Money. Power. Greed. Jesus has a lot to say about these topics in chapter 16. I think his main point is that we don’t handle these things very well. As a matter of fact, money, power and greed tend to master us. We don’t control or manage them; rather they dominate us, and more importantly we put our trust in them. This was a particular problem for the Pharisees who loved money, and I think it is a problem for followers of Christ today. Many sins are obvious to the world, but a love of money and power can be hidden where others can’t see, in our hearts, and this is an intolerable situation for Jesus – you cannot serve God and money.
The parable of the Shrewd Manager is an unusual story. A dishonest manager manage is at least commended for understanding that you can use money and resources to make friends. Jesus says that children of the light aren’t very shrewd in these ways, but he makes it clear that we should use our resources to benefit others and make friends. In other words, a follower of Christ should be a generous person.
The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a frightening story. Lazarus sits at the gate of the rich man day after day, but the rich man does nothing for him. It seems like the rich man is unable to see Lazarus, his awful condition, as if his wealth has blinded him and hardened his heart. After his death the rich man is sent to the place of the dead, and he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers. Abraham says it won’t work. If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe someone sent from the dead. Their love of money has made them unable to hear and respond to God’s word. Their hearts are hard. A follower of Christ can’t love money and God. It just won’t work.
So what should we do? How do we make sure money doesn’t master us? Jesus tells us to be faithful in the little things. Be honest in little things. Be faithful with other people’s things. If we do this, we will be faithful with bigger things, and prepared to handle worldly wealth. We will be able to be generous followers of Christ who don’t love money.
Jesus makes another interesting comment in this chapter. “What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.” Our culture reveres and trusts money and power. They are markers of success and the good life. However, they are not markers of a Christian life. Am I being shaped by my culture? Do I trust money more than God? Or am I being a generous follower of Christ? And faithful in the little things? You can’t serve God and money – it won’t work. God demands first place in our hearts, and there is no room for love of money, power and greed.