Erwin W. Lutzer

B. Childress
Dec 29 2011

You can "beat the system"!

Perhaps you heard of the employer who fired his branch manager for squandering money.  The manager was
humiliated and at a loss as to how he might earn a living.  Physically, he was not strong enough to do hard labor and he
was too filled with pride to beg for food.  He did not know anyone who would give him a job that would be in keeping with
his aptitudes and desires.

An idea struck him.  If he got busy and made some friends, they might give him a job or at least a place to stay for the
next few weeks.  If he talked money, they would listen.

Before he cleaned out his desk he called some of his master's clients and made a proposal.  He would renegotiate their
contracts so that they did not have to pay the boss all they owed.  For example, if they owed a hundred bushels of
wheat, he cut the amount to fifty; the man who owed a barrel of oil now owed only a half-barrel.  Needless to say, the
patrons were grateful.

When his boss discovered this bit of wheeling and dealing he was angry, but he did have to commend his steward for
shrewdness.  If he had stolen the money, he could have been sent to prison; but he didn't steal, he just "gave it away."  
He was smart to use money to make friends so that after he was fired he would know some people who would do him a
good turn.

Perhaps you recognize this story as the one Christ told to illustrate the wise use of money.  He does not commend the
morals of the man (He calls him an "unrighteous steward"), but He does commend him for his cleverness.  Then He
adds, "For the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.  And I say to you,
make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into
the eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:8-9).

This is not a chapter about giving, but
investing.  If we use money wisely we can "beat the system."  We can "take it with
us" with handsome dividends.  This chapter, perhaps more than any other, will give specific instruction on how to make
sure that there will be a reward waiting for us in heaven.  If you are a wise investor, listen carefully.


What we need is a philosophy of money, an opportunity to step back and look at it from God's point of view.  When we
are finished, we will never see wealth in the same way again.  And we will discover that money can bridge the gap from
this life to the next.

Here are five principles of sound financial management.  The sooner we memorize them, the more productive we will be
in this life and the greater our reward in the next.

Money Is Loaned, Not Owned

Thousands of Christians mismanage their money because they see it through a skewed lens. They think that the money
put in the offering plate is God's, but the rest is theirs to spend as they please.  And because of this misunderstanding,
God is not free to bless them.  The steward in Christ's parable owned nothing, but he was put in charge of everything.  
He knew that not a dime of what he managed belonged to him.  He also knew that he was being watched and would
have to give an account for what he did with all that was given.

Christ states flatly that money is not ours.  "And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who
will give you that which is your own?" (Luke 16:12).  Our money belongs to "another."  Some of our wages are already
garnished for federal and state taxes before we bring our check home.  Bills have to be paid; creditors remind us that
some of our money is theirs.  Our money is "another's."

And even if we should save some of it, we might lose it in a stock market crash, and then it will surely become
another's.  And if money is not taken away from us, we will be taken away from it.  It never was ours to keep.  God
loaned it to us, and He will receive it back.

The first step to receive God's blessing is to consciously recognize His ownership over all we possess.  We must make
Him Lord of our bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.  Yes, our retirement accounts too.  Then we have to
pray for wisdom to manage all of this according to His principles and long-range intentions.

Yes, we might keep some of these savings, but we will always look at money differently once we realize that none of it is
owned; it is only loaned.  Accountability is now never far from our minds.

If you have never done so before, consciously transfer your money, real estate, and other assets into the hands of
God.  Trust Him to give you the wisdom to use these wisely and productively.  A farmer whose crop was knocked down
by hail said he felt bad until he remembered whose crop it really was.  God, he realized, has a right to do what He
wishes with that which belongs to Him.

Better it be in His hands than ours.

Money Should Be Transmuted into More Lasting Investments

During the Middle Ages alchemists experimented to find a chemical that would turn lead into gold.  The intention was to
transform common metals into something more valuable.  In a different way, we do this all the time; we are always
changing money into something else.  This process is called

For example, just yesterday one of our daughters needed a prescription filled.  So I went to the bank, but I did not return
home to give her money to eat; if so, she would have needed more than a prescription!  I did take the money to the
drug store and transmuted it into medicine; I also transmuted it into groceries and a newspaper.  Transmutation means
the changing across to something else.

If you are a smart investor, you will always be thinking of ways to transmute your money into more secure investments.  
When stocks are down, look for money market funds; when inflation is out of control, you might want some of your
investments in precious metals.  The wiser you are, the more carefully you will watch for secure returns.  Christ taught
that there were even better investments.  We can transmute our funds to bridge the gap between earth and heaven.  
We can use our money to make friends who will welcome us into "eternal dwellings."

