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Sep 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 28, 2011

There was a rich man . . .” Luke 16:1 (read entire chapter)

INTRO: Francis Schaeffer once said: “We are often told, ‘You can’t take it with you.’ But this is not true. You can take it with you–if you are a Christian.”

Of course, the truth of this statement depends on what we mean by “it”
– regarding whatever money we accumulate, we can’t take it with us
– but we can send it ahead – or something like that

That is the message in the first part of this chapter
– the second half is about regret
– what is regret? It is a feeling of disappointment or sadness over:

  • something we did not do, but wish we had
  • something we did, but wish we had not
  • something we did, but wish we had done differently

Sometimes the issue we regret can be so severe we spend days in denial, hoping to wake up and find that it was only a dream

The second half of the chapter is a story, and it is the ultimate example of, “If I knew then what I know now”

Verses 1-8, A strange parable

Remember where we started – “You can’t take it with you”
– we’ll have trouble with this story if we set out on the wrong foot
– it is not about God or Jesus and his disciples
– it’s simply a slice out of everyday life that Jesus’ audience would immediately recognize

It was typical for wealthy people to appoint a slave to manage their household (like Joseph in Egypt; Ge. 39:4-6)
– they were responsible for the other slaves and the owners business and finances (accounting)

There is one simple lesson in the story: He prepared for the future
– Jesus compares “the sons of this age” and “the sons of light”
– “more shrewd” – insightful, wise (way a serpent is wise, Mt. 10:16)
– think ahead, act now

The sons of light know what lies ahead and yet they do little to prepare for it

Verse 9, The lesson to take home

This verse is the heart of the chapter
– mammon of unrighteousness: Aramaic, property and possessions, “wealth”
– “unrighteous money” sounds bad, inherently evil, dangerous
– like trace amounts of cocaine on most dollar bills-KJV, filthy lucre

We expect Jesus to say, “Don’t touch it!”
– but we can’t get away from it
– even the hermitage had to hire a fund-raiser to help makes ends meet (and so they could continue to live in poverty!)

The manager did not even have any money of his own
– but he made good use of the resources he had
– he made it serve his purpose — he used it to “make friends”
Helmut Thielicke, “The money will one day forsake him, but those whom he has helped will remain faithful to him and take him in.”

Those same tainted bills–that mammon of unrighteousness–can clothe and shelter the homeless, feed orphans, rescue a refugee, and so on
– Jesus’ point: The way to deal with money is to make use of it

Francis Schaeffer, “In other words, if you want to be wise, make friends by the way you use your money, so that when you die these friends who are then already in heaven will receive you into [eternal dwellings]. . . . all too many Bible-believing Christians live as though their entire existence is limited to this side of the grave.”

Another way to look at this is to make the one right Friend
Mt. 25:35, “I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat . . .”

Verses 10-13, Jesus moves deeper into the underlying issues

First, in regard to money–or any asset, advantage, or influence, God looks for one thing: Faithfulness

Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. (1 Co. 4:1-2; trustworthy is the same word translated faithful in Luke 16)

  • v. 10, what is true with a little is true with a lot
  • v. 11, if you cannot handle a flawed sample, you cannot be trusted with the real thing
  • v. 12, this implies that from God’s perspective, everything we have belongs to him
    – we are being tested to see how faithful we are with his stuff

In verse 13, Mammon is personified–it becomes a god
– Jesus’ competitor

The problem with money is not that
– it is a power, creates illusions, turns our values inside-out, or even that the love of it is a root of all kinds of evil
– other things can have the same effects
The problem is that it can come between us and God
– it can, in fact, become a god that sucks up all our time and energy

Verses 14-18, The Pharisees did not try to hide their reaction

When Jesus said, “Make friends,” the Greek word translated friends is philos
– here, Luke says the Pharisees were “philos of silver”
– so while Jesus advised the disciples to use money to make friends, the Pharisees come on scene as “friends of money”
– they had already determined their loyalty, and so they sneered at Jesus

Jesus gives them his diagnosis of their problem:

  • they justified themselves (their love of money among other things)
  • they did this in the sight of men
    – they felt they were alright if they could convince the crowd
  • but God knew their heart – the truth
  • things that find popular approval do not necessarily find God’s approval

The Law and Prophets were becoming overshadowed by gospel
– the kingdom was the fulfillment of Law and Prophets
– nevertheless, they were not dumped or obsolete — still in force
– like a foundation, they were not visible, but still necessary

So their self-justification would not work

In verser 18, Jesus gives an example of a self-justification that did not work
– the law did not allow for a man to divorce his wife in order to marry another woman (basically, “legal adultery”)

Let’s look at one more point before we finish the chapter
– the Law and prophets have a special significance in Luke
Lk. 24:44, “. . . all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
– the Law and the prophets point to Jesus, and that is important for what comes next

