your personal wealth

To serve the Lord

Prudently,

Responsibility, and with

Fidelity?

How will we,

As the Rush United Methodist Church family,

Use what God has given us to achieve the possible

Today and tomorrow?

Today’s Gospel is challenging;

But just wait to next week

When we find Lazarus begging at our front gate.

Amen.

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