Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, “What have you done?” Those are chilling words, aren’t they? Has anyone ever asked you that question? Maybe the principal? Maybe your parent? Maybe your manager or your boss? Maybe a police officer or a judge? “What have you done?” That can be an ominous question, right? Especially when you know that you were wrong, especially when you were caught dead to rights doing something that you were not supposed to be doing, “What have you done?” Caught. Guilty. You did wrong and you knew it. It’s one thing to be on the receiving end of that question, but what about when you’re the one asking, “What have you done?” Maybe someone did something wrong to you, maybe someone hurt you in some way. Imagine that you had someone investing most all of your money and you found out that they made very poor decisions and lost most or all of your hard earned money. How would you react? “What have you done!”
In our text this morning Jesus tells a parable that plays out that very scenario where someone is caught mismanaging goods and Jesus gives investing advice. Did you know that? You can have website subscriptions or magazines about investing advice, but here in our text Jesus gives investing advice.
And Jesus does it by using a parable – an earthly story that has a spiritual truth for us to remember. Jesus was the master storyteller. And this is one of those parables that after we hear it we’re intrigued and we’re left scratching our heads asking, “What does he mean by that? What is he getting at?”
There’s a rich man who had a manager. The manager was in charge of managing the rich man’s goods. Well, word had come to his master that he had been wasting, squandering his master’s goods. So, the manager is brought in to give a final accounting before his firing becomes official. He grows nervous and pale as his career counselors inform him that the only jobs he has before him are digging or begging. He doesn’t have much time to consider his options. He knows that his reckoning is coming and that he’s about to lose his job. But then it dawns on him: His masters goods are still for a short time in his hands. So, he hatches his plan about what seriously focused effort could accomplish in that limited time that he had. He acted decisively, shrewdly so that after he loses his job people will befriend him.
With no time to lose, we find our manager (to put it in modern terms) running to his computer printing off the accounts of his master’s debtors, shooting them quick text messages to meet him in his office immediately. When they arrive, he hands them the record of their debt, “How much do you owe my master?” ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil.’ ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.” “And how much do you owe? ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ Knock off two hundred bushels. And, just like that his master’s debtors become his debtors. He won’t be sweating in any ditches, but he has plenty of warm meals laid up for him from his new found friends.
Then Jesus says, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” What? What a turnabout! Were you expecting to hear that from Jesus? But what about next? Next he shoots an arrow into our hearts, “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of light.” Here we are shaking our heads at this scoundrel and what does Jesus say? This shrewd manager puts us to shame! This shameless man puts us to shame! “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
How does this man put us to shame? What’s Jesus’ point? This is an unusual parable. Most of the time when we have parables there’s a contrast between a good person and a wicked person: rich man and poor Lazarus, the Pharisee and the tax collector. But here we have a scoundrel who remains a scoundrel and in the end, he becomes an example for us. Now, what’s Jesus’ point. With parables Jesus doesn’t want us to get all caught up with the details. There’s one main point, one take away, one punch line. What is it? The man was dishonest, but he could read the situation he was in and act according to reality. He knew his time was short and he acted shrewdly in the reality that he was in. He made the most of his situation.
There are so many people who believe in God, believe in Jesus, but walk around foolish with their lives and not making the most of it. Investing their life and their things foolishly. God wants us all to closely examine our lives and repent so that we can make the most of our lives while we are still here. This man in the parable understood the situation he was in: My place in this position is coming to an end, he only had a few moments left to make sure that he was ok. Our lives are coming to an end. Think about everything that you have, everything that you are, every relationship that God has blessed you with, everything that you possess, it is all going to come to an end. It won’t last. So, what does it mean to make the most of it?
The world says, “I have to make the most of everything that I have for ME!” That’s the people of darkness, the unbelievers. In a certain sense they put us to shame. They’re zealous, intent, single-mindedly focused serving money, self, stuff, getting more. In fact, they’re shrewd and cunning and good at it! But it won’t last, it will end. And then here we stand. Outdone by unbelievers who serve a god that is no god. Our devotion to the one true Lord is so far less zealous, less focused, less earnest. Maybe people in the world even understand Jesus’ words better than we do: “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.” They get it, they understand, they devote their whole short life with single-minded devotion to worldly stuff, no real constraint to serve God. And then here we are, a little service to God here, a little service to money there. And so compared to the world and it’s devotion to its god of stuff, we pale in comparison.
But the time is short. Some retirement experts advise to save for retirement as if you’ll live to 100 years old. Do you know how many Americans live to be 100? 0.0173 % actually reach 100. 4.7% live to the age of 90. A term that we sometimes use is the term “disposable income.” That’s not a spiritual term, that’s really a worldly term. That’s not from the Bible. Finally, every nickel that we own comes from Jesus, every opportunity to make money comes from God, every breath comes from God, he doesn’t dispose money on us nor does he give it to us to waste. He wants us to make the most of everything we have: “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
Is that now the way that Jesus lived his life? He could have been crucified at 98, but he chose 33. 33 years here and he never let one nickel, one moment, one thought be wasted. He used everything to gain friends. We were God’s enemies. We were the ones who have wasted our time, our money, our possessions. We were the ones who have given divided loyalty to God. And yet, what did he do? He made every minute count. He was the shrewdest manager of all. He sacrificed His life on the cross to make us His friends for all eternity! He even tells us that He’s preparing a place for us in heaven, a neighborhood with him and He wants us to live there with him forever!
And now He gives us a way of looking at our lives, this fellow made most of his time, when you use your time, your energy, your strength, your money to share Jesus with people, you are making friends for yourself in eternal dwellings. God gives you these little children to live in a home with you, we’re happy to have these friends, but we could starve them spiritually, so they won’t be our friends forever. What about our spouse? What’s the goal of marriage? To be happy? No! That’s not the goal, that’s the byproduct of making each other friends, friends in Christ, our goal is to make them our friend forever! Do you know we actually make friends with people we don’t even know? When you support our church which supports our church body, you’re helping to train future pastors and teachers who go out making friends forever – and they are your friends. Or supporting missions all over the world, people you never met, but are your friends forever!
Even your enemies, right? It started with Jesus, nailed to the cross and he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” And…an enemy on a cross next to him became his friend – you see, making eternal friends even to the very end. As Stephen was being martyred for his faith he prayed that God would forgive them. And who was there? Saul, Paul, who became a friend forever.
If someone doesn’t know Jesus or have faith in Jesus, they will go to hell. Life is short. Hell is hot. “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves.”
From time to time I hear people say, “I’m trying to figure out what my purpose in life is. I don’t know what my purpose is.” Jesus tells us what our purpose in life is: to make friends for eternity, to be an evangelist in the setting of life that each of us are in. Just open your eyes to see how God might use you and the things He’s entrusted to you to make an eternal impact on the lives of other people.
And one day, when your 70, 80, 90, 100 years are up, Jesus is going to show you around in heaven to this labyrinth of connections that we have made as we have connected people to Jesus. Imagine someone coming up to you and saying, “Look at what God did through you! Thank you for using your time, your energy, your strength, your money in the service to the Lord because God used it to make me your friend forever.”
Jesus lived the most shrewd life to save us, to make us His friends forever, So, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Amen.