In this episode, we take a look at the way Scripture talks about money. We start by discussing the spiritual truth that money cannot buy happiness. Three parables about money help us see the way God thinks about money is distinct from the world’s view. The parables of the lost sheep, the lost money, and the prodigal son invite us into Jesus’ view of what it means to be rich in the Kingdom of God.
Today we’re going to continue in our study on how to be rich.
If you can’t be faithful in small things, God will not entrust you with true wealth
If you would turn with me to Luke 16. We’re going to read a few verses about riches and money. Luke 16:9.
“And I say to you, make for yourselves friends by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.
He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is also unjust in much.
Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?
“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.”
I just want to notice three things out of this passage. The first is that unrighteous mammon, or money, we would just call it money, finances, assets, possessions, is something different than true riches. Verse 11. If you’ve not been faithful in money, who would commit to your trust true riches?
It’s very interesting. If we want to be rich, we have to understand first that true riches is not money, and we also have to understand that how we handle money is actually a pathway to true riches.
He says, he who is faithful and what is least is faithful in much. If we can’t be faithful with just a little bit of earthly money, then apparently we can’t be faithful with what is true riches. Very interesting thought.
Money is either something we use or something we serve
Second thing is that money is either something that we use or something we serve. If we’re not using money as a means to true riches, which is not money, then we will be serving it.
Verse 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 money.”
The second point is money must be tamed.
People are more important than money
The third point is that people are more important than money. Verse 9. Make for yourselves friends by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an eternal home. An eternal home is their place in heaven. And he actually, from this parable, you’re actually using the money to benefit others so that they’ll benefit you a long time in the future.
Money is not true wealth
This idea that being rich, money is a means to riches, but it’s not riches itself. Money is—and it doesn’t matter how much money you have. It’s how you handle the money that determines whether you’re rich. That’s a different way of thinking.
Would $25 million make you happy?
These principles here, though, actually are found in surveys, as you would expect. If someone does good scientific research, it always lines up with the scripture because the scripture is true, and good research always finds things that are factual.
There’s a study that was done by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and there’s an article here that talks about it. It starts off with the question, would $25 million make you happy?
This study they did was of people who only had net worths exceeding $25 million. I think we can all agree $25 million is a lot of money.
The answer to would $25 million make you happy is yes, unless you already have $25 million. Then it doesn’t make you happy.
Fears and problems of the rich
The survey actually finds out that money brings a lot of problems. “The truly wealthy,” it says, “know that appetites for material indulgence are rarely sated. No yacht is so super, no wine so expensive that it can soothe the soul or guarantee one’s children won’t grow up to be creeps.”
Here are ten fears of the super-rich.
Fear number one. They don’t have enough money. A respondent reported he wouldn’t feel financially secure until he had $1 billion dollars in the bank.
Number two, they can’t complain. Someone’s complaining about not being able to complain. He said, “I’ve lost the right to complain about anything for fear of sounding ungrateful.” I like that. Complaining about not being able to complain.
Number three is trust fund babies. They’re concerned their kids are going to grow up to be brats.
Number four. Their friendships are all altered. They feel like people like them just for their money and not for them, not for the real relationship.
Number five. They don’t like holidays anymore. Why? They feel like milk cows. Everybody just wants to see how much do I get this year. It’s never enough.
Anxiety, fear of loss. They have a lot of money. The more you have the more you can lose. They spend a lot of angst being afraid they’re going to lose what they have.
The perception of others. One person said if she got a job, she would have trouble being seen as a colleague and not a donor. Don’t fit in anymore.
Another child one. This child one is a large one. How do I raise my kids in a way where they’re happy and constructive? That’s a difficult thing. This one is entitlement. How do I raise my children without entitlement? Money could mess them up.
One person said, how do we get our kids to learn to mow the grass when we have a full-time gardener?
Number nine is inheritance. This respondent says, “I’ve grown up with a father who never wanted to give up control of the business, but kept taunting me with the opportunity to step into his shoes. It’s been difficult to feel financially independent when my spouse’s parents hold tight control over the children’s inheritance.”
Number ten is poor people. I’m not sure exactly what this is, but I think what they’re saying is they fear being resented, you know like Occupy Wall Street, one percent sort of thing. This person says, “No one has the excuse of lack of money for not being at peace and living in integrity.” Kind of resentment that somehow you have something that I deserve.
