I have to say that I never would have chosen this section of Luke for this time of year. But I think that, in God’s providence, we’ve come across some good passages of Scripture for Advent.
Last time we were together, we talked about the Parable of the Lost Sons (or Parable of the Loving Father). It that passage we saw how that was an appropriate sermon for the Christmas season.
The passage before us today really suits well too, at least for us in our American context.
Jesus has just talked about the Prodigal son who had wasted his inheritance. His eyes were consumed with riches and he loved what he could do with the wealth that he had recieved. And in this passage, it is almost as if Jesus says, “Oh, since I mentioned the love of money and living a life where you are consumed with the things of this world, let me add one more thing. Let me tell you another little story about a guy who was in love with money.”
Jesus takes this opportunity to once again help us understand the nature of discipleship, particularly as it pertains to stewardship. Jesus is reminding us that the things of this world (i.e. the wealth that we have—or the wealth we want), can be something that is detrimental to our eternal welfare.
And again, this is so appropriate for us given our American, materialistic context. We’ve all come through Black Friday—and thankfully it seems that everyone is here and made it through alive. There is actually a website called, “blackfridaydeathcount.com.” It records how many deaths and how many injuries occur in America on that one day of the year. As people make a stampede on the retail stores of our land in order to satisfy their covetous desires.
I read one article recently that says that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become holidays in and of themselves. And, from a sociological standpoint (and even a theological standpoint), I think they are right. They are the high holy days of the god of materialism.
Given the affluence of our culture, and given the propensity to do harm our fellow man for a “Tickle Me Elmo,” it is good to think about our how much we are inclined towards money and mammon. You might not be one who enamored with holiday shopping; you might not be burning the magnetic strip off your credit cards, but you would be a fool if you didn’t stop and think about your financial expenditures and just how attached you are to worldly goods.
Being that we are a part of this culture we need to really evaluate what takes preeminence in our lives. And this passage is really helpful to that end. This passage is designed to get us thinking about help us think about how important money is to us. It is here to get us thinking about how we use our money. And it is important to do that because how you use your money will reveal our hope and it will reveal our heart.
Now, if you look at the first 12 verses of this passage, you will see that Jesus focuses our attention on the future. He wants us to think about eternity. And he basically says that those who have the hope of eternal life will demonstrate that in the way they handle their finances.
I. How you use your money reveals your hope [1-12]
Now, the first 9 verses can be a little difficult to understand. Jesus tells a parable about a servant who has been cheating his master. And after he’s been caught, the way he gets out of it is by cheating his master some more. His master comes to him and says, “Hey, you’re fired.” And the guy thinks, “What am I going to do? I can’t do manual labor and I can’t go out and beg. What am I going to do? Well, he gets an idea. He sees his long term situation is not good, so he begins to make some deals with his master’s debtors so that perhaps he can ingratiate himself to them and get a job with them.
Now, Jesus isn’t commending dishonesty. The lesson you are to take isn’t that you should cook the books and use deceit in your business dealings. This servant is commended because he is shrewd. He understood that things needed to change. He was wise because he saw that the future was bleak and things needed to change if he was going to survive.
That’s the point that Jesus is making. And that’s the point we should take home. A Christian is going to be one who is wise enough to understand that there is a life beyond this one. He understands that there is going to be a day of judgment and if he is going to escape the wrath of God his life must radically change. He’s got to repent of his materialism and begin to use his money in a way that corresponds to a heavenly life.
Now, this is not buying your way into heaven. You can’t do that. But how you spend your money should reveal that your hope is not in this world or the things of this world. It should show that you have been more concerned with things that have an eternal significance.”
Jesus elaborates on this in verse 10-12. In these verses he talks about being faithful in little things and how that validates your being able to handle greater things. Now, he’s talking about the treasures of this world and the greater treasures that are to be had in the world to come. If you haven’t been able to handle the things God has given you here. If you have simply lived a life where you have been consumed with yourself and not been responsible enough to serve the Lord with the funds he has given you here, how then can you be trusted with the riches of heaven?
Young people, if you take a job at a fast food restaurant and you are irresponsible with your job—perhaps you are eating French fries you are supposed to be serving or you are not cleaning up the tables after the customers have gone, is your boss going to let you stand behind the cash register and handle the money? Is he going to give you a promotion where you will have more responsibility and greater goods at your disposal? Of course not.
That is kind of what Jesus is saying right here. This life is an entry level position. How you handle yourself here (i.e. how you handle your wealth) will express to a great degree what your lot will be in the life to come. And if you are not living in such a way that shows you have no regard for eternity, then you shouldn’t expect to enter it when the time comes!
I’d say that in a day like ours, this is incredibly relevant stuff. I don’t know what people at this church, but I know the national average among evangelicals is. It is a pittance in comparison to the liberality that God has demonstrated towards them. Some surveys say that it is less than 2% of their income.
(“I mean, I can’t give to the Lord and His kingdom, I have to pay for my second car.)
I was listening to a sermon by Joe Morecraft this week and he talked about how much money people spend just on their hobbies. It is true. People can be a little fanatical about their personal pastime. Morecraft gave the example of someone who is an avid golfer or who is really into hunting. You know it’s not just about the golfing or hunting, but it is all the equipment that they got to have to go along with it.
Now there is nothing wrong with having a hobby. There is certainly nothing wrong with playing golf or hunting gear. But I think you know what Morecraft is saying: It can become obsessive, and it can impede the greater investments in God’s kingdom.