This can be done indirectly.  The Christians at Philippi support Paul in his missionary ventures and now that he was
imprisoned in Rome they sent a gift to help him.  Paul wrote to thank them, but he does not say anything about what the
gift meant to him, but rather what it meant to
them.  He writes, "Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what
may be credited to your account" (Philippians 47, NIV).  Giving does not help the recipient as much as it helps the giver
himself, who is upping his tally in the accounts of heaven.

When we support missionaries who make converts, when we help in the lives of those who spread the gospel, we are
hearing about something of ultimate value.  But these values are obtained by starting on the lower level.  Who pledged
$1,000 for missions last year?  Who decided to support that missionary couple that went to Haiti?  Whoever did it
learned the secret of taking something of lower value and transmuting it upward to something of higher value.  That's

There is a story told of a European princess, a fervent Christian, who was burdened to start an orphanage for street
children.  She did not have any money of her own, so she told her husband she wanted to sell the jewels he had given
her so that she could help the orphans.

Of course he was reluctant.  "Don't you appreciate the jewels?" he would ask.  "Of course," she would reply.  "But there
are homeless children we could help."

Eventually he gave in.  She sold the jewels for many thousands of dollars and was able to build the orphanage.  The
children came and were fed and shown love.  They memorized verses of Scripture and sang songs.  One day the
princess returned to her husband, "I found my jewels today!"  she said through tears of joy.  "I found my jewels, the
bright happy eyes of the children who were rescued from the streets.  I found my jewels!"

Smart woman!  She beat the system!

All of our lives we are told that we "cannot take it with us."  We are told we have to leave it all behind.  Of course, we
cannot take dollars and jewels with us, but if we transmute these into heavenly values, we can meet our money in
another life.  The princess found a way to get her jewels on the other side of eternity; she took them all the way to
heaven.  Forever.

Luther would commend this woman.  He said, "I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all.  But
whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess."  If the value of an investment is determined by its security
and rate of return, investing in the lives of those who will live forever brings the best dividends.  God does not want us to
give so that we become poorer; rather, we are to give so that we might become richer.

Giving to God's work is like investing in a mutual fund.  You are contributing to a variety of ministries, each of which will
have a high rate of return in new investments that jump the gap between time and eternity, between earth and heaven.  
"Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or
steal" (Matthew 6:20).

Of course, we can also make such investments more directly.  We can spend money to take our friends out to dinner
and share the good news of the gospel with them.  We can buy Bibles and books and distribute them in our community.  
We can welcome our neighbors into our homes.

We can also help the poor, befriend the unemployed, and take a cake to the widow across the street.  If done for Christ,
we will not lose our reward; it will be waiting for us in the heavenly kingdom.

Money Is a Test for Greater Privileges

Christ turns our view of money upside down.

He says, "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is
unrighteous also in much.  If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust
the true riches to you?" (Luke 16:10-11).

First of all He calls it "a very little thing."  Now, if you know anything about the world, you know that money is a "very big
thing"!  Money is the life blood of business; it lies at the heart of "the deal."  People lie for it, steal for it, scheme for it,
and die for it.

A recent newspaper article titled "Not for Love but for Money" begins, "The romantic ideal of 'live now, pay later' is
becoming increasingly dated in England."  The report goes on to say that more people than ever now take financial
security into account when sizing up a potential marriage partner.  "Romance is no longer enough," the report says.  
"People want to marry someone with some money."

For us, money is not "a little thing."

Second, Christ calls it "unrighteous mammon."  We might paraphrase it "filthy lucre."  Not very complimentary, but
woefully true.  Just look at what people have done for money!

Haddon Robinson, whose message on this parable has impacted my own thinking, points out that Christ does not play
word games like we do.  We often hear it said, "There is nothing wrong with money.  It's just the
love of it that's wrong!"  
But, notes Robinson, we use this cliché as an excuse, a convenient cover for our covetousness.  We tell ourselves we
really don't
love money.  Mind you, we date it, snuggle up to it, fantasize about it, scheme about it, hoard it - but we don't

Christ does not let us by with neat rationalizations.  He calls money what it is because He knows what people have done
to get it.  He knows the businessman who has cheated, the prostitute who has sold her body, the family that has feuded
over settling an estate.  He knows how covetous we are and that "covetousness...is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5, KJV).

Let's not miss Christ's three contrasts.

  •    If we are unfaithful in a "very little thing," how can God entrust us with something greater in the world to come?

  •    If we fail in the responsible use of the "the mammon of unrighteousness," how can we be counted worthy of the
    greater riches in the kingdom?

  •    If we misuse "that which is another's," how can the Lord entrust us with the inheritance He desires to give us?

