Stewards R’ Us

Title: Stewards R' Us

Bible Book: Luke 16 : 1-13

Author: James Merritt

Subject: Stewardship; Money Management; Faithfulness



[Have everyone take out a dollar bill or a coin]

I want you to look at what you are holding in your hand. I want to ask you two questions:

(1) What is it?

(2) How do you see it?

If you are looking at what I am looking at you are looking at a dollar bill. If you see it the way most people see it you see it as your money. Whenever a church goes to receive an offering (notice I said receive – not take) I realized that there is an attitude out there, even among some of the best of us, that has this type of thinking. The pastor and the church are out to get my money. They are just like the government. The government charges a tax and the church tries to charge a tithe, which leads to some people making the excuse the reason they don’t even go to church is because “all they want is my money.”

That attitude assumes three things:

(1) It is my money;

(2) When I give, at the church, I give to the church;

(3) The cost of giving outweighs the benefit of giving.

This is why most people don’t plan their giving. It is why most people don’t give a percent of their income, because they don’t plan to give. For most people, giving either doesn’t occur or if it does it occurs as a second thought – you reach into your wallet or your purse, pull out a bill and throw it in the basket and you move on.

If we could really see the offering the way it is really being taken, it is more like a tug-of-war than it is voluntary giving. The idea is that the pastor is up here pulling with all of his strength trying to get your money while you are sitting out there pulling with all of your strength trying to keep it in your pocket.

The problem really is not a matter of purses and pocketbooks. It is really a matter of perspective. This series that we have been involved in, we are calling “Bling,” which is the modern day term for “stuff,” is designed to do one simple thing–to help you see “stuff” the way God sees it. Once you do, what you are holding in your hand will no longer be just a dollar bill, but it will be a way that you can invest in eternity. If we ever begin to see our stuff the way God sees our stuff and if we ever get hold of what God could do with our stuff we will never, ever have a lack for money to do anything we need to do.

In Luke 16, Jesus tells the parable that is all over how to see stuff and how to manage money. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that the topic that Jesus is addressing was the topic he talked more about than any other. He talked more about money than He did about heaven or hell.

You would think that prayer would be a far more important topic than money, but where there are around five-hundred verses that deal with prayer in the Bible, there are over twenty-five hundred verses that deal with money. When you read the four Gospels, one-out-of-every-ten verses you come to talks about managing money.

I know some of you are thinking right now, “Man, if Jesus was that obsessed with money I’ve got no chance with the pastor.” Jesus didn’t talk about money, because He was obsessed with it. He talked about money because He knew we would be obsessed with it. In fact, one of the reasons why He told this particular parable is because we are told in verse 14 who was listening to it.

“Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.” (Luke 16:14, NASB)

The main reason Jesus told this parable was to emphasize this key thought. Key Take Away: We can use earthly riches to gain eternal rewards. Listen to the parable and see the great lessons that it teaches us.

I. We are Accountable for Managing God’s Money Carelessly

You need to pay close attention to this story, because it has not only a surprise twist, but an even more shocking ending. It all revolves around a manager.

“Now He was also saying to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.’” (Luke 16:1, NASB)

The Greek word for “manager” actually comes from two words – one word meaning “house” and the other word “to manage.” This person literally is a “house-manager.” He was the manager of an estate or the manager of a business.

In Bible days, rich people would often appoint managers or they were called then “stewards” to manage their money and manage their financial affairs. They would be given the full power of attorney to act in the name of the master. They controlled all of the assets. They represented the master in every business transaction. They were given full authority to deal with the debtors and the creditors. It was their job to manage the assets of the business as effectively as possible.

This verse is a mirror. It is a reflection of all of us, because we are all in this verse. We are all managers. We are all stewards – hence the title of our message – Stewards ‘R Us.

We have already shared with you in the last couple of weeks that we don’t own anything. God owns everything. The steward in this parable owned nothing, but he was put in charge of everything. He knew that everything he managed belonged to someone else. He also knew, or should have known, that he was being watched, he was going to be audited, and he would have to give an account for what he did with all that had been given to him.

That is exactly what we read now in verse 2. "And he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.'” (Luke 16:2, NASB)

Somehow this rich man had gotten word that this steward had been mismanaging his money. We are not told specifically what the manager had done. We don’t know whether he had done something unethical or simply had made some misjudgments or financial miscalculations, but regardless an audit of the books showed an imbalance and he was called to give an account.

