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Be Good Stewards of God’s Wealth

Date: 4 Sep 2022

Sermon Text: Luke 16:1-31 Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan



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Transcript

Introduction

Blessed Sunday to all.


Aug and September are months in which our public universities begin their terms. Eager young adults who have finished A levels and Poly, embark on a 3 or 4 year course hoping that it will result in them being able to secure a good paying job and a fulfilling career.


Came across this interactive table a few days ago. Very interesting how they are able to plot all the different university courses, their starting salary and even their employment rate. This is 2020 data.


If you want to have a challenging employment environment, then the Bachelor of Music is for you. And for those who seek full employability, then NTU Science with Education (I presume these are teachers) is for you.


And for those of us gunning for the highest starting salary, then the Bachelor of Science with honours is for you. It tops $6500/ month.


I wonder how the Bachelor of Divinity from Trinity Theological College would rank in this survey. I think it will definitely pull down the average starting salary but it might rank alongside teachers in employability.


The section title is SG Charts Rat Race. And it is very appropriate.


We are all running on this treadmill of salary chase because when we get down to fundamentals in our society, survival and success are always equated to financial terms.


Thus, society focuses on climbing the social-economic ladder. We seek to beat the inflation rate, secure our golden years and possibly passing some on to the next generation.


20 centuries ago, the struggle with wealth was just as real.


And Luke 16 is a whole chapter on Jesus addressing the temptations of wealth.

In the parable of the dishonest manager – the story begins with Jesus saying to his disciples:


Luke 16:1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.

Jesus follows up with the Pharisees who ridiculed Him for the parable, describing them as:


Lk 16:14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.

Jesus then ends with another parable about a rich man and Lazarus.


Lk 16:19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

Since money is still a great source of anxiety and if we are honest, totally dictates how we spend our waking hours, let us thank God that Jesus addresses it today in Luke 16.


And a sobering fact in Jesus’ teaching today is that our approach and attitude towards money and wealth has eternal consequences.


V9 speaks about the person entering into eternal dwellings. How we use money impacts our eternal destiny.


Lk 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

V16 gives us a picture of striving to enter God’s kingdom.


Lk 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.

V22 describes only 2 places we will ended up after death either in Abraham’s side or in Hades. And the destination is based on how the rich man and Lazarus lived.


Lk 16:22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades,

Church, since Scripture is saying that our attitude towards money and wealth has implications on our eternal destiny, let’s take the opportunity to use Luke 16 as a mirror to reveal the reality of our hearts.


Investing for eternal purposes (v1-13)

The parable of the dishonest manager has gotten many all frustrated as they read the parable. There has been a lot of debate about the dishonestly of the manager.


Whether what he did by conspiring with the debtors to reduce their debt was ethical and in fact, downright fraudulent.


May I submit that discussions on these matters cloud the actual point.


I think we have to realise that it is possible to commend a specific action in a person without approving everything he does and that it is not to be seen also as an approval of the person’s character.


The parable I submit, moves from the observable application, then backwards to the principle of why we do what we do. Like a funnel.


Lk 16:8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Jesus’ application point is found in v8-9. He is only commending to his disciples, the manager’s shrewdness. For the managers prudent decision to secure his immediate future.


So, Jesus tells his disciples, observe the ways of the world. Sons of this world (basically sinful humanity) knows how to invest such that they will benefit in this world. But know that this earthly benefit however is short-term.


Think about how hard we work, how creative we need to be in order to beat our competitor for that tender?


What persistence we have demonstrated to our employers for our product or service to have gained the market share in the past year.


Humans work so hard for our earthy but limited future.


Do the sons of light (redeemed sinners) work as hard and strive as long with regards to investing in eternal matters which have value forever?


Church, let’s reflect on our investment portfolio. Don’t talk about hard work, are we even investing our wealth, our resources on eternal matters?


And v9 hints to us that the way we secure our eternity with wealth is not spending it on ourselves. It is in blessing others.


It is making friends with it. And some of these friends might arrive in heaven before us.


The call is, are we investing for eternity? For the gospel work of being and making disciples of Christ Jesus?


So let’s hold up the Luke 16 mirror – (1) Direction - is our wealth investment towards eternal not earthy values? (2) Priority – is it for others and not self. (3) Effort – are we working just as hard to invest well for God?


By way of application, let’s consider something close to our hearts - the tuition industry.


We invest time and money on tuition to for our children to ace their school exams, to get into higher education.


Would we accept excuses from our children to get out of attending tuition? Can we be persuaded that they should only attend when they feel like it and that as parents we should not insist?


I’m sure we don’t buy that. We will do all we can to compel them either with the carrot or the stick.


We will re-arrange our schedules to accommodate fetching them there. Their future is at stake. They may not know it, but we do.


So, would we similarly invest our wealth in the spiritual education of your children?


