A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on September 26, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Wise Money ManagementLuke 16:1-13Our text this morning is a hard one.  It’s about money management, and what makes this hard is people come to church to be comforted.  They don’t come to feel guilty over how much they give or not being able to keep up with everything.  In fact hearing about money in church is like going to the dentist and being told to floss more – we know that already; we don’t want to keep hearing about it.  Perhaps you’ve seen some of the Fidelity commercials.  A couple meets with a financial planner and as they step out of his office, there’s this green line.  Supposedly if they follow the planner’s advise, if they stay on the line, they will reach their financial goals, but without all the pressure.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there really was such a line?  Then we could just concentrate on living and not have to worry about where the money’s coming from or not paint ourselves into a corner by making dumb decisions.  But actually there is such a line.  In our text this morning Jesus Himself teaches us Wise Money Management.  As we listen may He give us joy in setting our goals and strength to stay on track.     We read in our text, “Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.  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.'”  In Bible times often rich people would have a position in government or maybe they’d have large factories or farms to run, and so they would hire a steward or a manager to take care their personal finances.  Now, a steward couldn’t do just whatever he wanted.  He would have to manage the rich man’s money according to the rich man’s guidelines.  You and I are stewards too.  Everything we have really belongs to God, and little later we’ll talk about His guidelines.  But getting back to the steward in our text, he wasted the rich man’s money on himself for whatever.  The rich man finds out and tells the steward to bring in the books, because being fired.    We read on in our text, “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-- I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.'  So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'  'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. "The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.'  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.'”  Do you understand what the steward was up to?  He reduced what each person owed the rich man, probably by as much as that person’s guilty conscience would let him get away with, so that later on these people would owe him a favor.  What would you say, then, was this steward’s goal in the way he managed the rich man’s money?  He was looking out for himself.  People of the world still do that.  As I said a moment ago, everything belongs to God.  Yet many are using God’s things to ever increase their standard of living, and then keep it that way even when they can’t work anymore, or better yet so they quit work and just enjoy life.   We read on, “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.  I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  A lot of Christians have been troubled by this parable.  Why would the master commend the steward for giving away half his money?  He wasn’t commending his crookedness.  He was commending his shrewdness.  Still, why Jesus would use someone committing a felony to make a point?  Well, at the time Jesus was surrounded by tax collectors and “crooks”, who had just come to faith.  What the steward did in this parable was the kind of thing they would have done.  And so, as Jesus is telling them this, we can imagine them squirming a little and thinking “ouch.”  However, now that they were God’s children, just like the steward used the rich man’s money to buy “friends”, so we are to use God’s money to win eternal friends.   And then when our work here is over, the people we helped into heaven through our offerings will welcome us as we walk through those gates.    Let’s think about that for a moment.  When you get to heaven is there anyone whose hand you’d like to shake and say, “Your words of encouragement made the difference for me”?   Or, “if you hadn’t been supporting mission, I wouldn’t be here now.”  When people thank us in heaven, at first we might feel a little uncomfortable, because we’ll know it’s only by grace we’re there too.  Also we’ll know that whatever we gave here on earth was only what God had enabled us to, and we were just showing our thanksgiving to Him.  But that God should then turn around and use our offerings to save others and praise us for what we didn’t deserve to be able to do, that’s grace on top of grace.    But what if someone could never give much in this life, because he never had much?  God doesn’t look at the amount.  He looks at the heart.  Yet if our goal is that as many people as possible make it to heaven, the amount we give will always be the best God has enabled us to, as long as we stay on track with our goals.   We read in our text, “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.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?  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.”  A person can say that he loves God first.  But it’s what he does with his money that shows what he truly loves and trusts most.  So, permit me to briefly share with you Jesus’ guidelines for all who love and trust Him.  Give generously a proportion or percentage of your income off the top before we do anything else with it.  In the Old Testament God commanded 10%.  In the New Testament God lets us decide, but let the amount show we’re trusting God to bless us in the future as He had in the past.  Let the amount also show our desire that others may know Him.   Jesus’ second guideline in wise money management is save wisely.   As much as it depends on us, God doesn’t want us to depend on others.  I know some people can’t help it, because God has laid a heavy cross on them.  But for the rest of us, we are to always work to best of our ability in order to take care of ourselves and help those in deed.  The purpose of saving, then, is so when we can’t work, we still won’t have to depend on others.   But how much does God want us to save?  The Bible doesn’t tell us.  A lot of financial planners have said that at least 10% of our income is wise.  Now, if it has to be less than that at this point in your life, or if it can be more than that right now, pray about it.  Yet remember your goals.  Wanting as many as possible to hear the Gospel will keep us from saving too much, and not wanting to be dependent on others will keep us from saving too little.   Jesus’ third guidance in wise money management is take care of your family.  Now, how much we budget for each thing as we care for our family needs to be balanced with giving generously and saving wisely.  Or, let me put it another way.  God loves to give us good things including a nice house, a nice car, nice clothes, and even I-phones and I-pads and so on.  However, the kind of things we actually buy should depend on whatever we can pay cash for after we’ve checked off everything else on Jesus’ guidelines. Wow, that’s radical these days – cash up front except for things that will pay for themselves or we have the cash flow to pay it off as soon as the bill comes.  St. Paul put it this way, “Owe no man anything, except the continuing debt to love one another – Romans 13:8.”  Ouch, just like the people in our text may have said ouch as Jesus spoke this parable, some of us might be saying “ouch”, because we got ourselves into all kinds of debt.  Please don’t become angry with me for saying this, but listen again to what Jesus says, “If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?” Here’s the point.  If we mismanage earthly blessings, we’re in danger of mismanaging spiritual blessings as well.  There is a connection between the two.  And so, if in the past you let your personal finances get out of control, seize control now.  Believe that Jesus paid for your sins, just like He did for the sins of the people in our text.  Believe also that you are a dear child of the Heavenly Father, who even has the hairs of your head numbered.  And now, in the peace of forgiveness, reaffirm your goals and in the joy of salvation get your finances on track according to Jesus’ guidelines.   As we do, things always work out.   Now, I am not promising that you’ll become rich in this life.  That’s up to God, and that’s not our goal anyway.  But what I can promise you in the Lord is that wise money management results in having greater contentment instead of worrying, and greater joy instead of frustrations.  And then after a life time of contentment and joy, it gets even better when our eternal friends welcome us home.   I wish I had the time now to make Jesus’ financial guidelines totally practical.  But if you would appreciate seeing real life examples of getting the most mileage out of each dollar God entrusts to us, talk to me today about Heart in Focus.  Heart in Focus is a Christian financial course that helps us remember our goals and stay on track.  But whether you join Heart in Focus or continue managing what God has entrusted to you without those helps, may the Holy Spirit increase your faith, so that your money management takes you closer to God, not away from Him, and so that you never mind it, when your pastor tells you what the Bible says about money.  Amen.     

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