I want to stop right here and make sure you understand that one of these days every one of us is going to give an account to God, not just for our money, but for our lives. Romans 14:12 says, “Each of us will have to give a personal account to God.” (Romans 14:12, NLT) In other words, you are going to have to account for your account.

We are going to be especially accountable if we manage the money that God gave to us carelessly. You may have read about the billionaire, Leona Helmsley, who recently died and though she left two of her grandchildren out of her will, she left $12 million dollars in a trust-fund to Trouble. Who is Trouble? That is her dog. Can you imagine all the hungry children that $12 million dollars could have fed and all the naked children that $12 million dollars could have clothed and yet she left it to a dog.

Before you think about how ridiculous that is - how much more do we mismanage (maybe not millions, but hundreds or even thousands) on things we either don’t need or really don’t want, but we buy just the same.

The manager knows the gig is up. He knows he is in big trouble. For a moment, he goes into panic mode. "The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.’” (Luke 16:3, NASB)

It kind of amuses me that the steward is too lazy to dig and to proud to beg, but at least he knew how to mis-manage money. What is he going to do? He comes up with a plan and a strategy that is unbelievably clever and leads to the second principle.

II. We are Responsible for Managing God’s Money Wisely

“Ah, I Know How To Ensure That I'll Have Plenty Of Friends Who Will Give Me A Home When I Am Fired.’ So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’ ‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’” (Luke 16:4-7, NLT)

Let me explain to you carefully what was going on. The going interest rate on oil that was borrowed was 100%. Interest on borrowed wheat was 25%. The steward, in effect, transforms these debts into interest-free loans. When he did that, he immediately made some brand-new friends that he could count on in a pinch. He now had some i.o.u.’s that he could call in, because these people owed him big time. Talk about clever! He had lost one thing – a salary, but he had gained a far greater thing which was friends.

Now that you understand exactly what this manager did, then what the owner said to him also makes sense.

“The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd.” (Luke 16:8, NLT)
The owner had to admire the manager, because he had acted so shrewdly. He had been so wise.

He said in effect, “You are a shrewd dude. You are not just a steward, you are a slick steward.” Do you understand why the owner was commending him? Because, he was using what the owner had given him today, to make sure he would be taken care of tomorrow. He was getting ready for the time when his job would be at an end – when he wouldn’t have any more paychecks. He knew he would need to fall back on somebody to help him. In other words, he did what he did today in order to get ready for what was coming tomorrow.

Think about what this manager has done. He made a future for himself with somebody else’s money. You talk about shrewd. He invested in his own future and then didn’t even have to put up any of his own resources. You would have to agree it is a wise man that uses what he has today to make sure he is ready for what is coming tomorrow and especially if he uses somebody else’s money to do it.

Are you getting the picture? Everything you have right now belongs to God. You are an owner of nothing. You are a manager of everything. At the end of the day or at the end of your life, it all is going to go back to the owner.

You have a chance right now to use what God has given you today, on this earth, to make sure that it works for you, tomorrow, in eternity. Many of us have money deducted from our paychecks to help go to a pension plan or to a retirement account and there is nothing wrong with that and I believe we ought to save for retirement. What I don’t understand is why we don’t take the same care to set money aside to invest in the Kingdom and to invest in God’s work. I don’t understand why we can have savings plans and retirement plans, but we don’t think we ought to have giving plans. The reason why we ought to have a giving plan and the reason why we ought to plan to give more and not less is...

III. We Should be Commendable for Managing God’s Money Faithfully

To make sure we understand what Jesus was saying He goes into a very meticulous, careful explanation of the story, because He does not want us to miss the point.

“Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” (Luke 16:9, NLT)

Did you hear what Jesus just said there? You can actually use earthly money and turn it into an eternal reward. All of our lives we have been told that we “cannot take it with us.” It is true. You can’t take dollars and stocks and bonds and real estate and houses and cars and diamonds and rolex- watches, but do you know what you can do? You can meet your money in the world to come. I know you think what I just said is nuts, but I am going to prove it to you.

The way you invest your money in the world to come is by investing your money in what is going to be there. The only thing that is going to be there are the souls of men and women and boys and girls.