Now I have experienced that myself. I had at one point a guy New York City came up to me and said, ” I’m hungry. Do you have any energy bars in your backpack?”
I said. “Yeah, I think I do.” So I’m rummaging through.
He says, “Hey, I tell you what. Just to save you trouble. How about if I trade the energy bar that you’re going to give me for five bucks.” Now he’s got something. He’s trading up. He starts negotiating with me.
I thought it was kind of funny because you already don’t have something, and you’re trying to trade what you don’t have that’s from me for something better. The guy got really frustrated with me. He got angry because I was withholding from him that which he had already possessed.
You don’t have to have an immense amount. All I had was some energy bars in my bag. That’s all it took to engage with this particular attitude.
Even secular research would tell us that money itself doesn’t really buy happiness. It is, in fact, a means to an end of some sort.
Things you can do with money so that it does bring happiness
There’s another article I found in Forbes magazine by someone named Elizabeth Dunn, and she did a study, and she found that money actually can bring happiness if you learn how to use it, which is interesting.
She found five things that you can do with money that actually makes it bring happiness. These are really interesting.
Number one is buy experiences instead of buying stuff.
Number two, she called it make it make it a treat, which is don’t indulge yourself all the time. Fast material benefits and then just treat yourself occasionally.
Number three. Buy time instead of stuff. Use your money to buy time.
What’s “buy time” mean, exactly?
Buy time. I think what they meant by that is more time off, or use your money to give yourself opportunities to go do things other than work or whatever.
Number four is pay now, consume later.
Number five is invest in other people.
These are the five things. The interesting thing about that—“buy experiences.” Generally speaking, if you’re going to do an experience, what’s going to be included? People. You’re usually going to experience something with someone.
Fasting is like—“make it a treat.” You’re actually denying yourself. You’re actually using the money as an instrument to deny something. I can have this, but I’m going to deny myself.
The number three, buying time, what are you typically going to do with time? Share it with somebody.
Pay now consume later is, again, once you’re the money’s actually there as a tool for self-denial.
This is interesting, isn’t it? It’s the exact opposite of what most people think of in terms of if I had a lot of money I would shower myself with all this stuff, which is exactly what makes people miserable.
Number five is more direct: invest in other people.
That really fits what we’re talking about today because, go back to Luke 16:13. “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.”
We’ve said that in verse 11, if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? True riches is something different than money. Money’s a means to learn how to have true riches. Money is something that either works for you or you work for it.
Look at verse 14. Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.
Jesus, in large part here, is talking to the Pharisees about a problem that they have.
Now the Pharisees were the heroes of the Jewish culture. They were looked up to. They were immensely biblically literate. They understood the law. Their official mantra was to be righteous.
They had a fundamental problem. The problem was that they were not understanding what the Bible says. They were using it for the wrong purpose.
Verse 15. And He said to them, “You, Pharisees, are those who justify yourselves before men—They had the wrong heart about money.
Five parables about money
This cool little passage we’ve talked about here—that shows us that money has to be tamed, it’s a path to something, it’s not an end in itself, and choosing people over money is what we should focus on—is actually buried in a passage that includes five parables. I want to show you that today. I want to show you these five parables are all about money and how to deal with money and what true riches are.
Let’s go back to the start of this. I actually got onto this because of the cool series that Mike did looking at different perspectives on the prodigal story, and I started looking at that’s cool to do different perspectives. I’m going to give you another perspective, which is looking at it from the standpoint of money, which is a major theme in five different parables.
Go back to 15:1. Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.
And the Pharisees—who were lovers of money—complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So He spoke this parable to them—
This word receives is an interesting word. It’s the Greek word prosdechomai, and it means to eagerly wait for.
Let’s go back to Luke 2, and let me just show you something. In Luke 2:25, we see this word.
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
What was Simeon waiting for? The Messiah. How was he looking for the Messiah? What does it mean he’s waiting for the Messiah? He was really eagerly looking forward to it, right? It’s something he spent his time focusing on because he was so eager for it to come. That’s the same word here. Prosdechomai, waiting. He was eager for it to come.
If we go back to Luke 15, what we see here is these Pharisees were complaining because Jesus actually like these people. They were sinners. They were tax collectors. They were traitors, tax collectors and sinners. He was actually eating with them, which means he was having fellowship with them; and he liked being with them. He was receiving them warmly and with great welcome.
Jesus answers their complaint with five parables.
Parable one: The lost sheep
The first parable he says, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, he’s happy.
