Where Will I Be Welcomed?
Wealth can be used for wickedness. If you open any newspaper or follow any news feed, you will quickly realize that this is true. Graft, greed, bribery and embezzlement—it’s all there. The same was true in Jesus’ time. In Luke 16, Jesus tells us this story: “1 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’” (Luke 16:1–2 NIV11-GKE)
In this story there’s a slave who is the manager of a household. This is a little out of our understanding today. But, while there were horrible examples of slavery throughout history, there are also examples of how, sometimes, people would choose to be slaves for a wealthy master rather than be on their own and be poor. So here, that’s what we have. He has used his master’s wealth for wickedness. And he is about to be called on carpet and held accountable. What’s he going to do? Is he going to run? Is he going to rise up and rebel against his master? Is he going to beg for mercy? Jesus tells us: ““The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—” (Luke 16:3 NIV11-GKE)
As we put ourselves into the shoes of this servant, the first detail we see are problems. He doesn’t want to lose his position and be kicked out of his master’s house. The first problem is his health—he is not strong enough for manual labor. The second is his pride—he is too ashamed to beg. Now, we would expect him to work from the problem to the solution. But that’s not what happens. Jesus says: “I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’” (Luke 16:4 NIV11-GKE)
Notice that before the servant thinks about a solution, he thinks out a goal. At the end of the day, what does he want? He wants to be welcomed into people’s houses if he’s kicked out of his master’s house. Right away we’re amazed and astonished at how thinking and smart this man is. We might think in terms of problem → solution. This man thinks in terms of problem → what do I want? → Solution. Smart indeed! But then what does the servant say? “5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 “ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ 7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’” (Luke 16:5–7 NIV11-GKE)
His goal is that, at the end of the day, he would be welcomed into other people’s houses even if he’s kicked out of his master’s house. So what is his solution? He calls in the people who owe his master money. He decreases their debt and then demands that they sign their name to it. Notice what he’s doing: he is making them complicit. They are joining in the crime with him. And if he gets caught, he is taking them down with him. So, finally, he is done. He has acted wickedly. So then, what will happen when the master shows up and calls him to account? We read: ““The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” (Luke 16:8 NIV11-GKE)
We read this parable and we’re waiting. We’re waiting for the hammer to be dropped and justice to be served. But the master comes back and commends the wicked servant. And this is so strange for us to deal with. But the motivation from the master’s perspective is this: If this servant is so smart and driven when it comes to cheating me out of money, how much more so will he be when it comes to making me money. A guy that is that smart might steal from me, but just imagine how much money he will make for me! So there’s the story. But how do we make any sense of the story? Jesus tells us: “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9 NIV11-GKE)
When thet servant got caught, what what was his goal? His goal was to be welcomed in other homes when he was kicked out of his master’s. And to get at this goal he used his brain to work with wealth. And that is what Jesus is asking us to do in these words. If wicked people can use wealth to get at their goals of having a home to be welcomed into at the end of the day, shouldn’t we? The servant used his brain to use wealth for bad. Can’t we use our brains to make use of wealth for good? And notice the pattern that Jesus lays out for us: First, we work hard enough and be wise enough to get and keep money. Second, we spend that money in ways that we gain friends. Third, as time goes by, we have the opportunity to share our faith with them. Finally, they die. And then we die. And even though the money is gone, our Christian friends welcome us into heaven.
But here is where we see our very own sin. For Jesus tells us: “10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? 13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”” (Luke 16:10–13 NIV11-GKE)
How do you think about money? Years ago, when I first studied these words, they struck me like a hammer. I thought of wealth as the way you get food for myself or for my family. I thought about wealth as a way to have fun. But I did not think much more about it than that. I did not think to even ask the question, “how can I use worldly wealth to gain friends and then, when they die, and I die, they will welcome me into heaven?” The servant used his brain for wickedness. And my sin was that I didn’t use my brain for that much at all. And if we don’t think it through we can very quickly end up where our words conclude here, that we end up serving money instead of God. We end up having our money use us instead of us using our money.
Where will you be welcomed? The same Savior who spoke this parable to his disciples is the same Savior who promised to them that he was leaving them to prepare a place for them. And because of this, as each of them looked forward to their own death, they could know that they would be welcomed in heaven. And the same is true for us. And all of this is true because Jesus died and payed for the times we didn’t think it through. We didn’t think through much beyond food and fun. And our money used us instead of us using our money. Those sins are covered and forgiven by Jesus’ death and resurrection. And because of this, we will be welcomed into heaven.
But let’s not finish here. Jesus invites you to go home today, and whether it’s on your commute to work or when you’re falling asleep at night, think this though. Use your worldly wealth. Don’t use it wickedly. But instead, think it through. How can you use your wealth and make friends? A few weeks ago, when Karin and the girls were gone, I went hiking up to the north shore to go hiking. And I met a guy there who saw my motorcycle. And the next thing I knew, I had a friend. He asked if mine was an “R”. He had a “G” version of that motorcycle. 20 minutes were spent just talking about motorcycles. And all it took was for me to buy, have and own a motorcycle. The irony, my dear friends in Christ, is that there are times that our possessions do the work for us. You go to a baseball game or to a gym or start a hobby and when people find out, they naturally talk to you. And if given more time, you have the opportunity to be their friends. And if what you have bought with your money is important to you, what eventually you can share is what Jesus bought with his own blood: their salvation. For all the stuff we have will go away. But the real question is: where will I be welcomed when it is all gone? So be wise with your wealth. Use your wealth to make friends—real and true friends out there in the world. And then when it is gone, they will welcome you into heaven. Amen.