Have you ever noticed that everything Jesus taught was simple, direct and practical? There is nothing mystical or spooky or weird about Christianity, as you find in false religions. Christianity is not about going into a trance or putting on a pious look or attempting to speak or preach or pray in supposed pious tones. It’s not about losing control of our bodies and babbling in strange unknown sounds. It’s not about trying to imitate the latest rock stars or screwing up our faces as though we were in pain when we sing.
The true Christian, though far from perfect, is real. He’s not even perpetually grinning; though a warm, genuine smile that begins in the heart and seeps out through the eyes and to the entire countenance is a beautiful reflection of the indwelling Christ in a Christian.
Jesus came to reveal the Father to us; so the better we know Jesus through the study of His Word, the better acquainted we are with our Heavenly Father. Everything Jesus teaches, touches our lives practically as we live each day. Everything He teaches deals with moral issues, matters of right and wrong. His teachings are going to convict us and often make us feel uncomfortable about ourselves. As long as we face our sins honestly and confess them to Him, His blood shed on Calvary‘s cross makes possible His forgiveness and cleansing from all unrighteousness. That’s the teaching of I John 1.
So with this background, let’s turn to Luke 16 and read the first thirteen verses. Here we will learn of an unjust steward. In this very interesting story we will learn about wisdom and shrewdness. It is estimated that Jesus used about 40 parables in His teaching and about 30% of them deal with money and material things. Why is money so dominant in His teachings? Because money is so dominant in our lives. Most of our waking hours is spent earning it, spending it, investing it and thinking about how we can acquire more of it.
There is nothing wrong in being shrewd and wise in planning ahead for eventualities, including our retirement. But as Christians, our primary concern in the use of our time, energy and money should be how we can invest for the maximum dividends in eternity. We don’t buy our way into Heaven. That is offered freely to guilty sinners who trust in God’s gracious Gift of salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. But as Christians, we ought to be considering how best we fit into Christ’s Great Commission to take the Gospel to the whole world. As we invest in that heavenly enterprise, we are going to reap eternal dividends.
Now if you’ve read the story in Luke 16:1-13 let’s discuss it and learn the practical lessons Jesus taught. A rich man had a steward. A steward is one who manages money and financial matters for another. That is a grave responsibility. The most important qualification for a steward is that he can be trusted. The steward in this story that Jesus told turned out to be irresponsible and untrustworthy. When the master learned of this, he called his steward in to give an account and gave him his notice of termination. The steward, knowing he was too old to dig ditches and too proud to beg, began to consider what he should do.
Then an idea came to him. He called in the debtors one by one. Jesus mentions two of them. To the first debtor he offered to cut his debt in half. To the second debtor he offered to cut his debt by 20%. Why did the steward do this? He was a shrewd, though irresponsible and crooked manager of money. He knew one lesson of sales that every good salesman knows. He knew his only way out of his mess was to work out a win/win situation for everyone involved. By reducing the debts of the debtors, he won their friendship which he would need after he was terminated. He worked out a plan where his master would at least recover part of the debts owed him. After all, 50% or 80% was better than nothing! He also won for himself the approval of his master.
Yes, Jesus tells us that the master commended him for his shrewdness. There are two Greek words that could have been used. The Greek word translated wisely in the King James Version in verse 8 is more accurately translated shrewdly in the New American Standard Bible. One means wise and the other means shrewd. This steward was probably not wise, but he was shrewd.
Then Jesus concluded His story with this factual statement in verse 8, “The children of this world, the unsaved, are in their generation shrewder than the children of light, Christians.” The Lord willing, we will examine this statement in more detail in our next article in this series. Note verse 9. The New American Standard Bible makes it clearer, “And I say unto you, make friends for yourselves of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
One day our money is going to fail. We are going to give it all up when we die. The message of this story Jesus told is that if we invest our money in the spread of the Gospel and in building lives for Christ, one day when we arrive in Heaven we are going to be welcomed by a host of people whose lives we have personally touched for Christ as well as untold others whom we never met on this earth, but who through our sacrificial giving, came to know Christ through God’s servants who were helped financially through our gifts.
