I was looking at my retirement account the other night and wondering how to get the greatest return in 2017. I was thinking…“Hmmm. The stock market is at an all-time high. Interest rates are projected to go up. Gold is down and oil is going up. And Trump is shaking things up. So what should I do?” I will admit right now that I didn’t have a clue and I was not even sure who to listen to.
But it did cause me to reflect on the investment advice Jesus gives in Luke 16. (And you can count on his guidance being 100% on the mark!)
In this parable, Jesus tells of a manager who was about to be fired. Worried that he would not be able to provide for himself, the dishonest manager ingratiates himself to those who are indebted to his master so they’ll take care of him when he loses his job. Jesus then tells his disciples what they are to learn from his parable.
“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings…. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?”
(Luke 16:9, 11-12)
Here is my paraphrase. Use worldly wealth to make friends who will greet you when you enter heaven. If you are not faithful in the use of your money, don’t expect heavenly rewards. After all, your money is not really yours. It belongs to God. And if you don’t use his money for his purposes, what makes you think he will reward you?
For years I just paid lip service to these verses. And that’s because I did not truly grasp this foundational truth.
God owns everything. We are just his managers.
Despite being familiar with these truths for many years, I must admit to failing miserably at living them out. Being more concerned about accumulating wealth than honoring God, I was quick to keep and reluctant to give. Naturally, I earned a well-deserved reputation for being cheap.
But in 2012, Congress passed a law that was going to dramatically increase the cost of flood insurance on our Isle of Palms home. To escape this impact, Ceil and I decided to elevate our house by about eight feet. In making this decision, I had to fight a battle in my heart and mind about spending a lot of money. During this struggle, God impressed this truth on me: My house is not mine and my money is not mine. It belongs to God. So quit worrying about God’s stuff. He will do what’s best with his resources.
This was a truly liberating moment. It freed me from anxiousness over “my stuff” and worrying about tomorrow. For instance, now when I am faced with an unexpected expense like a car repair, I just say to myself, “If this is how God wants to use his money, then so be it.”
Having our grip on money loosened by understanding who it really belongs to allows us to begin living out this next truth.
As God’s managers, we must use his resources for his purposes if we hope to be rewarded.
Most people want to please their boss. When I was in the Navy, I was entrusted with significant resources. And my commanding officer made it very clear that I was to use those resources to accomplish the Navy’s mission. And, if I did it well, I would be rewarded.
Likewise, God gives us his resources which we, his managers, are to invest wisely. This parable teaches that wise and faithful investing of God’s money will yield a specific return: people greeting us when we arrive in heaven. This should not be a surprise to us, for God sent his Son “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). And God has left us on earth to help other people get to heaven, to make disciples of all nations for his glory, honor and praise. Knowing this, it only makes sense that we should use our resources towards that end.
So, the question we should ask ourselves is, “Am I at least as concerned with growing my eternal reward as I am with my growing my bank account?” What is the focus of my investing? Is it primarily focused on increasing my pleasure and security or is it on extending the kingdom of God? As Randy Alcorn says in his book, The Treasure Principle, “You can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead.”