Verses 19-31, Jesus illustrates disregard for Law and Prophets

“Now there was a rich man”

“These words themselves indicate that there is something wrong in the life of this man. . . . it is a terrible thing if the only and the ultimate statement that can be made about a person is that he was ‘rich.’ If I have to write an obituary for a deceased relative or friend I try to express in a single sentence that which is most characteristic of him. For example, “He was a good father . . . . Now just imagine that here is a case where there is nothing that can be said about a person except that he was very rich . . . . Nothing else impressed itself on the minds of his fellow men.” Helmut Thielicke

Two men whose fate caught up to them

  • the rich man covered his body with expensive clothing
    – Lazarus’ body was covered with sores
  • the rich lived in joyous splendor every day
    – Lazarus longed for crumbs (loaves were napkins of wealthy)

“Neither the misery of Lazarus nor the luxury of the rich is minutely painted and described; yet there is one detail added that is well worth our attention. It is said that Lazarus was laid at the rich man’s door full of sores, but the dogs came and licked his sores. What is it that the rich man represents? Mercilessness, or more exactly, inhuman mercilessness. In order to illustrate the lack of mercy, we may place a merciful man by his side. . . . But the rich man was cruel; therefore the evangelist uses dogs for illustration. What a contrast! We shall not exaggerate and say that a dog can be merciful; but in contrast to the rich man, it is as if the dogs were merciful. And this is the horrifying thing, that when the rich man had refused mercy, then the dogs had to be merciful. . . The rich man certainly had it in his power to do something for Lazarus. The dogs could do nothing; and yet it seems as if the dogs were compassionate.” Soren Kierkegaard

  • the rich man has a voice
    – even in Hades he thinks he’s in control (and Lazarus is an inferior)
    – but he has no name – he is the non-person
    – Lazarus is passive all through: laid at gate, carried, comforted
    – he has no voice, but he has a name
  • the rich man died and was buried
    – Lazarus died and was carried away by angels
  • in life, they were separated by a gate – in death, they were far away and separated by a great chasm

The rich man is in opposite situation of manager – he had made no friends to welcome him
– even now, the only people he can think of beside himself is his brothers
– the only people he associated with – remember Jesus’ words to the Pharisee, “Invite the poor” (14:12-15)

The Pharisees can see their own future in the rich man
– “Father Abraham” – assumes entitlement (3:8)
– torment is being able to see goodness of God, but not . . reach it

CONC: There is one reason why investment frauds work: Greed

People hear, “I can guarantee a greater return than anyone else,” and they can hardly wait to hand over their retirement
– and the sad realities regarding greed include the following:

  1. it seems to an acceptable vice among many Christians–not to mention our western societies
  2. it increases rather than diminishes with greater wealth

Forgive me the length of this next quote, but it is an important eye-opener
– it is part of a brief speech delivered by N. T. Wright before the House of Lords

Take the example of Bangladesh, one of the Low Income countries. Its current debt stands at $19 billion, and repayments are higher than the annual health budget. Yet this is one of the countries most at risk from climate change, and the number of people living on less than $1 a day is about 40% of the population. Or take the Philippines. Most of its $28 billion debt was incurred under the Marcos dictatorship. The Philippines has already paid five times as much in debt service as was originally lent, but even so the compound interest has made the debt balloon to over $60 billion. The result? One in ten children suffers from malnutrition, and one person in five has no access to clean water. These two examples stand for several more around the world.

Now, my Lords, it won’t surprise you that whenever I, and other bishops, have spoken about these things in the last ten years, as we frequently have done, we have been met with a chorus of protest telling us that we don’t understand how the world works, that people who borrow money must learn that they have to pay it back, that the borrowers were wicked or irresponsible or incompetent, and that any debt relief will only be siphoned off to fund yet more extravagance on the part of the few. But the events of the last four months have demonstrated beyond any cavil that this excuse always was threadbare and can never be used again. The sight of governments, including our own, bailing out banks, and the sight of at least one bank being refloated in such a way as to allow large bonuses and payouts to shareholders to proceed unchecked; the sight of the American government bailing out the car manufacturing industries with loans taken from the funds supposedly earmarked for ecologically important design improvements; all this looks to the ordinary person in the street, and to the ordinary bishop on the bench, like the very rich doing for the very rich what they have refused to do for the very poor. If the promises in the gracious speech are to be fulfilled, these global issues must be addressed as a matter of first priority. In fact, as many have pointed out, relieving these debts, so far from damaging the economies of the lending countries and institutions, would set the developing countries free to become creative and serious partners in a new global economy.

Jesus has given us a new vision for money and possessions:
First, they are resources to assist us in our spiritual growth
Secondly, they are opportunities given us to help others, to please God, and to make friends who will guarantee that we will receive a warm welcome in heaven

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