By David Royall, Resonate Network Director of Finance
The climax of all decent action movies goes something like this: the good guys come to the point where they don’t care what gets destroyed for the sake of the mission. Cars, buildings, even entire cities blow up for the greater cause of saving the world from total annihilation. Their tattered clothes make it obvious they will sacrifice anything—even their own lives—so the world will keep spinning. Earlier in the movie, they cared so deeply about their sports cars, their clothes, their employment, and their relationships, but now they’ll give it all up for the mission.
I don’t advise you watch these movies to gain practical guidance for wealth management, employment, or relationships. This kind of story is written to ask the question, “What worldly wealth would you give up for the sake of the greater mission?”
Believe it or not, Jesus told a story like this, the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-15.
Here’s the summary: A rich man has an employee who is accused of mismanaging his possessions, so he fires the employee. The employee knows he’s going to have a hard time finding another job, and doesn’t want to beg or do manual labor, so he comes up with a scheme: while his termination paperwork is still processing, he goes to his boss’ debtors and cuts their bills down significantly. That way, the debtors will be friendly with him in his future life. He uses his temporary influence for the sake of his greater mission.
Fine, nothing blows up in this parable. But just like the action movie it gives terrible guidance for wealth management, employment, and relationships. On the surface, this parable seems to encourage dishonesty and mismanagement. However, that’s not the point of the parable*. This story is written to ask the question, “What worldly wealth would you give up for the sake of the greater mission?”
Jesus divides the employee’s life into two parts: before and after getting fired. Everything he has before he gets fired is considered “worldly wealth” and everything after is “true riches.” Jesus wants us to realize that the resources we have here on Earth (worldly wealth) are just temporary holdings that go away when we die and don’t hold any weight for the mission of God (true riches).
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (v. 13). We have to see worldly wealth and true eternal riches as two masters fighting for our souls, and then pick one to hate and one to devote ourselves to. We know we’ll have to use worldly wealth here on Earth, but if we choose to devote ourselves to the mission, we must disrespect worldly wealth, using it as a tool for the mission and then discarding it like a soiled tissue. This isn’t to say we are to be frivolous or foolish with our money, but instead we should use it wisely- not hoarding it- knowing its potential for eternal impact.
These parables aren’t just about money; they’re about an eternal perspective on our temporary responsibilities, relationships, authority, access, time, and talents. The employee realized that his business partnerships and authority were coming to an end, so he used them to the advantage of his life to come.
What could you use to the advantage of the mission of God? Think of your own responsibilities, relationships, authority, access, time, and talents. Remember that they disappear when you die and can’t go with you into the Kingdom of God, but they can be used to advance the mission of God while you still have them here on Earth.
The question from the parable and the action movie is the same: “What worldly wealth would you give up for the sake of the greater mission?”
Consider the following questions for your life and take action starting today:
What is God asking me to leverage for the mission right now when it comes to my time, talents, and resources?
What is keeping me from spending those things sacrificially for the mission of God?
Further Reading: This parable draws parallels to Jesus’ parables of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 and the minas in Luke 19:11-27, the parable of the rich fool in Luke 19:11-27, and his teaching on “Treasures in Heaven” in Matthew 6:19-24. Paul seems to draw on this teaching to warn Timothy about the love of money in 1 Timothy 6:9-19.
* It’s worth noting that parables are meant to convey a single message, surrounded by a story. The intent of a parable isn’t to extrapolate advice from every action of those in the story, but to gain a bigger perspective, which Jesus explains to his audience in verses 8-13.