Turn to Luke 16:1-13 as we continue our way through the gospel of Luke. This is a hard parable. The commentators sometimes struggle to understand what Jesus is speaking about. It's difficult for a number of reasons. One is, in this parable, Jesus commends a dishonest manager as the example to His disciples. It's also not quite clear exactly what the manager is doing to extract himself from his situation.

It's important to note who the audience is to understand this story. Jesus is clearly concerned to speak to His disciples. You see that in verse 1: “He also said to the disciples.” The Pharisees are also here in the background, and verse 14, which is not part of today’s passage, reveals that Jesus is targeting their love of money. Jesus’ goal with this parable explains its shocking nature. He is deliberately tweaking the Pharisees’ noses by making a sinful man the hero. His point is not to praise dishonesty but to show that sometimes worldly people are shrewder than people who profess to be God's people in the way that they use wealth. The Pharisees claim to have eternal interests, but they do not employ their money for those interests.

Jesus gives us several lessons in this passage, but I just want to focus on three of them. You’ll see them in verses 9, 10 and 13. The big point that Jesus is pressing home on His disciples in this passage is that we are to be wholly devoted to the Lord. But He wants to make sure that even the way His disciples use money reflects that they are wholly devoted to the Lord. So let's look at the three things that Jesus teaches us in this passage.

I. Use Your Money for Eternal Interests

First of all, Jesus says in verse 9, “I say to you, make friends for yourselves by the means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.” In other words, your use of money in this life ought to have in view your eternal interests. Jesus has the Pharisees in His sights at this point. They used people to gain things and serve themselves. Jesus is telling His disciples, “Don't use money that way. Use things to serve people and to glorify God.” The Pharisees were lovers of money and used people to gain things, but they claimed to be spiritual, heavenly-minded. This is a rebuke to them.

So Jesus is saying to His disciples and to you and me, “Instead of using people to line your pockets, use your money for kingdom purposes in order to secure eternal wealth. Let your use of money show that you care about eternal things.” Jesus’ point is that every one of His disciples ought to use his or her resources with a view to the glory of God and the good of others. Jesus, in this passage, is saying that our use of money, our use of our resources, is an indicator as to whether we have lost focus on things of eternal value.

II. Money is a Small Matter, but Not a Trivial One

Secondly, if you look at verse 10, Jesus makes the point that your use of money might be a small matter, but it's not a trivial matter. Look at what He says: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in very little is also dishonest in much.” Our attitude towards money is an index of our hearts. Though money may be, in the great scheme of things, a relatively small thing, it's not a trivial thing. Elsewhere you remember Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” so that what you treasure reveals your heart. If you’re like the Pharisees and you use things or people to gain things and serve yourself, it shows where your heart really is, no matter what you claim to believe with regard to God and eternal things. So Jesus is teaching us here the importance of faithfulness in little things, including the way we use our resources.

What does your use of money say about you? Does your use of money say, for instance, that you think that that money is actually yours and that it's to be used for your happiness in any way that you please? Or does your use of money say that you understand that you are a steward, that the money doesn't belong to you but to God? Do you understand that you will give an account for how you use that money? So have you lost sight of eternal things in the way that you’re using the resources that God has given to you? Jesus is teaching here that your use of money may be a small thing relatively, but it's not a trivial thing because it is an index of our hearts.

III. You Cannot Serve God and Mammon

In verse 13 Jesus tells us a third thing. “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Your attitude towards and your use of wealth show whom you worship. In this passage, Jesus uses the term “mammon” or wealth. The application of that term is broader than money. It can refer to your stomach, ease, sleep, time, pastimes, status, pleasure. Notice also that Jesus does not say that we should not serve both God and mammon but that we cannot serve both God and mammon. You are always going to love and serve something supremely, and there will be no one who can vie with that supreme treasure. He says of the Pharisees, “They say that they love God, but what they really love is money.”

Jesus is talking to us, His disciples, about living in such a way that we show that we are wholly devoted to the Lord. He's telling us, “Your use of material possessions will give the lie to whether you are wholly devoted to the Lord or not.” We want to be wholly devoted to the Lord. This year, that ought to be a goal, a spiritual aspiration of our hearts. It's a time of year when many people make resolutions. Here's a resolution to strive for: let us be wholly devoted to the Lord, especially in the way we use our material resources.

The big picture, you see, is very clear. It's that we are to give the whole of ourselves in devotion to the Lord, and our use of material resources is an index to that. The main thing is to be wholly devoted to the Lord. Football coaches often speak, especially after they've won, about their teams having “left it all on the field.” What they mean by that is their players have given everything they had, and they are completely spent. That's how we ought to live the Christian life. We ought to be so focused on eternal interests that we deploy all that we have in the interests of the kingdom. That's what Jesus is calling His disciples to do in this passage.