Think of it this way. The value of an investment is determined primarily by two things:

(1) Its security

(2) Its rate of return

If that is true, investing in the lives of those who are going to live forever brings the best dividends and makes the best investment. Do you understand – God does not want us to give so that we will become poorer. He wants us to give so we will become richer.

Let’s go back and clarify an assumption. First of all, when you give, at the church, you are not really giving to the church, you are giving to God. Secondly, giving to God’s work is like investing in a mutual fund. You talk about diversity. You talk about investing and getting an eternal rate of return. When you give to a church, like ours, you are investing in children who will come to Jesus, teenagers who will come to Jesus, and singles who will come to Jesus, not just here, but when you support people who go on mission trips. You are investing in people all over the world. When you invest in our media ministry, Touching Lives, you are investing in people in fifty states and forty-four countries.

What Jesus said in verse 9 is basically this – there will be people who are going to come up to you in heaven, whom you never even met and never even knew on this planet, who are going to thank you, because of the investment you made in their lives. Because when you sent, through your offerings, those teenagers to Ecuador, who saw thousands of people come to Christ that they lead to Jesus one-on-one it was because of your financial support. When you invest in God’s work you are literally making a gift that keeps on giving back to you.

Do you hear what I am saying? If we use our stuff, our Bling, here, faithfully, and wisely it can do two things:

(1) Have an eternal impact

(2) Give an eternal reward

Now we have to ask ourselves this key question: “How can I use the stuff God has given me to have the greatest eternal impact and give the greatest eternal reward?” If you really catch this, you will never see an offering that we receive in church again the same way. To put it another way, “Am I going to use stuff, that won’t last, for people that will?”

That is what leads Jesus to make two final climatic statements.

"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?“ (Luke 16:10-11, NASB)

Do you notice how Jesus calls money a “very little thing”? You may not think money is a very little thing, but it really is. I don’t know how much of it you have. You may have millions, but it is really a little thing. Do you know why?

(1) You don’t own it;

(2) You can’t keep it

God is watching to see how you manage your earthly stuff so He can see if He can trust you with His eternal stuff. Do you know what your money is? It is a test. God is testing you right now to see if He can trust you with a little thing, which is money, so He can trust you with far bigger things in eternity to come.

Then He goes on to say - "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 16:13, NASB)


Now we get down to where the rubber hits the road. Either gold controls you or God controls you. You never get in trouble when God controls you, but you get in big trouble when gold controls you.

I have met people in deep financial trouble, because they have borrowed too much. I have met people in deep financial trouble, because they spent too much. I have never met anyone in financial trouble, because they gave to God’s work too much. I’ve never met anybody that had to declare Chapter 11, because they gave too much money to God.

If you are so strapped for money that you can’t afford to tithe, you can’t afford to give generously to God’s work, it is because you are a slave to money. It is because you are serving “stuff”. Many of you live in your master. You drive your master. You wear your master.

One more time, pull out that dollar bill or that coin and look at it and as you do think about these questions:

(1) Do I really see money as God’s money or do I see it as my money?
(2) Which do I think about most often and with the greatest passion - God or money?

(3) Does my credit card, my check book, and my bank account show that my priorities are right and that God can trust me with eternal things?

(4) Will there be people who welcome me in heaven, because of how I’ve used stuff on earth?

(5) Does God know He can entrust me with eternal riches, because I have been faithful with earthly wealth?

(6) Which really gives a more accurate picture of my spiritual life – my Bible or my checkbook?

I read a story, years ago, of a man who was shipwrecked on a lonely, deserted island, but to his surprise he was not alone. There was a large tribe of people that shared that island and to his even greater surprise he discovered that because they had never seen a man like him before, they decided to make him king. They built a throne for him and catered to his every desire. He didn’t understand why they were doing that until he learned, as his ability to communicate increased, that they had a tribal custom to choose a king for a year, but when the year was over they would take this king to another deserted island and abandon him.

At first he went into a deep depression, but then he hit on a shrewd plan. Over the next several months he sent members of the tribe to clear the other island. He had them build a beautiful house, furnish it and plant crops. He then sent some chosen friends of his ahead to live there with him so they could also wait on him. When his year was up, he went to a place that had been carefully prepared with the resources they had given him and he lived the rest of his life in great joy and great delight.

You get the picture – Stewards ‘R Us. The question is -“Faithful or unfaithful?

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