(Sermon Easter 3, 2012 – St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Brighton – Fr. Rob Sweet – Gospel Reading: Luke 16:1-13)

 

I heard a story about a man who asked God an intriguing question:  “Lord, what is a million years like to you?”

 

God replied, “To me, a million years is just like a single second of your time.”

 

Fascinated by this, the man queried further, “What about a million dollars?”

 

God answered, “To me, a million dollars is just like a single penny.”

 

On hearing this, the man gathered enough courage to ask, “Lord, could I have one of your pennies?”

 

The Lord replied, “Certainly, my child.  Just a second.”

 

Here are some interesting facts about the mention of money in the Bible:

 

“The Bible contains more than five hundred references to prayer and almost five hundred references to faith, but there are more than two thousand references to money and possessions.

 

“Out of thirty-eight parables that Jesus told in the Gospels, sixteen deal with how we handle our money.

 

“Jesus said more about money and possessions than about heaven and hell combined. One out of every ten verses in the Gospels deals with money or possessions — 288 verses in the four Gospels.”[i]

 

How we handle our money is a good indicator of the spiritual condition of our heart.  Today’s Gospel reading is about managing money. 

 

Our Lord Jesus tells the parable of the dishonest manager.  This man has been squandering his master’s property.  When he finds out that he’s about to lose his job, he comes up with a plan. 

 

He realizes that he is not strong enough to do physical labour and is ashamed to beg. 

 

So he decides to make some friends, in the hope that they will welcome him into their homes when his money is gone. 

 

He calls the debtors in one by one, and reduces what they owe.  Imagine their delight when the bill is suddenly significantly smaller!

 

Now, the strange thing is the reaction of the master.  He commended him -- “because he had acted shrewdly”. 

 

We must think about this carefully.  We do not know what kind of person the master is.  We are not told.  Perhaps he too was dishonest.  Maybe that’s how he made his money.  And maybe not. 

 

Whatever the case, he was impressed by the shrewd action.  Perhaps he was thinking: Well, this guy may be dishonest, but he’s certainly clever.

 

Our Lord is telling this parable to his disciples.  Jesus is the Light of the world.  His disciples are “the children of light”. 

 

And he says, “The children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light”. 

 

His point is: Worldly people know how to influence others for their own gain.  And those who belong to Christ should know how to influence others too – but with a different goal in mind, and we’ll identify that in a minute. 

 

As we serve God, we are to act shrewdly.  Be creative.  Be dynamic.  Be resourceful.

 

Now Jesus gives some instruction that could be misunderstood.  He says, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes”.

 

There is so much corruption in this world that money itself can seem evil.  But money is really a neutral thing – neither good nor bad.  What matters is the way we obtain it, the way we use it, and our attitude towards it. 

 

If we have received money through dishonest means, we need to stop using it for our own gain.  We need to stop, and seek God’s direction.

 

I remember something from a sermon by Charles Price of The Peoples Church, in Toronto.  He mentioned a friend of his who had become a Christian.  This friend was a partner in a business that had done the wrong thing.  It had misrepresented a product. 

 

When this man surrendered his life to Christ, he realized that he would have to compensate the customers he had wronged. 

 

He had to convince his partners that this was the right thing to do.  That wasn’t easy, because it would cost them a lot of money!  But they agreed, and they did the right thing. 

 

People are influenced by such examples of the Lord’s transforming power.  They reconsider the good news about Christ.

And this is the goal of making friends.  In the parable, the dishonest manager made friends who would welcome him into earthly homes.  But our Lord wants us to make friends who will welcome us into the eternal homes.

 

Our goal is to make friends with eternity in mind.

 

I want to recognize three significant points in this Gospel reading.

 

First: In the service of God, act shrewdly.  The children of light should be creative, dynamic, and resourceful.

 

Second: Make friends -- with eternity in mind. 

