Luke 16

Read Luke 16

This chapter contains one of the strangest parables Jesus spoke in verses 1-8. It is about a bad manager who, when he was getting fired, gave deep discounts to the customers of his master (vv. 1-7).

The purpose of those discounts was to make the customers like him so that they would give him a place to stay after he was fired (v. 4). After wasting his master’s money (v. 1)–probably by making risky loans that went bad–this man lowered his master’s revenue even further by reducing the profit his master would make on the few good loans this bad manager made.

Think of it like this: Back in 2008, banks started to lose money on all the risky loans they had made. You made all your mortgage payments on time and would continue to do so even though your lender was going bankrupt on all your other loans. Imagine you owed, say, $50,000 on your house. Then the loan officer at your bank called you and said, “I’ve re-financed your mortgage; you now only owe $25,000. You can pay it off now, if you can or just keep making the same mortgage payment but you’ll be done much earlier.”

That would be nice, right?

But what if that loan officer got fired and needed a place to stay. Would you let him sleep on your couch for a while, or in your basement or spare bedroom?

It would be weird; but given how much money he saved you, wouldn’t it be worth a few months of free lodging?

If I were the master in this story, I’d be mad at the money manger for wasting my money and I’d REALLY be mad at him for giving such deep discounts to the few profitable clients we had left. But that’s not what the manager in the story did. Instead, he “commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly” (v. 8). Though he lost a lot of money, he had to admire how his ex-manager made a safety net for himself out of nothing. That was a shrewd thing to do.

Jesus applied this story to us and the way we use money. He commanded us to “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (v. 9). What does this mean?

It means be generous with your money and give it away to others instead of being stingy with it. After all, money all belongs to God, not to us (v. 12a). If we trust God, we’ll be generous knowing that our eternity is secure (v. 9). Generosity is the result of faith in God; it does not buy God’s affection.

But the reverse is also true–stinginess is the result of no faith in God. Instead, when we live like money is everything and should never be shared, we are revealing that we love money more than we love God (v. 13).

Think about how you use money. Does the way you save it and spend it reveal that it is your god? Or, are you growing in generosity because you are a servant of God?

What is one financial decision you could make today that would bring your money-management into greater alignment with your statement of faith?

Matthew 24

Read Matthew 24.

When I was in high school, I had a youth pastor whose father was a fire fighter in Detroit. Right around Christmas time, they were called to a house fire. When they arrived, one person in the family was missing. She had made it out of the house with the rest of the family but went back inside to try to rescue something.

She never made it out. They found her body a few feet from the door. In her arms she was holding an Intellivision–a video game console they had gotten for Christmas.

If your house were burning, what would you try to rescue from it? If your family was safe, the answer should be “nothing.” But we are physical creatures and we get attached to physical things. The disciples showed this when they pointed out how great Herod’s temple was (v. 1). But Jesus told them not to get too attached to it because it would be completely destroyed one day (v. 2).

Later on, when describing the same attack on Jerusalem, Jesus told them, “Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house” (v. 17). Instead, they should get out of the area as fast as they could (vv. 15-16, 20).

Material things are great and we need them. The problem isn’t that we enjoy material things or own material things or appreciate something that is well-designed and well-built. The problem is that we can be tempted to value material things too much.

When your material possessions (vv. 17-18) or your house of worship (vv. 1-2) or even your own life or acceptance by others (v. 9) matter more to you than serving God, you are not a believer. It is “…the one who stands firm to the end [who] will be saved” (v. 13).

But even if we have genuine faith in Christ that will stand the losses and tests of trials, we still can be tempted to get attached to material things. The antidote to that kind of materialism is