Manage God’s Gifts
18th Sunday after Pentecost
Manage God’s Gifts
1. With proper wisdom
2. With proper focus
Text: Luke 16:1-13
Have you been to Hollywood before? If you have been there then you know, it’s not really all that it’s cracked up to be. The couple times I’ve been there I’ve thought the same thing each time. It’s dirty. It’s dingy. It’s run down. I even felt dirty and gross as I walked through it.
But go nearby to Rodeo Drive or Beverly Hills and it is a completely different story. It is astounding to people watch. It is astonishing to drive by all the fabulous houses. It is amazing to walk by all the stores and window shop (window shop because one watch costs more than my salary for three years).
The same is true in a place like New York City. Every time I go there I can hardly believe what I see. The skyscrapers. The penthouses. Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue. Wall Street. Incredible!
How about West Palm Beach down toward Miami and South Beach? I took a boat ride once on the Intracoastal from south Pompano Beach down toward Miami. The houses and yachts were jaw dropping. There are hardly adjectives appropriate for accurately describing the wealth and success and grandeur of these kinds of sights.
The parable Jesus tells today makes me think of these places. Jesus said at the end of verse eight: “The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Isn’t that the truth! We can find examples all over this globe of unbelievers who are often more shrewd and wise in the business world than believers often are. Sometimes Christians can be so innocent and careful in their godly choices that they get trampled on by the “big dogs” of the world. Not always. But often this is the case.
Jesus’ parable is a good example. A rich man fired his manager who had been wasteful with his possessions. The manager was afraid and unsure of his future. He didn’t know what to do. Finally he decided to call in people that owed his master money. He cut them both deals to pay off their debts for less. The shrewd manager was going to take the money and run and use the newly gained friendships to his benefit.
Make no mistake. This manager was dishonest, a liar, a cheat, and a thief. But at least he was careful, he was clever, he was creative, and he didn’t give up. This is what Jesus means when he says that the manager was shrewd.
This is also an example how people of this world are often more shrewd and cunning with money and possessions than Christians are. There’s a reason that more of the rich and famous are unbelievers than they are Christians. They will lie, cheat, beg, borrow, and steal as they act shrewdly with their money and possessions.
Please be clear this morning. Jesus does not want you to become a thief. He does not want you to make it your goal live in a mansion by any means necessary. He does not want you to cheat your boss if he fires you. But this he does want: He wants you to manage the gifts he has given to you. First of all, he wants you to manage them with proper wisdom.
Wisdom and possessions are not two words that you often hear in the same sentence in America. We love our freedoms and our capitalism and our entrepreneurialism. But it often gets the best of us.
We watch infomercials and buy junk that is As Seen on TV. Somehow we convince ourselves how much better our life would be if we had that new gadget or gizmo. After all, it is so hard to move my hand up and down by myself. I need a motorized toothbrush.
How much useless stuff do we waste every year? So much that we give it away or throw it away. So much that we have an annual school yard sale and the donated items fill every inch of the front sidewalk of our church, and then some. So much that we can’t even come close to selling it all at our school yard sale.
This is the country that got itself in deep hot water because Americans will max out every credit card and credit line, buy homes too big for their britches, buy cars too expensive for their salaries, and then buy more useless junk whenever we have the urge.
Note how Jesus isn’t teaching at all today about giving back to him or about offerings. That comes in other places. Today Jesus is simply telling us to use our blessings wisely. He wants us to be shrewd and careful. He wants to be wise, not wasteful. As he says in verses 10-12, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”
We have a very good and gracious God. He gives us countless blessings. We are used to talking about “my” stuff, “my” money, “my” things. What’s one of the first words a toddler learns? “Mine!” But really everything belongs to God. The hymn we sing so often says Praise God from whom all blessings flow. God is the one who gave us everything in the first place. He has trusted us to make use of everything he has given us.
Besides house and vehicles and food and clothing and money and a house and garage full of things, God has given to us the greatest blessing of all—his Son Jesus Christ. This is how good and gracious God is. Not only does he give us more than we could ever need, but he also gave up his Son to die for all of our sins. He gives us forgiveness. He gives us life with him in heaven.
The same thing is true about every single thing that God gives us—we don’t deserve it. But he still gives in his goodness and grace. Even if you have bought a few silly things on QVC or eBay. Even if you have been a little greedy or selfish at times. Even though you have sinned and really deserve his punishment. God instead gives you countless gifts, both physical and spiritual.
