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January 25, 2016

Recession and the Christian Ethic (Part 2)

Dr. John Neufeld

Many of us may be surprised at the discovery that Jesus spoke about money very frequently. In fact, 16 of his 38 parables deal with the subject of money. A quick read through the parables shows Jesus speaking about: investments; savings; debt; hiring procedures; wage structures for workers; leasing property; banking; the accumulation of interest; building construction and its costs; and even about dividing up an estate at death.

In Luke 16:1-13, he speaks of the dishonest manager, who learns to use his money, not for his personal gain, but to win friends. In Matthew 25:14-30, he speaks of the parable of the talents, in which it is the task of the money manager to invest his masters assets and earn a profit for his master. In Luke 19:11-27, he speaks of the parable of the ten minas, in which again, it is the duty of the servant to earn a profit for his master.

A detailed study of these three parables yields some interesting conclusions. Here are 10 of them for us to look at.
1. God is the owner of all wealth
If you miss this point, then nothing I say after this even remotely matters. And until we willingly and joyfully acknowledge this – deep in our own hearts – I fear we will never realize what God want us to be and do in life.
2. We are servants entrusted with managing His wealth
All three parables have an interaction between the owner and the servants who manage the owner’s wealth. And in each, there is an obligation of the servants to manage the wealth of the owner well.
3. The owner wants His wealth back
In the parable of the dishonest manager, that comes about when the owner calls for an audit. In the parables of the talents and minas, the owner is on a long journey, and demands an accounting when he comes back.
4. Each one of us have been given various amounts of money
That becomes especially clear in the parable of the talents. Talents were units of money. In the parable, some have been given many talents and some have been given few. But the decision of how much to give each steward, or servant is entirely the master’s decision. In the same way, with the amount of ‘talents’ you receive comes your assignment from the master.
5. We all have varying degrees of ability
That is what the parable of the minas was about. In that story, in order to stress the idea of ability and not financial status, Jesus tells a story in which everyone is given the same amount of money, but in fact had varying degrees of ability.
6. All managers are told to engage in business
From all accounts, the dishonest manager was doing pretty well in business; he is not fired because of that. He was fired because he was dishonest. In all three parables, the servants are called to increase the master’s wealth.
7. Money is a test
In the parable of the minas, the servants receive cities on the basis of how they have done. Similarly, our reward in eternity will depend upon whether we have learned to be faithful with the master’s resources.
8. Mistakes, temptations and challenges come along the way
In the case of the first parable, the manager became unethical. He used the money (from his master) to line his own pockets rather than to build up his master’s resources.
9. When the test is over, the eternal reward or eternal punishment begins
In the parables, some who refused the master’s call are expelled from the kingdom. That is a frightening and sobering lesson.
10. Conclusion: What is money? It is a test of faith.

On this, I should clarify: I did not say money is the test of faith. There are in fact other significant tests that Christ deliberately puts before you. However, it’s clear that money certainly is a significant test for us.
Listen to the words of Jesus. “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13)

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