I am so excited to think about this. I cannot begin to grasp the influence of my life as I have preached the Gospel in small churches for over fifty years, as well as by radio for about twelve years and now through this web site on the internet. From some reports I have received, I expect I am a spiritual great-grandfather to countless new Christians. But more exciting, the good people who have supported me down through the years are all going to join with me in rejoicing when we arrive in Heaven and begin to learn the full extent of our ministries. These Christians who have preceded us to Heaven are going to be there to welcome us when we arrive in Heaven!
If you are a “Lone Ranger” type of Christian, I encourage you to get involved in a sound Bible preaching church and help spread the Gospel by word and by your financial support to those who are faithfully preaching the Word here and around the world. Get in on the action now and one day you too will be met by a host of people who came to Christ through your financial support. If you are blessed by this web site, help spread the Gospel to others around the world by sharing this web site with others.
In Jesus’ parable of the Unjust Steward, which we dealt with in the previous article in this series, Jesus made a statement that causes us to be startled and taken aback. He says that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”
If you haven’t read the previous article, in order to get the background on this thought-provoking observation of Christians, I encourage you to read that article before you read this one. In the previous article we saw how the master commended his steward for his shrewdness when he had just bilked him out of a good share of the money his debtors owed him.
Why did Jesus make this unexpected statement? Why did the master in the story commend his devious steward who was in charge of his finances?
Jesus is saying that generally the natural, unsaved man who devotes his whole life to getting ahead in this world and who gives no concern whatsoever to matters of eternal consequence is actually shrewder in the matter of making money and getting ahead in this world than the Christian who does not make financial success his priority. Is that a true statement? O course it is! Jesus said so. What does that mean to us as Christians? We’ll attempt to answer that question in this article.
Children of Light or Children of Darkness?
Note the two groups of people to whom Jesus refers.
First, the Children of Light. That’s Christians who are walking in the light of God’s Word.
Secondly, the Children of this World. These are the unsaved whose whole life is centered on this world only. In contrast to Christians, they walk in spiritual darkness. So we could refer to them as the Children of Darkness. The father of the Children of Light is God. The father of the Children of Darkness is Satan.
In this article I will deal with:
1. God’s wisdom
2. Satan’s shrewdness or subtlety.
3. The wisdom or shrewdness of the unsaved.
4. The wisdom available to Christians
5. Why Jesus declared that the unsaved are shrewder than Christians.
There are many Scriptures to back up these points. I encourage you to look them up and read them to gain the full value of this study.
I. GOD’S WISDOM
It ought not to be difficult to believe that God is all wise. He founded and created this world by His wisdom. Proverbs 3:19-26 His wisdom is manifold. It is comprehensive, reaching into every area of life. Ephesians 3:8-10 His wisdom is unsearchable. Though we study God’s Word, no human can fully grasp it all, including the fullness of the doctrines of the Bible. When unbelievers come to difficulties in the Bible, they scorn His Word. When we Christians are confronted by things in the Bible that we cannot fully comprehend, we bow in worship before our omniscient, all-wise, Heavenly Father. Romans 11:33-38 Romans 16:27 Revelation 7:11-12
II. SATAN’S SHREWDNESS AND SUBTLETY
Satan, as Lucifer, the first and highest of God’s creation, was filled with wisdom and beauty. He became guilty of the sin of pride and attempted to be equal with God. The story of his fall is told in Ezekiel 28:12-29 and in Isaiah 14:12-17. After His fall we see him in the Garden of Eden subtly tempting Eve to listen to him and disobey God. Genesis 3:1-15 Satan’s servants, false teachers who corrupt and deny the Bible often appear as angels of light, leading people astray. They are master counterfeiters of God’s Word. II Corinthians 11:13-15 So Satan is the father of shrewdness and subtlety.
III. THE UNSAVED
In Genesis 3:1-6 we learn that Satan offers us his shrewdness if we will but listen to and succumb to his temptations. The natural man is limited to natural wisdom and shrewdness. We all have the ability to gain natural wisdom through instruction and through experience. But not all people have even natural wisdom. Some, we learn in Proverbs 1 are just plain stupid. They turn away from wisdom and ruin their lives.
Some of the worst criminals in prison are very worldy-wise and shrewd, though their hearts have been darkened by sin. Romans 1:21-25 teaches us that the natural man who rejects the Gospel soon finds himself on a downward slide to darkness and ruin.
IV. THE SAVED
Though not all Christians have God’s heavenly wisdom; it is available to them and only to Christians. How do we attain that wisdom from God?
