Is Cash Your King?
(Luke 16: 1-13)
Greed is good. That’s a line from the 1987 movie Wall Street starring Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko. At a stockholders meeting Gekko grabs the microphone and addresses the assembly about what is wrong with the company and why the individual stockholders aren’t making any money. In his speech he says that “Greed is good.” “Greed works.” He makes the proposition that greed is what motivates the upward search of mankind for a better life and that greed will save the United States. Well, here we are 32 years later. I’ll let you be the judge as to whether greed has provided mankind a better life and has saved the United States.
And that’s the burning question we are faced with in our scripture reading this morning. Has our pursuit of the almighty dollar really made our lives that much better, that much more satisfying and fulfilling? Or, has our pursuit of the American Dream become a nightmare for some of us?
When I first read this scripture, I struggled to find the meaning. I struggled to determine who was the good guy and who was the bad guy. I went to my study Bible and my Bible Commentary to see what those more knowledgeable than me thought and found that there are several interpretations. My first impression was that the manager was a thief, had cooked the books and ripped his employer off. The scripture starts out by telling us that there was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. Apparently, someone saw what was going on and reported the irregularities to the rich man who called the manager in for a talk. The rich man asked; What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager. You’re fired! So, the manager thinks 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. This is a pivotal moment for the manager. Does he accept responsibility for his mismanagement, or does he go into damage control? Like many of my former criminal clients, he compounds his problems by digging his hole deeper. He says to himself; I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes. So he summons the people he’s been dealing with on behalf of his master and enters into a scheme to further cook the books. He does this thinking that once he is dismissed, these people will repay the favor and give him a job. Think about that for a minute as a prospective employer. You’ve mismanaged your previous employer’s business and now come to me with a proposal to further rip him off and you want me to hire you? Yeah, right. When can you start?
Ironically, his master commended his dishonesty because he had acted shrewdly, and Jesus points out that the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are children of the light. Now here, I’m not sure exactly what Jesus means when he says; 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. I’m thinking maybe that he is being somewhat sarcastic. Like, “How did that work out for you?” Jesus comes to his point when he says; 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. To me, this sounds like he’s talking about that slippery slope when you take that first little dishonest step that you rationalize as; “Why not? Everyone else does it.” And then the dishonesty gets a little easier each time you’re faced with a decision between right and wrong. I saw this in some of the people I represented who had been charged with Embezzlement. They were basically good people but had rationalized that first misdeed and then the slope got more and more slippery. I had one defendant who was the president of his local youth league and had access to the league account. When he lost his job, things got tight and he started dipping into the account to make ends meet. When he saw other families going on vacation he thought, why not? My wife and kids deserve a vacation.” He made the mistake of charging some meals in Galveston on the league credit card which made it harder to conceal his mismanagement. His defense? “I was always going to pay it back.”
Jesus then says; 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? Jesus goes right to the heart of the matter and says; 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. Greed is not good. Cash is not king. Greed cannot give mankind what it is searching for and will save no one, not even the United States of America.
This is what the Apostle Paul is saying in 1 Timothy 6: 10, when he says; One can truly love either God or money but not both. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. The money the manager was managing for his master was not evil, it was the manager’s love of money and his inability to manage it that led him to compound his misdeeds where he continued to defraud his master and enlist others in his scheme. John Wesley, the founder of our Methodist denomination said; Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way into my heart. Wesley also said that if he died with more than twenty pounds in his pocket to consider him a robber and a thief. He knew that the money he had was not his. It was God’s money for him to use wisely to support himself and his family and to use in God’s service to others. He lived by the creed of: make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can. Wesley made a lot of money and was known for freely giving it away to help the last, the least and the lost.
Our use of the money at our disposal is a good test of the lordship of Jesus Christ if we remember the following: 1) Money belongs to God, not us; let us use our resources wisely. 2) Money can be used for good or evil; let us use ours for good. 3) Money has a lot of power; let us use it carefully and thoughtfully. We must use our material goods in a way that will foster faith and obedience. It is our duty to make wise use of the financial opportunities we have, not to earn heaven, but so that heaven will be a welcoming experience for those we help. If we use our money to help those in need or to help others find Christ, our earthly investment will bring us eternal benefit when we finish the race and are lauded for being a good and faithful servant.
When we obey God’s will, the unselfish use of possessions will follow. But we have to be careful, because money can easily take God’s place in our lives. It can become your master. When you become a slave to money you think and worry about getting it and keeping it frequently. You give up doing what you should be doing or would like to be doing in order to make more money. You end up spending a great deal of time caring for your possessions and not what really matters. You find it hard to give your money away, even for a good cause and, you may even be in debt or over-extended at best. Money is a hard and deceptive master. Wealth promises power and control, but often it cannot deliver. It can be a beast with an insatiable appetite.
God, our Master has entrusted us with riches and resources to invest for him in his service. Is he getting a good return on his investment? Are we squandering and mismanaging that of which we’ve been entrusted? As a church, I firmly believe that God is getting a pretty good return on the investment he has made in this church, and it seems the more return he gets, the more he gives us to invest. As Jesus said; Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. How much better it is to let God be your Master? As his servants we have peace of mind and security, both now and forever. Let Jesus, not cash, be your king and the master of your life.
Please pray with me.
All to Jesus we surrender, all to him we freely give. He is our king and we love and trust him, and in our daily lives we feel his presence. At his feet we humbly bow and for him all our worldly pleasures we would give. We pray that He makes us wholly His and that we truly feel the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we surrender ourselves in his service. We earnestly pray that we are filled with the love of Christ and that His blessings fall upon us. Through His love and mercy, we feel the joy of full salvation and give glory to His name. In the name the Prince of Peace, we surrender all. Amen.