And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
How many sheep does he have? A hundred. How many does he lose? One. What percent of his assets is at risk? One percent.
If you have one percent of your assets that you lose, does it bother you? One percent is not very much. I mean, it’s not very much in terms of percent. Do you still pick up dimes off the ground? That’s way less than one percent.
I know some people don’t pick up pennies anymore. I always pick up pennies, just out of principle. I just put them in a jar at home, but it’s just out of principle.
Because even though it’s only one percent of our assets, we still care about these.
In verse 7, he says, I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
What’s the point? You care about one percent of your assets. Is he complaining that you care about one percent of your assets? No, of course not. What he says is I care about these sinners just like you care about your sheep. I think of people just like you think about money, you lovers of money.
If you’re a shepherd, you’re probably a male. Then a question is, well does this just apply to males? Well, no, it doesn’t.
Parable two: The lost coin
Verse 8. “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
And when she has found it—same thing what did the guy do when he found his sheep? Called his friends. He called his friends and neighbors and said rejoice with me.
What she does when she finds the coin is she calls her friends and says rejoice with me. Could be a text or a call, either one, Facebook.
Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
This time, it’s ten percent of her assets, of her savings, which is more significant; but you get the same behavior, which is, “I’ve lost something! It’s valuable to me, and I want to find it!”
It’s not just her. It’s her friends. They’re glad for her too because losing assets is something we don’t like to do.
Jesus has the same thing. I care about these people as much as you care about your money, Pharisees.
Parable three: The prodigal son
Then he goes to a third story, and it’s the parable of the prodigal son. ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’
First, it’s assets of the sheep, then assets in the house. Now we’re going to go to enterprise. God cares about enterprises too because, in this day and age, companies were the family business. I’m told that if you were in a family and that family business was prospering, in other words, it had more than just one person and had something going on— which in Israel is typical because it’s private property, and that property was deeded to the family in perpetuity.
If you’re the oldest son, you got the double blessing, which means you got to be the CEO of the family when you got into your 50s. You were training to become the CEO of the family all this time. The whole family is working together to create a family benefit, the family enterprise.
If the younger son comes and says sell some of what you have, which remember, you’re in a situation where you can sell but always with redemptions. Property is considered sacred. You’re doing this for the whole family. This guy comes and says, “I want my part split off.” That just doesn’t happen. You’re not going to do that.
Jesus is making a hyperbole here of something I don’t think they would ever see. “I want you to partition the family business so I can take mine off and do what I want to do.” It’s a very wicked thing in the culture.
But he does it. He goes and wastes his possessions with prodigal living, ends up in the pigsty, and then comes home.
Of course, then the older brother, the one who would have been the CEO—and what has happened when they partitioned the assets, what has happened to the older brother? His company size has been shrunk, right, of what he’s going to inherit. He’s actually endangered the family with this behavior.
And so he comes home, and this father welcomes him gladly. And he says to the older son in verse 31, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. All I have is yours.
The younger son was restored his fellowship, but he was not restored his ownership. He was not restored his inheritance. He was restored the fellowship with the father.
‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”
I think what God’s showing here is I care more about the principles in the business, the owner of the business, than I do the business itself.
He was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”
Go back to 15:6. ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
Look at the parable of the coins. In verse 9, And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’
Our son was lost and is found. And he parallels it in the prodigal story with he was dead and is made alive.
These are the same words that he uses in Romans 6 when he says we have been buried in death with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life on a daily basis. This is a central theme of the Bible, lost/found, dead/alive.
Again, he’s saying I care about the people more than I do the money. The money’s just a means to an end. The means is teaching how to interact with people.
He then goes and turns to the disciples. He’s been talking to these lovers of money, these Pharisees, to make the point people matter more than money. People matter more than possessions. People matter more than the enterprise. Even though there’s consequences associated with money, the fellowship of the relationship is actually more important to me.
In terms of the Pharisees, the Pharisees had Israel. They had the scriptures. They had immense blessings. He could say to them, “All I have is yours if you’ll take it.”
What did the oldest son benefit from? He owned everything his father had. How much did he benefit from it? None because his complaint was, what? You never gave me a fatted calf. We wonder if he ever asked for one. More than likely he could have had a fatted calf anytime he wanted to.
I think he’s telling the Pharisees here you love money so much that you’re completely missing the inheritance you have, and you’re spending your time complaining about these sinners who I also love, and you’re missing out completely on what you could be having.