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 9:10We fear God when we fear offending Him by our sins. That fear leads us to Christ who is our wisdom. I Corinthians 1:30 Colossians 2:3
We gain the wisdom of God as we diligently search His Word and as we judge everything we read or hear in the light of the Bible. Proverbs 2:1-6, 9:10, 10:14.
We also gain God’s wisdom by avoiding the fellowship and counsel of the ungodly. Psalm 1:1, Proverbs 13:20
We seek preachers and godly friends who will sharpen us by telling us things about ourselves that are sometimes painful to hear. These are among our best friends. Proverbs 27:5-6, 17 A friend who avoids telling us what we need to hear because he is afraid of offending us, is not a true friend. To refuse to listen to a friend because we disagree with him hinders us from being wise.
Humbly accept reproof. Proverbs 1:24-33, 12:1, 15:32, 17:10, 19:25,
Beware of being an unreachable, know-it-all person who is convinced he has nothing new to learn. Proverbs 26:12 G. Beware of despising a faithful Bible preacher who shows us truth from God’s Word that offends you. I Kings 22:8 True Bible preaching does not leave us with a mere theoretical knowledge of doctrine. That tends to make us proud. Rather, true Bible preaching affects how we live and it tends to humiliate us and discover depths of sin hidden in our heart; sin of which we were not even aware.
WHY DO CHRISTIANS TEND TO NOT BE AS SHREWD AS UNBELIEVERS?
First, let’s look at a dictionary definition of what it means to be shrewd. Acute in perception and judgment.Able in practical affairs.Discerning, judicious, (governed by sound judgment), far-sighted ability to see below the surface
A person can be shrewd in these senses, but if he is ungodly, he will use this ability to con people and take advantage of them. Though we as Christians want to avoid the negative aspects of shrewdness, we can and should be shrewd in the good sense of the word. Christians have the capacity to have both earthly wisdom, (shrewdness) as well as Heavenly wisdom.
Both types of wisdom are described in James 3:13-18 Why then are we not as shrewd as unbelievers?
1. We are cautiously aware of the dangers of worldy wisdom. We have learned to lean; not on our own wisdom, but on God. Proverbs 3:5-7, Isaiah 5:21 Rom. 12:16
2. If we tend to lean on both our natural, earthly wisdom as well as on heavenly wisdom, we tend to be unstable. James 1:5-8 These are the reasons perhaps why Jesus stated in Luke 16:8 that the children of this world tend to be wiser than the children of The Light.
Don’t be troubled by the fact that the unsaved tend to be more shrewd and clever than we are and that they seem to prosper more than we do. The Psalmist had this problem as it’s recorded in Psalm 73. Wisdom has more to do with our walk than with our knowledge. Cleverness and our success in life has more to do with Heavenly wisdom than shrewdness. Christian friend, take comfort that Christ is our wisdom. Colossians 2:3-10 In fact, we have the mind of Christ. I Corinthians 2:16 What more do we need?
In the earlier articles in this series Jesus gave an example of an unjust, wicked steward who wasted or embezzled his master’s money. His lord planned to terminate his employment. Before he was terminated, the unjust steward worked out a shrewd plan which pleased his master.
Having told His story, which you can read in the two previous articles, Jesus gives us some lessons about being a faithful steward. The first lesson is taught in Luke 16:10. He states the fact that those who are faithful is small matters can be counted on to be faithful in large matters and those who are unfaithful in small matters are going to be unfaithful in large matters. I’ve found that to be true. Have you? There are those who are consistently faithful in every situation and there are those who are consistently unfaithful in every situation. Let me give you some examples.
First, let me show you why you are a steward if you are a Christian. I Peter 4:10 teaches us that we have been showered as stewards of the manifolds grace of God. John 1:16 refers to is as grace upon grace being heaped upon us. Of that grace we are called to be good stewards. What does that mean for us?
ARE YOU FAITHFUL IN THE LITTLE THINGS?
Luke 16:10 teaches us that if we are to be entrusted with great responsibilities, it is essential that we prove ourselves by being faithful in seemingly, small, inconsequential responsibilities. Actually, there are no small responsibilities in God’s eyes, but sometimes they seem small to us.
Parents should teach their children to be faithful in carrying out any task given to them. It’s only as a child proves his faithfulness in small responsibilities that his parents can entrust him or her with more important and sometimes more interesting and rewarding responsibilities.