Money is a test to see whether we are worthy to rule with Christ, able to assume full responsibilities in His reign and
glory.  Those who have the wisdom to transmute their funds into more permanent treasures are wise indeed.  Consider:  
Many of us have money deducted from our paychecks to help fatten our retirement accounts.  This might be prudent,
considering the fact that we will probably live well beyond the days of our earning power.  But think how irresponsible we
are if we do not similarly have money set aside regularly to specifically advance the kingdom so that we might have
many friends who welcome us into "eternal dwellings"!

I've known Christians who put a twenty-dollar bill in the offering plate if they just happen to have that much in their
wallet.  They do not have a giving plan that resembles their saving plan.  They do not give as much as they can and
then wish they could give more.  They are unfaithful, and their status in heaven will reflect it.

If we cannot be trusted to wisely administer God's money on earth, what makes us think we will be capable stewards in
heaven?  Greed here on earth means we forfeit the right to enter into all that could be ours in heaven.  And what we
don't use, we will lose, just as the unfaithful servant discovered when the king returned.  

Money is our trust.  God is testing us to see whether we are prepared for the larger responsibilities that await the faithful.

Money Must Be Our Servant or It Will Be Our Master

Christ ended this parable by saying, "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the
other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13).

We cannot be a full-time slave to two masters.  If we serve God with our whole heart, the seductive love of money will be
squeezed out.  We must fight to make money our servant, asking God to root its power out of our lives.  Even then, it will
seek to grow again, for money is seductive and deceitful.  We must agree with John Wesley, who said, "I value all things
only by the price they shall gain in eternity."

Our hearts cannot have two ultimate loyalties.

Money Must Be Transmuted for Heaven or Lost Forever

The Pharisees to whom Christ told this parable were livid.  They did not buy into this "use your money for people who
will be in heaven" message.  We read, "Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things,
and they were scoffing at Him" (Luke 16:14).  No lover of money likes what Christ had to say.

In order to convince them that money would not help them once they died, Christ told a story about a rich man who was
"habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day.  And a certain poor man named Lazarus
was laid at his gate, covered with sores" (Verses 19-20).  Incredibly, in the life to come their fortunes were reversed!  
Lazarus was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom; the rich man was delivered to Hades, where he languished in
darkness, isolation, and torment.  Lazarus, who endured so much ill treatment when he as living, was now comforted;
the rich man was in agony.

Christ's point is not that we are saved by being poor.  He means to teach us that riches will not help us  when we die.  
We cannot use them to hire an attorney to plead our case; we cannot use them to build ourselves a home or purchase
some creature comforts.  To the Pharisees who loved money, Christ was saying, "Riches are deceptive!  They cannot
provide what you really need!"  Only those who consciously transfer their funds to heaven understand true values.


Germany lay in ruins.

Millions of refugees wandered the streets in German cities amid the rubble of bombed-out buildings and disheveled
streets.  Years would be necessary to rebuild.  The memory of Adolph Hitler would never be forgotten.

Willard Cantelon, in his book
The Day the Dollar Dies, recounts the story of a little German mother who wanted to assist
the building of a Bible school on the outskirts of the destroyed city of Frankfurt.  She held her money with pride and
tenderness, as though it was a part of her very life.  She had earned this money with hard work and had constantly
guarded it in the war's destructive years.  Now "she was investing it in a worthy cause and beamed with pride as she
offered her contribution."

Cantelon continues, "How could I tell her she had held this money too long?  Why did it fall my lot to shock this sensitive
soul with the news that her money was virtually worthless?  Why had she not read the morning paper, or heard the
announcement that the new government in Bonn had cancelled this currency?"

That Sunday in June of 1948, a staggering number of Germans committed suicide.  Millions lost their savings because
the mark had been canceled by their government.  If only they had exchanged their money for something that would
survive the economic collapse!

If this dear lady - bless her - had brought her money sooner, those marks could have helped pay for the renovation of
the facilities or the tuition of students.  Too bad that she had to hear those disappointing words, "Madam, I'm awfully
sorry, but I cannot accept your money."

Someday, every dollar, every piece of gold, and every jewel will be devalued, wiped out forever.  Peter wrote: "But the
day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed
with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up" (II Peter 3:10).

So much for Wall Street.  Good-bye to stocks, bonds, property, and gold.  Good-bye to houses, condos, and cars.  The
wise investor will put his money in a place that will bring the greatest dividends for the longest time.  We cannot take
dollars and Krugerrands with us unless we transmute them into something that will bridge the gap between earth and

The stones we lay on the other side will help determine whether we are worthy to reign in the kingdom.  If we are faithful
in "the little thing," we will be faithful over the true riches.  We will join those who reign over greater treasures.

The wise take it with them.


YOUR ETERNAL REWARD, by Erwin W. Lutzer, Copyright 1998, Moody Publishers.