 

Someday, because of the Lord’s saving work -- and because we have believed in Him and received Him as our Lord -- we shall be welcomed into the eternal homes: welcomed by the Lord himself, and by many friends who have gone ahead of us! 

 

Perhaps they will say, “We remember your acts of kindness on earth -- how you showed God’s love to us.” 

 

And with great joy we shall know that we invested our time, talent, and treasure in relationships that last forever. 

 

Third Point: You cannot serve two masters.  Choose God over money. Use money for God’s glory.

 

Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and wealth”.  We have to choose who will be our master. 

 

Lyle Eggleston served as a missionary for many years in a little town on the rocky coast of northern Chile. In time, the congregation grew to about eighty adults, but Eggleston was concerned that the Christians in that area didn’t seem able to support their own national pastor. The people were very poor, and the church’s offerings amounted to no more than six dollars a month.

 

One day, Eggleston brought the problem to the Lord during a definite time of prayer.  A few weeks later he stopped to visit a middle-aged couple, new converts who had begun the habit of reading their Bibles every day.

 

They asked, “What does the word ‘tithing’ mean?  We ran into that in our reading, and we don’t understand it.”

 

Eggleston didn’t really want to answer the question, for he knew that Manuel and his wife were unemployed and on the verge of destitution. 

 

They were somehow managing to feed themselves and their twenty-five Rhode Island hens on the income from the eggs laid each day.

 

Nevertheless they insisted he explain the concept of tithing to them, so he turned to 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 where Paul urged believers to lay aside each week a portion of their income to the Lord.

 

The following Sunday Manuel handed Lyle an envelope and, smiling, said, “That’s our tithe!”  Inside were a few bills amounting to about 19 cents.

 

The next Sunday afternoon, the couple flagged down Lyle as he rode his bicycle past their house.  They had some exciting news. 

 

The Tuesday morning after they had given their tithe, there’s wasn’t a bite for breakfast, nor any money. 

 

Their first impulse was to take the few pesos that had accumulated in their “tithe box,” but on second thought they said, “No. That’s God’s money.  We will go without breakfast this morning.”

 

There was nothing to do but tend the hens.  Much to their surprise, there were eggs in the nests.  (The nests were usually empty at that hour.)

 

Later in the day, a little man came along with a pushcart wanting fertilizer.  They cleaned out their hen house, and the manure brought a good price. 

 

After buying groceries, there was enough money left over for the wife to purchase a pair of shoes, so she rode the bus 12 kilometers around the bay into a larger town.  There she bumped into a nephew she had not seen in five years …  [She found out], to her utter surprise, [that he] owned a shoe store.

 

After she had found just the pair she wanted, he wrapped them for her and handed her the package with these words, “Oh no, Auntie, I can’t take your money.  These shoes are a gift from me.”

 

The following week, Manuel got a job on a project that would last for two years, and soon the little couple was tithing on a much larger salary.  Word got around the church, and others began experimenting with giving. 

 

Soon the church’s income began to rise dramatically, and they were able to pay their own rent and utility bills, support a national pastor … and, in a short time, they were able to call and finance a pastor of their own.

 

Lyle Eggleston and his wife were able to move to a new location and start a new work -- as the little church grew in numbers, size, property, and faith.

 

Looking back on this, Eggleston said, “We had offered up a bit of prayer -- and 19 cents.  And God did the rest.”[ii]

 

This is the way our faith grows.  We do what we can do.  And God does what only God can do.

 

God has unlimited resources.  But he wants us to grow in faith by trusting him, and by doing those things that we can do.  God wants us to take action for his purposes and for his glory.  And God will do the rest.

 

As I finish now, I want to restate three significant points in the Gospel reading:

 

First: In the service of God, be creative, dynamic, resourceful.  Act shrewdly.

 

Second: Make friends with eternity in mind.

 

Third: Choose God over money.  Use money for God’s glory.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 



[i] from, Morgan, Robert J., Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, S. 344

 

[ii] as above