Children should be taught to do their chores cheerfully and do them well. School children should be taught to do their homework diligently without being coaxed or reminded.
Can we be trusted to keep our word? If we make a promise, do we keep our word, even if at times it is inconvenient.
Can we see things that need to be done without being told to do them? Do you keep your house and yard picked up and free of litter? Have you taught your children these responsibilities? When in a restaurant, you accidentally drop some food on the floor or your little one makes a mess, do you do your best to pick it up, or do you shrug it off thoughtlessly saying, “The waitress will take care of it.” If you leave it for the waitress, do you also leave an adequate tip to cover the extra work?
If we can’t be trusted with small responsibilities, how can we expect to be entrusted with greater responsibilities?
Proverbs 20:6 says, “Most men will proclaim their own goodness; but a faithful man, who can find?” Faithful people are rare and because of that, if you are a faithful person you have a better than average chance of success in life. A smart employer faced with two prospective employees of equal ability is going to chose the one who has a reputation for faithfulness. That’s a no-brainer decision.
Every day you are building your reputation by your faithfulness or lack of faithfulness. One day you will need a reference for getting a job. Are those who write your references going to remember you as a faithful, dependable person or as a careless person who didn’t care?
We are to be faithful even when it seems no one is watching, God is and Hebrews 6:10 teaches us that He is not unrighteous to forget or overlook our work and labor of love which we have showed towards others. He sees and He rewards faithfulness.
ARE YOU FAITHFUL IN THE STEWARDSHIP OF YOUR MONEY?
Luke 16:11 reminds us of the necessity of being faithful in the stewardship of unrighteous mammon, that is, with our money. If He cannot trust us to use our money wisely, recognizing that everything we are and everything we own: lock, stock and barrel, belongs to Him; then He is not going to entrust us with greater responsibilities. Not only are we who are Christians His; but everything we own is His. We are simply stewards called to manage it well for Him, keeping eternal values in mind. To put it more directly, Christian friend, how much of your time, energy and money are you investing in winning the lost to Christ and building up His Church?
If you are not yet a Christian, God does not want your money. First of all He wants you. He loves you and has taken the punishment for your sins through Jesus’ death on the cross. You can become His simply by coming to Him as a sinner right now. Admit to Him that you are a sinner and that your sins have separated you from Him. Thank Him for sending Jesus to die for your sins and pay the full penalty. Receive Him by faith as your Saviour. He will save you and transform you instantly by giving you His Holy Spirit to live in your heart. You will know it!
Surrender to Him as your Lord. Recognize you are His servant and steward and start investing all He has given you by His manifold grace, in His cause. Join a local Bible preaching church and get busy for Him.
ARE YOU FAITHFUL IN THE USE OF THAT WHICH BELONGS TO GOD?
In Luke 16:12 we are challenged to understand that all we have, including our own life, belongs to God. Psalm 24:1 teaches us that the earth and everything on the earth all belongs to God. Deuteronomy 8:18 teaches us that it is God Himself who enables us to have the health, wisdom and ability to make money and accumulate wealth. He who gave it all to us can also take it all away in an instant.
If you are a Christian, will you acknowledge that it all belongs to Him by giving a percentage back to God? How much? Israel was asked to give back a tithe or ten percent. We in the church age are taught in II Corinthians 9:6-15 to give joyfully, generously and sacrificially to Him. Because it all belongs to Him and you are to be His faithful steward, you ought to seek His will in the use of all your money and other assets. R.G. LeTourneau, the inventor and manufacturer of the large earth moving machines, is a Christian who in his lifetime gave 90% of his income to God’s work and kept 10% for himself.
JESUS SAID IN LUKE 16:13 THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SERVE TWO MASTERS
That is a fact that I have experientially learned as a preacher. On a number of occasions I have tried to work a home based business on the side while I pastored a church. Though they tell you it will only take a few hours each week, perhaps 3-5 hours a week, the facts are that as the business grows, it requires more of your time and energy and your very heart. In time, you are torn in two and have to make a decision. Will it be your church or your business? Jesus does not say that if you just work a little harder or smarter than you can juggle the two interests into your schedule. He simply says, It is impossible to serve two masters.
!n Joshua 24:13-28 Joshua confronted Israel and God confronts us today with the choice. “Choose you this day, whom you will serve.”