Shrewd by Pastor Abidan Shah

SHREWD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Have you heard someone say “so and so is book smart but not street smart”? It means that a person has a lot of book sense but no common sense. Scientists and professors are known for that. I knew some professors from back in college who were brilliant when it came to books but clueless when it came to day to day activities. One was a genius in Physics but could not operate the coffee machine. Another one was a Math whiz but could not manage his money. So also, there are many Christians who are the “Good Book” smart but a failure when it comes to daily life decisions. They have a lot of spiritual knowledge but no relational and financial wisdom. Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is very different than anything I’ve ever preached. It’s on learning how to be “SHREWD” and that’s the title of the message.

Luke 16     1 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 So he called him and said to him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. 10He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

Question: Parables reflect who we are in the story. Are you the wise steward or a foolish one? Have you been a good steward of what God has blessed you with? How are your finances? How do you see money? Do you use money or love money? Do you have the true riches in Christ? Are you saved?

Context: Previously in this series, you’ve heard me say that this parable or that is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus. Today’s parable is the most difficult parable of Jesus. The reason it’s so difficult is because on the surface it appears wrong on many levels. But, if we suspend our judgment for a little bit, it will begin to make a lot of sense. So, let’s review the story again: The steward has been fired for wasting his master’s goods but before he cleans his office, he decides to take advantage of his access to the financial records and pardons part of the debts that others owed to his ex-boss. Listen again to verse 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’” I did some math and that’s about 400-500 gallons of oil. This would take about 75 olive trees to produce and it would be the wages of an average worker for 2 years. That’s a lot of money! Again, verse 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’” Losing 20 measures of wheat would come to losing the produce of 20 acres of land. That would be equal to losing about 500 denarii. Again, that’s a lot of money! Also, these were just two examples listed but he did that with all his ex-boss’s debtors. Here’s a question: Why didn’t he just steal some money and goods? If he had been caught stealing, he would have been punished severely. So, why did he do this? He was doing favors on his ex-boss’s expense to cash in later when he would be jobless. In other words, he was using his ex-boss’s debt ledger to build friendships that he could call on in the future for help.

What was his boss’s reaction? 8 “So the master commended (epaineo = praised) the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly.” Why didn’t he call the authorities? What boss/owner in his right mind would do that! Keep in mind that this is just a parable, a made-up story given to make a point. The point was that the steward did not steal from his ex-boss. Instead, he made a clever decision to take advantage of his situation and make friends for a rainy day. This act even impressed his ex-boss! Just when you want to say that there must’ve been a misunderstanding in the wording, listen to Jesus’ conclusion—“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” The Greek word for shrewd is “phronimos” which means insight and wisdom, sensible, thoughtful, prudent, and wise. The same word is also used by Jesus in Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” What Jesus is saying is that lost people are wiser in using money than God’s people. 

Of course, people have tried to explain this point in more palatable ways. Some have said that Jesus would never commend such a behavior or commend lost people. There must be some misunderstanding. Nope. Listen to verse 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” In other words, Jesus was telling his listeners to use money to make friends so that when life does not go as planned, their wise investments would help them out. Again, some people have claimed that this could not be. Maybe, Jesus was simply using irony or sarcasm here. Listen to verse 10 “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the trueriches?” In other words, if you haven’t learned how to use money wisely, why should God trust you with his true riches. Keep reading—12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Now it begins to make a little more sense. Jesus was NOT saying—

  • God’s people should be more like the people of the world.
  • God’s people should use other people’s money to outsmart them.

Instead, Jesus was saying—

  • Learn from those sons of this world who use money to make friends.
  • If you don’t know how to use money properly, why should God trust you with his true riches.
  • If you claim to serve God, stop serving money. You cannot serve both. You will love one or the other.

Why did Jesus go through all this trouble to explain all this? 14 “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money (philarguros = fond of money), also heard all these things, and they derided Him.” There is the clue! The Pharisees loved money. The tax collectors and sinners used money to their advantage but the Pharisees were only lovers of money. Listen carefully: The Bible does not condemn money. It only condemns the love of money.Listen to I Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 2 Timothy 3    1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers…”

What happens when you love money? You begin to worship it. It controls your life. It dictates how you live. It decides your priorities. Of course, there are many lost people who love money and they destroy their lives chasing after it. But, unfortunately, many saved people do the same thing. They claim to know God but they worship money. They give their lives to chasing it and pierce themselves with many sorrows. They are money lovers. They condemn the rich (U-Haul behind a hearse) but many rich are not money lovers (most philanthropists)! To the contrary, the sons of light are money lovers:

  • Instead of teaching their children the proper perspective on money, they only teach them to love money.
  • Instead of focusing on relationships and investing to build them, they watch them fall apart and they blame the church or circumstances or even God.
  • Instead of finding true purpose in life, they only live selfish and self-centered lives.
  • Instead of investing in God’s eternal kingdom, they only live for the here and now.
  • Instead of being a solid testimony for Christ, they repel the lost world from the gospel.

Is there any wonder that God does not give his own any true riches? Is there any wonder that many of God’s people are living beggarly lives? Is there any wonder that many of God’s children are pierced with many sorrows? Is there any wonder that we are not winning the lost world?

Invitation: Are you shrewd? Do you love money or use money? Are you saved?

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