Financial planning for Eternity
The parable of the dishonest manager (in some bibles translated as the ‘shrewd’ manager) follows on from the parable of the prodigal son and is another example of someone who lives a reckless life, but who ultimately turns his attention to securing his future. The prodigal son returns home; the reckless manager ensures he is welcomed into the homes of his master’s debtors. Both parables show us that redemption is possible, no matter what former lifestyle we have lived, and also that we need to live with an eye to our ultimate dwelling place.
The parable of the dishonest manager is the most contentious parable in the Bible because it would appear that Jesus is condoning dishonesty. Of course, this is not the case. What Jesus shows is that whilst the behaviour of the manager is deplorable, his shrewdness in planning for the future is commendable. He is saying to us that we, as ‘sons of light’ have much to learn from the ‘sons of this world’ in terms of managing what we have been given, in the light of eternity. As Christians, we often think that good stewardship of money (unrighteous wealth) means living a modest life and not being ostentatious, but it is so much more than that. We are entrusted with riches. Whatever we have, whether much or little, belongs to God. (Check out J.John https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I03Jlj4-ZQY – God owns all the doughnuts!). God wants us to use what we have to further His kingdom.
Most of us are familiar with Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.
We know that it is very important that we have the right heart attitude to money. However, we can fall into a comfort zone of passivity. We may tithe and support charities, but are we really ensuring that what we have been given is making the most difference to kingdom growth, so that when we get to heaven we can sit back and say, ‘Yes, I did my best with what I was given’? Are we intentional and ‘shrewd’ about using our resources to the best possible effect? It’s a real challenge, isn’t it? If churches and individuals across the world pursued eternity with the same vigour as multinational companies promote their brands, wouldn’t Jesus be better known than Apple?
‘The important thing is to invest your resources for the Lord now; most of us wait until the day we think we will have enough. In a 1992 survey, people were asked how much money they would have to make to have ‘the American dream’. Those who earned $25,000 or less a year would need around $54,000. Those in the $100,000 annual income bracket said they could buy the dream for an average of $192,000 a year. These figures indicate that we typically think we would have to double our income in order to find the good life’. David Guzik (blueletterbible.org).
The dishonest manager knew that he would be called to account for his dealings. We also will be called to account, something which we should approach joyfully, as we are looking after our Master’s business! We need have no fear of punishment when we are called into account. I picture this as us telling God all about our life in the same way that children tell their parents all about their day when they come home from school. A place of intimacy and love. Some of us never feel as if we are doing enough for God, but remember that ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’, Romans 8:1. God couldn’t love us any more than He does here, today, at this moment and He will never love us any less. God’s challenge to us is to trust Him to help us steward whatever He has given us to the maximum effect and to travel with Him on the exciting journey that is using worldly wealth to bring Heaven to earth. He desires us to do this with the zeal and passion that the world’s entrepreneurs model in chasing their goals.
Finance is the only area that God ever says we should test him in. In Malachi 3:10, he says, ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’ The context of this scripture is tithing, but the same principle applies to any kind of giving for God’s purposes. We can be sure that as we give, God will bless us abundantly.
Lord God, I pray for release from the fear of lack – that we might trust in you to provide for us, as we provide for others. Renew our passion and vigour to see Your kingdom come on earth and give us wisdom over all our financial decisions. Show us how to be as shrewd as the ‘sons of the world’ in using our money to bring glory to your name. Help us keep focused on our eternal dwelling place, with you, and the joy of knowing that we have sown into your kingdom.