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David Guzik's Commentary on Luke 16:9-18

David Guzik's Commentaries on the Bible

Luke 16 - Money and Righteousness

2. (9) Using money now with an eye to eternity.

"And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home."

a. Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon: Jesus transfers the principle illustrated by the story of the unjust steward to us - we need to use our present resources to plan ahead for eternity.

b. That when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home: The world is filled with financial planners and advisers; and it is good for Christians to learn how to use their money wisely. But when most Christians talk about wise money management, they forget to practice the most important kind of long term investing: investing with an eye to eternity.

c. The important thing is to invest your resources for the Lord now; most of us wait until the day when we think we will have enough.

i. In a 1992 survey, people were asked how much money they would have to make to have "the American dream." Those who earn $25,000 or less a year thought they would need around $54,000. Those in the $100,000 annual income bracket said that they could buy the dream for an average of $192,000 a year. These figures indicate that we typically think we would have to have double our income in order to find the good life.

3. (10-12) Faithfulness in the little things shows how one will be faithful in the large things.

"He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?"

a. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much: In these words of Jesus, money is considered to be one of the least things. Yet, if a person cannot be faithful in managing the things that are least, how will they ever be faithful in handling the things that are great?

i. If you are false and unfaithful in everyday life, even if you put on the Christian image, you are also false and unfaithful in your spiritual life - and no one should entrust you with spiritual riches.

b. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon: Why does Jesus call it unrighteous mammon? Because "Riches promise much, and perform nothing: they excite hope and confidence, and deceive both: in making a man depend on them for happiness, they rob him of the salvation of God and of eternal glory." (Clarke)

c. Who will commit to your trust the true riches? In this sense, those who are leaders of God's people must be good managers of their own money. If a person can't be faithful before God with the money He has given them, how can they be faithful with the care of people?

i. This certainly does not mean that leaders in the church have to be wealthy or make a lot of money. It is an issue of how they manage the resources God has given to them, not how great their resources are.

ii. Unfortunately, when it comes to the question who will commit to your trust the true riches, far too many Christians are willing to entrust their spiritual care to a person who can't even care for the things of unrighteous mammon.

d. If you have not been faithful in what is another man's: here, Jesus seems to be referring to the fact that all our riches belong to God, and we must see that we are managing His resources. Faithfulness in this will result in blessing that is our own.

4. (13) No one can be faithful to more than one master.

"No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

a. No servant can serve two masters: Having two masters is not like working two jobs; here, Jesus has the master and slave relationship in view. A slave can't belong to two masters at the same time.

i. Jesus states that serving two masters is a simple impossibility. If you think that you are successfully serving two masters, you are deceived! One can have both money and God; but one cannot serve both money and God.

ii. Certainly, Jesus is talking about the heart here. Many people would say they love God, but their service of money shows that in fact they do not. How can we tell Who or what we are serving? One way is by remembering this principle: you will sacrifice for your God. If you will sacrifice for the sake of money, but will not sacrifice for the sake of Jesus, don't deceive yourself: money is your God.

iii. On a Friday afternoon in 1990, a businessman staggered to the steps of his Los Angeles office. Before he died of the gunshot wound to his chest, he called out the names of his three children. But he still had his $10,000 Rolex watch clutched in his hand. He was the victim of a rash of Rolex robberies - and was killed as a sacrifice to his god.

iv. A 1992 story in the Los Angeles Times told about Michelle, a successful writer and editor, who fears the day her husband might discover her secret stash of credit cards, her secret post office box or the other tricks she uses to hide how much money she spends shopping for herself. "I make as much money as my husband . . . If I want a $500 suit from Ann Taylor, I deserve it and don't want to be hassled about it. So the easiest thing to do is lie," she explains. Last year, when her husband forced her to destroy one of her credit cards, Michelle went out and got a new one without telling him. "I do live in fear. If he discovers this new VISA, he'll kill me."

v. A school teacher explained more: "Men just don't understand that shopping is our drug of choice," she joked, even while admitting that some months her salary goes exclusively to paying the minimum balance on her credit cards. "Walking through the door of South Coast Plaza is like walking though the gates of heaven. God made car trunks for women to hide shopping bags in."

vi. A young professional named Mary explained: "Shopping is my recreation. It's my way of pampering myself. When you walk into [a mall] and you see all the stores, it's like something takes over and you get caught up in it."

b. You cannot serve God and mammon: Some think that just because they are not rich, they can't be a slave to money (mammon). But you don't have to be rich to serve mammon; the poor can be just as greedy and covetous as the rich person is.

5. (14-15) Jesus responds to the Pharisees' derision.

Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God."

a. And they derided Him: The derision of the Pharisees was based on their own self-interest. They were lovers of money. Often we reject the message of Jesus because it hits too close to home.

b. You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts: It is one thing to justify yourselves before men, because smooth words and a "loving" smile can deceive men. But God knows your hearts - when you are serve another master, it is impossible to be justified before God, no matter what men think.

c. God judges our hearts with a different set of values: for what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God. Men may honor you because of your wealth and your public display of spirituality. But God sees who you really are.

6. (16-18) The unchanging nature of God's law.

"The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery."

a. The law and the prophets were until John: Now, since that time (the time ending with John the Baptist's ministry) the good news of a new covenant is presented, with an order that is different than the law, yet it fulfills the law.

b. The kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it: In Jesus' day, there were hundreds of revolutionaries willing to use great violence to bring in the kingdom of God. While we do not imitate their violence, we do imitate their dedication, their willingness to sacrifice, and their passion to see the Messiah reign. We are at war!

i. But the new order that we must press into is not an order of rebellion; it is a new order of submission and obedience to God; His new order fulfills the law.

c. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery: For example, the law concerning marriage is still binding - no matter how some Rabbis may try to explain it away. Some Rabbis taught that if a woman burned her husbands breakfast, it was grounds for divorce. Others considered finding a prettier woman to be acceptable grounds for divorce.

i. Jesus here teaches the ideal regarding marriage and divorce, and it is dangerous for us to for doctrine on isolated statements of Jesus without taking into account the whole counsel of His teaching.

d. But if you won't respond to what God has clearly shown you (such as what the Bible teaches about divorce), how can you hope to receive His Word on other things? We must be careful that we never do what the Pharisees did: show an outward agreement with the word of God, but inwardly resisting it and thus denying it.

Copyright David Guzik, Siegen, Germany.

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