“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Luke 16:10-13 NASB)
Finances schminances, what’s the big deal? Why is Jesus so interested in finances? Most of the people in the crowds around Him didn’t have much “finance” to worry about. They were more concerned with the next meal. Of course that does beg the question of why they were in a crowd around Jesus and not working for that next meal. And still Jesus continues into finances as part of His discussion with His disciples (those having left everything to follow Him).
In this discussion Jesus contrasts having much and little, managing unrighteous wealth versus “true riches”, managing another’s and being given your own, and finally, serving two masters. Essentially, He says that if we can’t handle a little, why would we expect a lot? I’m fairly certain that some or many among the crowd were of the opinion that wealth was proof of God’s favor. So, they considered the source of wealth to be God. Jesus’ point has to do with the irony of wanting the blessings of God without first honoring God with the blessings already received.
This is like when I teach on “giving” and the response (or rather excuse) I get back is that the people are too strapped to give. They don’t have enough to give right now, but when they do, they’ll give more and then some. Jesus teaches that is not actually the case. Those unaccustomed to offerings when they have little, will not be overly inclined once they have much. Keep in mind that biblical giving is in proportion. So if we don’t even give the smaller amount when we have less, why would we be inclined go give the larger amount when we have more? Ten percent is ten percent, little or much. If we don’t do it at one end we’re not going to be doing it at the other.
But think through these contrasts. I’ve already touched on little versus much, but what about unrighteous versus true riches? What does that mean? I wonder if unrighteous wealth is that which is gained apart from the Kingdom of God? That doesn’t sound right since I believe that my Master gave me my job. It’s not vocational ministry, but I wouldn’t consider the money made to be unrighteous. On the other hand, the corporation for which I work is not what I would consider righteous either. Does that make the money I’m paid unrighteous?
I think in this case I would again defer to the historical context and say that it may refer to those with wealth gained prior to their relationship with Jesus. I don’t have any proof of that though, it’s just an easier interpretation, absolving me of any requirement to apply it to my current situation, except where some rich person joins our church and follows Jesus as His disciple, at which time it would apply…still, kind of a cop-out as well.
The other though may be easier. Being faithful in what is another’s could refer to the “stewardship” used to refer to how we manage our households. In other words, seeing all you have as truly belonging to God, and yourself as His steward. If so, then what is “your own” you might receive later? Heaven? Not sure on that one, but I would hesitate long and hard before I made how we manage our finances the key to our gaining heaven. It may be a marker of how dedicated a disciple we are, or perhaps whether or not we’re a disciple. But it does not work as criteria used by our Master for who He allows into His heaven.
The final statement, serving two masters, is not that difficult. Matthew uses it in the Sermon on the Mount. And who hasn’t seen this truth in the lives of people attending church who seem more caught up their things than the Kingdom of God? It’s easy to fall away from church attendance unless we engage in it. Each summer here people seem to vanish each weekend. Is that sin? Well, sort of. It’s indicative of a choice to not be a disciple. It may not be that they hate God and His Kingdom, but it does seem they love their “recreation” more.
I think that this section can be understood as a nice corollary to the cost of discipleship. It’s about finances, but that is often one of the biggest deterrents to discipleship and the required devotion to Jesus. Let’s face it, honestly, isn’t it easier to let our relationship with Jesus lapse when we have more to enjoy doing? Sunny weekends, camping, boating, dining, traveling, enjoying life, you name it; it all can easily wind its way in between us and our Master. I get tired, stressed, frustrated, and so on; and the answer is to “get away”. Why is it always getting away from church though? It’s work and daily grind of the week that stresses me out, but I when I get away it’s from my family of fellow disciples. Really?
What do you really think about these contrasts?