Can we set aside time and money so that our children can attend all the programmes that may be organized by Hermon’s Children & Youth Ministry?


This morning, the parable’s instructions are - pragmatic Singaporeans use wealth to secure their limited future here on earth, therefore, believers, learn instead to use our wealth to secure our eternity.


Lk 16:10 “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. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

Now we take one step backwards and v10 – 12 elaborates why it is ‘our’ eternity. The verses tell us, that how we invest our wealth on earth is an index to our inner character.


The wealth on earth is little and does not belong to us. If we are faithful in how we use it, God will then give us eternal wealth which is of great worth.


Thus, how we use earthly wealth is an indication of whether we have faith in God and are commitment to Him.


The final verse of the parable goes to the core. How we invest our wealth indicates whether we serve God or Money. And Scripture is clear, we cannot serve both.


Lk 16:13 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.”

Wealth becomes an idol when we are investing in ourselves and for our future on earth. God, however, is shown to be our master when we invest in gospel work which builds up Kingdom disciples.


Church, we will be good stewards of our wealth when we work hard at investing it for eternal purposes.


Attitudes of the Kingdom (v14 to 18)

Though Jesus was speaking to his disciples on the parable of the dishonest manager, the Pharisees were listening in. And they sure did not like what they were hearing.


It must be that they were justifying themselves with using money for their own interest. So, Luke says, the Pharisees who were lovers of money heard all these things and they ridiculed him.


As Ps Luwin has shared, the Pharisees epitomise what it means to be religious and faithful leaders of the church. In their outward appearances you could not fault them.


Speaking about money, the Pharisees were known for being very strict about obeying the law of tithing.


Lk 11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Though they tithe religiously, God knew their hearts. They were instead lovers of money. Jesus says of them:


Lk 16:15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Mirror time - do we also know all the right actions to appear righteous before one another? Yet like the Pharisees, our hearts are instead not right with God?


Today, we need to be warned. We need to take heed that God sees beyond our actions and right into our heart. God sees through us.


Financial success is valued highly in the world. So are her cousins - fame and power. But Jesus has strong warnings for us – what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.


If we persist in doing what is abominable to God, it does give rise to the question, do we actually belong to Christ? Church, does not the Prosperity Gospel seem contrary to the thrust of Luke 16?


Lk 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. 18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

Verses 16 to 18 might seem an odd addition to the flow of thought in chapter 16. Why suddenly speak about the Old Testament and about divorce.


I submit, because Jesus wants to emphasize the need to repent and be part of God’s Kingdom which is now at hand, in the person of Jesus Christ.


God’s kingdom does not do away with the commanding claims of the law. Instead, the Law has already been summarized by the religious leaders in the parable of the Good Samaritan:


Lk 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

To get eternal life, to enter into God’s kingdom, this requires that we love God with all that we are and that includes all our wealth. Let’s not justify otherwise.


And doesn’t it fit so nicely that the Good Samaritan shows us how wealth is to be used.


To press home to point about Pharisees justifying themselves in the eyes of man, Jesus then uses the issue of divorce.


In those days, one rabbi taught that a man could divorce his wife if she burnt his dinner. Another, gave the acceptable reason for a man to file for divorce if he find someone else prettier than his wife.


Basically, they only paid lip service to God’s Word. In fact, they were finding loopholes for men to unbiblically divorce their wives.


God is consistent throughout the Old Testament and the New. He hates divorce. Marriage is a life-long bond. The husband and the wife, they are one flesh. Only God can separate.


So, Jesus points out to the Pharisees you are doing the same thing about wealth as they were to marriage. You justify suiting yourselves. Know that it is an abomination in the sight of God.


Church, the attitudes of God’s Kingdom are in opposition to that of the world. We are to be lovers of God not money.


We are to examine our heart’s motives rather than just be seen doing the ‘right action’.


May I share from an article, 3 check points to access if we have the attitudes of the world towards money. Do we identify with any of these:


  1. Lovers of money exalt the things of man – do we have a high opinion of people with wealth and status. Only they are considered successful.

  2. Lovers of money place their confidence in what they possess – do we trust in the digits of our bank account, our stock portfolio and our future career potentials?

  3. Lovers of money never have enough – is there no contentment. One more dollar is always better?


Let’s hold this up as a mirror today. Are we lovers of God or money? And when the truth hurts, let’s not justify.


The good news of the Kingdom is that Jesus has fulfilled all the demands of the law as Dn Pak Choon has shared last Sunday. The demands are still there but Jesus has satisfied it.


Now, He says to you and I, we have freedom to be a slave to righteousness. We have the freedom to obey Jesus and to glorify God’s Name.


Church, Jesus says, everyone is forcing his way into the Kingdom. It means that everyone must work at, must strive to enter the Kingdom.


It means it’s not going to come naturally to have the biblical perspective on wealth.