The point is that it these kinds of things can demonstrate a near-sightedness. It can show that your heart is not enamored with the kinds of things that the Lord is interested in. It reveals that your hope is more upon this world that the kingdom to come.
But a Christian will demonstrate some godly moderation when it comes to his or her entertainments (whether it be your hobbies, your pets, your cars, your house). And, if the Lord is causing you to prosper, then you will show your hope by the fact that charity and missions have a real and prominent place in your life.
In other words, when someone looks at your credit card statement it should be obvious to them that you are not living for today. Or if the Lord were to audit your checking account, what do you think He would find? Would He find that your life was dedicated to advancing the cause of Christ? Would he see that you have been honest in your business dealings? Would he see that you have demonstrated a charitable frame of spirit? Would he see someone who has been living for an eternal kingdom, or would he see that you are living like there’s no tomorrow?
In sum, this passage tells us that our eschatology influences our economics. It is not simply something that is fun to debate or simply a matter of ivory tower thinking. The study of the last things should not be one of the last things we study. It should be one of the first things because it is one of the most practical doctrines. For this passage reminds us that where you will spend your future will directly influence how you spend your finances.
How you spend your money will reveal your hope. But our passage tells us that it will not only reveal our hope, it will also reveal your heart.
II. How you use your money reveals your heart 
You might say that verse 13 is the heart of the matter because this verse deals with your heart. In verse 13 Jesus says, “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 God and money.”
The last word in that sentence is actually “mammon,” which means wealth. It is more than just money. It has to do with all your assets. It is can apply to what is in your bank, or your house, or even refrigerator.
In essence, Jesus is asking where you heart is. Is it with Christ? Or is it with the things of this world? To which are you going to be faithful? Which is the one that you serve? Because it is impossible to serve both. You are either going to trust God and seek to serve him, or you are going to trust in your riches and seek after them.
You cannot coddle both of them. It is as impossible as a child who has horded together all his toys in his hands trying to give his mother a hug. You cannot hug your mother when your arms are filled with stuff. Neither can you have faith in God if you are overly consumed with the things of this world.
This is the test of idolatry here. Jesus is bringing us back to the heart of the first commandment and saying, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
You know what that means, of course. If you are going to have no other gods, then you have to have this one. You have to own him and acknowledge him. You have to delight yourself in him and esteem him above all others. You have to put your faith in him and trust him. In sum, the first commandment requires you to devote yourself wholly to God. He must become the object of your heart’s desires.
Of course that means turning your back on all others. There can be no other who captures your heart.
This past weekend Elizabeth and I had the pleasure of attending her brother’s wedding. In that service something very important happened. That lovely couple took vows and were knit together in marriage. In those vows they promised to “have and to hold one another.” And in making that pledge, they promised to forsake all others and remain faithful only to this one.
Now you can ask my brother in law, “Who has your heart?” The answer should be obvious. How is it obvious? It is by the way he serves his wife. Is he spending the proper amount of time with her? Is he treating her with respect and giving her the attention she needs? Is he coming to her and repenting when he sins against her? Or is he spending most of his time at his work? When he is with her is he thinking about something or someone else?
You will be able to tell where his heart is by who or what he is serving.
The question that arises out of this text is this: Who or what has your heart? What is it that you are serving?
Perhaps I would suggest to you going back and reading the book of Amos. Amos was a prophet who spoke out against the Israelites because they had become mammon worshippers. They were not only living in an age of affluence. That in itself was not wrong. But their riches had come to consume them. It had stolen their hearts away from the Lord. So now they were more concerned with the Almighty Dollar. Their economy was booming, but their faith was failing.
They didn’t care that their profits were at the expense of others and that their deals were deceitful and oppressive.
In chapter 6 Amos speaks out against those who had “beds of ivory.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with having some nice things in life. But these luxurious beds were indicative of their religious temperament. They had no sense of frugality. They were living for the day and enjoying a life of exorbitant excess. It wasn’t so much their having the excess as their over infatuation with it and their revelry in it. It was in how they proudly flaunted their wealth for all to see.
In a word, there was no sense of modesty or moderation.
There is another good illustration in chapter 8. Amos there talks about how they were so caught up with their wealth that they couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be over. There was a sense in which they were very religious people. They still observed the Sabbath. They still did all their religious activities. But deep down they were itching for it to be over so they could make a buck. This day of worship was a torment to them because they wanted to get out and get back into the marketplace where they could cash in.
When it came to “who had their heart?” the answer was pretty obvious to Amos.
And Jesus asks the same of you: Who has your heart? Guys: Are you able to sit here today and enjoy the service of worship? Or are you thinking about how you can get that promotion or seal that deal? Ladies: Where is your focus? Is it on getting all the best clothes and having your own little bed of ivory?
You have to take an honest inventory. For where your heart is, there is your treasure also.
Godfrey Davis was an author who once wrote a biography about the Duke of Wellington. He once reflected on his research into the life of the Duke and he said that the one thing that was the most revealing about the Duke’s life were not his letters or his speeches, but his account book. Davis said he found an old ledger that showed how the Duke spent his money. And he said that this gave a far better clue as to what the Duke cherished most.
It is my hope that a similar thing could be said of you. For you can be assured that there will be a day when our biography will be plainly published for all to read.
One day we will all stand before the Lord. And when we do, you can guarantee that it will feel like the Lord is conducting an audit of what exactly was your hope in life. When the books are opened, it will no doubt seem like he is simply reading through all of our financial receipts and bank statements. All our financial transactions will be laid bare. It will become apparent what our hearts truly treasured.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.