So Manage God’s Gifts to You with proper wisdom. Thank him daily for his love and forgiveness. Spend your God-given money on wise things like your family, your career, your savings, your retirement, your church, your school. Use your God-given money to take care of your earthly needs. As Jesus says in verse 9, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Using God’s gifts wisely means understanding that it will all be gone some day. It means using God’s gifts to gain friends and support friends and support yourself. It means being trustworthy with the earthly gifts God has given to you as you wait for him to give you the eternal gift of heaven. Manage God’s gifts wisely.
This shrewd manager we hear about today was a crafty and creative man. We can commend him for his wisdom. But that’s where the commendation stops. He was also a liar, a cheat, and a thief. A better choice would have been to work hard to collect those debts in full and earn his job back. A better choice would have been to quickly hit the Jerusalem job market and put his application out there. A better choice would have been to trust that even though he lost his job, God was going to provide for him. Instead he dishonestly took matters into his own hands.
We need one other reminder from Jesus today. He wants us to manage our blessings with proper wisdom and with proper focus. Jesus tells us this in the famous verse 13: “No servant 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.”
The shrewd manager may have acted wisely with his tricky scheme, but he did not have his heart in proper focus. Go back to all of those Beverly Hills mansions and the yachts of South Beach and all the success of the rich and the famous I mentioned earlier. We can learn from many successful people how to be more wise with our money and possessions. But we can also look to them as examples of people that often do not have proper focus. When the entirety of your existence amounts to the 10 houses you own, the 50 cars in your garage, and your rare collection of jewelry, your priorities are out of place.
The same is true for us. Though we might have far less than most mega celebrities, we still need to have proper focus. You might buy all your clothes from Kohl’s instead of Macy’s. You might buy cars with Ford symbols on them and not little jaguars. You might have several less zeros in your bank account. But even with a normal life, our hearts can still be out of focus.
We return to the old hymn: Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Everything we have in life comes from God. We would have nothing without him. If he wanted us to be homeless on the street, or living in a hut in Africa, or living off the land in the Outback, we would. But instead God has given us so many good and gracious gifts that we hardly know what to do with them all.
And he has given us his Son Jesus our Savior. And he has forgiven all of our sins. And he gives us peace and joy and hope. And he gives us eternal life in heaven.
Indeed, Praise God from whom all blessings flow! He has given us so many good and gracious gifts. He has trusted us with so much money and so many possessions. Best of all, he has mercifully trusted us with the good news of salvation to believe ourselves and to share with others.
That goodness and grace of God lead us to manage his gifts with proper focus. We can only have one master. We can’t serve both God and Money. Only one thing can be number one in our hearts.
But with such love and mercy and forgiveness and gracious gifts from our God, that becomes an easy choice. Gladly, we serve Jesus who gives us everything we could ever want or need and more. Gladly, we serve Jesus who gave himself for us. Gladly, we serve Jesus who gives us eternal life. Everything else in our life falls into place when we put Jesus first. That’s managing God’s gifts with proper focus.
Go back one more time to the lifestyles of the rich and famous I have mentioned today. Think about the endless sea of skyscrapers in Manhattan. Think about a fleet Navy ships and aircraft carriers in San Diego or Jacksonville. Think about mountains and prairies out West. Think about the beautiful sunrise and spectacular ocean we get to enjoy.
Then think about your own house. Four walls and a roof. That’s more than many in this world have. Thermostats to perfectly control the temperature. Refrigerators. Ice machines. Flat screen TVs. Pillow top mattresses. Dora dollhouses. Legos. Lawn mowers. Grills. Computers. iPads and iPhones.
Now think about your eternal salvation. Two hands nailed to a cross. Holy blood poured out for you. An empty tomb proving life. Forgiven sins. Glorious, endless riches in heaven. Life forever with your God.
So many good and gracious gifts from our God! Manage them with proper wisdom and with proper focus. Most importantly, manage them with a heart of thanks and praise.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below.
Praise him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Posted on September 22, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged Blessings, Church, Focus, Gifts, Hollywood, Jesus, Luke, Luke 16, Miami, Money, New York City, Parable of the Shrewd Manager, Parables, Possessions, Sermons, South Beach, Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.