But since the stakes are so high, let us not justify like the Pharisees but ascertain that we seek to be good stewards of God’s wealth and to persevere in it, till God calls us home.


Current decisions, eternal consequences

As we have seen thus far, Luke 16 is about our attitude towards wealth. Now Jesus is not condemning those who are wealthy nor that poverty is preferred.


No, Jesus is teaching the appropriate biblical lenses to view wealth with. And the way we steward it will show where our heart’s treasure is.

Here we come to another parable. That of the rich man and Lazarus. We see the complete contrast between the 2:


  1. Covering - the rich man is clothed in purple and fine linen. Lazarus is covered instead with sores.

  2. Provision - The rich man feasted sumptuously every day. Lazarus desired to be fed with what fell from the table.

  3. Burial - Both died, the rich man was buried but nothing is said of any burial for Lazarus.

  4. Destination - the rich man ends up in Hades while Lazarus is carried by angels to Abraham’s side.

  5. Proximity – on earth, the rich man and Lazarus could physically meet each other. Lazarus lay at the rich man’s gate. After death, the chasm between them cannot be bridged.

  6. Post-death experience – the rich man is in anguish. Lazarus is comforted.

  7. May I submit our first observation is that death is no respecter of man. Death comes to all. And when that happens, we will go either straight to the Lord’s side or the place of torment.


And in the context of money then, how much you have, has no bearing on where you will end up.

It is implied here that Lazarus ends up by the side of Abraham because he believes in God. 3 reasons. (1) God is the one who sends His angels to carry Lazarus. (2) The name Lazarus also means ‘God is my help’. (3) The rich man says, someone needs to tell my 5 brothers to repent if not they will end up with me.


Secondly, we can observe that though money cannot influence our post-death destiny, how we use money here and now, has eternal consequences.


Jesus is highlighting that the rich man is spending all his wealth on himself. Clothed himself in purple and feasting daily.


That was definitely excessive even in those days. Feasting was reserved for the main festivals and communal events like weddings.


Yet, right at his doorstep was Lazarus whom the rich man could help. And the rich man evidently knew Lazarus, for he could identify Lazarus from Hades. Yet, he did nothing for Lazarus when he was on earth.


There now seems the great reversal for both the rich man and Lazarus. Think about it. The rich man enjoyed his life for not more than 100 years. But now he will be tormented for all eternity.


And to help us see this point clearer, may I introduce us to the Proverbs 31 lady.

May I highlight 2 verses that shows she is wealthy and dresses well.


Pr 31:18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night… Pr 31:22 She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.

Since she is praised and held in esteem, God is not against those who have wealth. But in contrast with the rich man, we see 3 relevant verses that set her apart:


Pr 31:15She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. Pr 31:20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy … Pr 31:30 but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

To this lady, wealth was not to be horded for self-enjoyment but to be a blessing to others.


She was industrious in serving her household and looked out for those who are the last and the least.


She lived out what it meant to be a good steward because she fears God.

One final observation of contrast I would like to highlight is that of the gospel presentation.


The worldly view is that signs and wonders will do the convincing. If someone comes back from the dead, surely those living will heed the message.


There is another Lazarus mentioned in the Gospel, the brother of Mary and Martha. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.


But what effect did it have on the Pharisees? John records:


Jn 12:9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well.

Instead, God has ordained that Gospel presentation be done through the preaching of His Holy Scriptures.


Jesus says, they have Moses and the Prophets. That is sufficient. That to us is the Old Testament. And Jesus will later say in Luke 24: 27 that Moses and all the Prophets point to Jesus the Son of God.


And so, Jesus is instructing us of the sufficiency of His Word.


2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Let us thank God that we have the full Scriptures that will make us wise for salvation.


Therefore, from Luke 16 of Scripture, we are exhorted, understand biblical how to use wealth. When we use it for the last and the least, we display understanding of the heart of our heavenly father.


Live as sons of light with regards to wealth and we will be affirming that our eternal destiny is at Abraham’s side.


Conclusion

I pray that we will look intently at this Luke 16 mirror. May it challenge our approach and attitudes towards the wealth God has given to us. Our eternal destiny is a stake.


There was recently this article in the Straits Times - Childhood friendships can shape aspirations, career paths.


The article shares that children from low income, disadvantaged families, if they mix with those who are better well-off, can through their friendships experience a lift in their economic circumstances in the future.


To me it shows the positive influence of community relationships.


As we have seen in Luke 16, we cannot now look short term, that is just like the dishonest manager. We must however view things instead with eternity in view.


The challenge for us here in Hermon - can we be such a community where all who come in are uplifted in their understanding to move from seeking after unrighteous wealth to that of heavenly riches.


That we encourage each other not to justify ourselves before man, for we desire instead the approval of God and God alone.


That we do not seek the selfish indulgences of the rich man but instead the others-centred servanthood of the Proverbs 31 lady.

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