Faithful in Unrighteous Wealth

Jesus said, “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth [i.e. the wealth of this age], who will entrust to you the true riches?” (Luke 16:11)

For a long time Sarah and I agreed we needed to sit down to review our finances in order to determine whether our preparations for retirement were adequate. And for a long time we didn’t do it. There were, no doubt, many reasons we never made time for the needed meeting. However, I am convinced one of the main reasons we never sat down together to review our finances was we didn’t want to change our lifestyle. We knew intuitively we were not using our money in the best way. We were not being obviously foolish; we were not racking up debt spending more than we had. But, we were spending most of what we had to subsidize a standard of living we enjoyed. We knew saving more for retirement would require us to spend less on ourselves now and we didn’t relish the idea.

Jesus’s words in Luke 16:11 call for a similar financial review. Only, it is not preparation for retirement, but preparation for eternity, Jesus has in view. Jesus is challenging his disciples to sit down to review their finances to determine whether they are being faithful in unrighteous wealth. “Unrighteous wealth” refers to the wealth of this present evil age, as Paul calls in Galatians 1. Jesus is challenging his disciples to review their finances to determine whether they are being faithful in the wealth of this age that has been entrusted to their care, whether it be little or much.

The preceding parable shows what Jesus means by faithful. It is a difficult parable. In it, Jesus points to an unrighteous manager and encourages his disciples to emulate him. This is confusing, to say the least. However, the context makes it clear Jesus is not encouraging his disciples to emulate the manager’s dishonesty. Rather, Jesus is calling his disciples to emulate the manager’s shrewdness. When the manager realized he was about to lose his job, he immediate set out to use the resources still at his disposal to secure his future livelihood. Jesus says his disciples ought to be equally shrewd. “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9). Jesus is challenging his disciples to use whatever material wealth is at their disposal now to secure their eternal livelihoods.

Such a challenge calls for a serious assessment of our financial dealings. However, I am convinced many believers do not want to do this sort of financial review because they do not want to change their lifestyle. Many believers know intuitively they are not using their money in the best way. However, at the same time, they enjoy the standard of living their current financial practices afford. They don’t want to review their finances because they don’t want to change the way they presently spend their money.

I understand. I too feel this pull to maintain the bliss of ignorance. However, Jesus’s words make it clear such ignorance can be damning. “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” This is a weighty question. The implication is clear. If you are not faithful in the wealth of this age, that is, if you do not use the wealth entrusted to you in this life in the service of your Lord, then he will not entrust to you the true riches of the age to come. This does not mean merely that your mansion in heaven will be a little less grand. This means you will have no inheritance whatsoever in the coming kingdom of God. It is not that generosity in this life earns eternal life. It does not. As Peter says, “We have been ransomed, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like a lamb without blemish or spot” (see 1 Peter 1:18-19). However, how you use your money here and now reveals your heart, and thus reveals your future state.

Scripture commands professing believes to examine themselves to see if they are truly in the faith. One of the best ways we can do this is by examining our finances to see if we have been faithful in unrighteous wealth. Sarah and I eventually made time to determine if we were properly preparing for retirement. How much more ought each one of us make time to determine if we are properly preparing for eternity?

 

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