Today’s scripture is about investing.
When we think about investing, we think about investing in things. We invest in stocks and companies. We invest in things we think will be worth something someday, or that will change our lives.
There was a period in the 90s when we were all encouraged to invest in beanie babies, these small stuffed animals that we were told might be really worth something someday.
Some people invest in commemorative plates, or coins. Or we invest in things that promise to change who we are for the better. Things like a $2000 home gym system that will definitely make us into athletes, not gather dust and be where we dry the laundry.
And do you ever notice how some people describe all purchases they make as an investment? I wonder how that started? It’s a good sales pitch. Don’t think of this car as an expense, think of it as an investment in your future. This watch might seem expensive, but it’s really an investment in your success.
No, what it is, is a depreciating asset. Investments are supposed to become more valuable over time. That’s really the only mark of an investment.
But really, we’ll run with just about any excuse to buy stuff. It’s pathological. “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” That’s America.
And we end up with houses full of things that our kids will have to get rid of, and still we don’t feel satisfied. We feel empty, so we keep chasing it, until we get wise to the fact that it’s just a game we don’t have to play.
But sometimes, we’re forced to see the truth about money and things sooner than we’d like to, like when we lose a job, or go through a crisis.
That’s what happens in our teaching from Jesus today.
We’ve got one of Jesus’ most difficult parables that we’re going to dig into. It’s about a man who has lost his job because he was dishonest, and he keeps being dishonest, and then, for some reason, Jesus says, “My followers need to pay attention to this guy.”
Luke 16: 1-13
Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2 So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’
So this guy finds out that he is losing his job, but his master makes the mistake of not having him escorted out by security right then and there.
3 Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.
I love that he knows himself.
4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first,
Keep in mind, that the debtors don’t know he’s being fired. They just think this is business as usual.
‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7 Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’
It’s discount day!
This manager figures that once he gets fired and is kicked out of his home, he’ll be able to parlay those fifty barrels of olive oil and twenty barrels of wheat into a couch to sleep on and maybe another job.
Beats stealing office supplies.
8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
Wait – what’s going on here? We have watched this guy panic about losing his job, go out and make side deals with the clients of his master, and the text is really clear that he is, above all else, dishonest. So why would the master commend him? Why is this guy a hero?
Because he is investing in people.
For all the wrong reasons.
But he is investing in people.
That’s why we think Jesus points to this dishonest man and says that we should learn from him. Because he shows us an important truth about money. That it’s about securing our own independence. But that it’s for investing in people.
The dishonest manager’s motives are pretty transparently selfish, so we don’t think that’s what Jesus wants from you.
Here’s what we think Jesus wants you to do with money:
Invest in others before they invest in you
Invest in others before they invest in you
Invest in other before they invest in you. Not so that they will invest in you. But invest in others, not things but in people, before they invest in you.
Now, these next four verses go a lot further than just investing in people, but look at what they say through that lens…
10 “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.
We’ve seen that to be true over and over again. People don’t suddenly grow integrity when they are called up to the big leagues, if anything they get worse. Same goes for using money to invest in people rather than things. How are you going to tithe on $10,000 if you never tithed on ten? How are you going to focus on people when they have much less than you, if you never noticed them when you were in the same boat?
11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?
If you can’t see that money affects people when it’s not coming out of your own pocket, how will you ever see it when it’s your own pocket? If you ever say it’s just business, what will you do when it’s not?
13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
And this is where investing in people before they invest in you really comes into its own.
You can’t serve God and wealth.
Because what do you do when you serve wealth? You just see the numbers. You don’t see the people behind the numbers.
When you serve wealth, you end up hiding behind budgets and bottom lines. But when you serve God, you invest in people, before they invest in you.
At this point some of you might be thinking “Now wait a second, I did this before and it didn’t work out. I lost my money and I felt taken advantage of.” So let’s make sure we are being clear. We are not saying you should cash out your IRA to invest in your nephew’s plan to be an internet sensation. We are not saying you should empty your wallet anytime someone asks you for money. God not only tells us to be generous, but also calls us to be wise.
What we are talking about today isn’t throwing money into the air for anyone to catch it. We are talking about intentionally and strategically investing in others before they invest in you.
And if you do this, here is what will happen:
It will change your relationship with money.
When you intentionally and strategically invest in others before they invest in you, it will change your relationship with money because you will start to see money as a tool for investing in people instead of a means to get more stuff you want.
So here is how you do this with the people in your life.
You invest in your kids from the moment they are born. You bought them diapers and clothes and toys. They say it costs us $233,610 to raise a kid right now. We are investing in our kids before they invest in us. They couldn’t pay us back if they wanted to. You are already in for a huge investment, so go one step farther and invest a little more. Not only with your money, but with your time. Go away with your kid for the weekend and talk to them. Or buy a ticket for every night of their performance or game and be on the front row. Or read a book to them every night with they are little.
It’s not just your kids. Invest in your neighbors and take them a meal sometime. Invest in the waiter or waitress who pays their bills by working the late shift at Dennys by giving them a huge tip. Invest in the people here in this church.
And we do this as a church too.
We invest in people before they can invest in us. This means we don’t invest in people with one hand, and hold out the offering plate in the other. Investing in people as a church isn’t done so we can get money from them. We invest in people so we can share the gospel with them. Is it possible that someday they may decide to join the church and support its ministries financially? Absolutely! But we invest in people before they invest in us.
We do this when we support children and youth ministries, when we fund those programs and give to our children and teenagers so that they can come to see the church as a place where they are loved without condition by this community, and by God.
We do this when we welcome visitors who come to worship on Sunday morning. If you are visiting here today, we as a church want to invest in you and your life because we believe you are a child of God. We do this as a church when we support people who are in a difficult season in their lives and are in no position to give anything back to us, but we love them and invest in them anyway.
Because we invest in others before they can invest in us.
About the Authors
Megan and David Collins are the co-pastors of Maitland Presbyterian Church near Orlando, FL. Find them on Twitter @davidrcollins and @pastormegan
Message Begins at Minute 13:00