By Michael Youssef
A company owner hired a manager to run the day-to-day operations of his firm. After some time, the owner noticed the manager was not getting the job done. He was turning up late for meetings. He made a mess of the books. He was playing golf all the time. He was padding the expense account and falsifying his monthly reports. Finally, the owner's patience ran out, and he told the manager, "You have two weeks to turn over the books and clean out your office."
We can learn to be shrewd with our time, talent, and treasure in preparation for an eternal future.
The manager, mourning the loss of his luxurious life—manicures, Mercedes, and nights on the town— and fearing a life of manual labor, devised an ingenious, if not crooked, plan. Because he still had access to the accounts, he visited each person who owed money to the company. To the first he said, "You owe $100,000; let's make it $50,000." To the second, "You owe $200,000. Let's make it $100,000." This went on until everyone was given a generous discount courtesy of the manager's boss.
Meanwhile, the company owner discovered this new shenanigan and became furious. Yet, at the same time, he saw the ingenuity of the manager's strategy. And so, as security escorted the manager from the building, the owner commended him on his foresight to use temporary resources to make friends for a better future.
As you may have guessed, this is a modern retelling of Jesus' story spoken to His disciples in Luke 16:1-9. Jesus concludes the parable, "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:9). Perhaps, like many, you have wondered, "What in the world is this doing in the Bible?" Or maybe you have asked, "Is Jesus praising a crook?"
THE MEANING OF THE PARABLE
Here's what Jesus is saying to every genuine disciple: "Look at the crooked means by which this conniving man planned his future. Look how meticulously and zealously he orchestrated his earthly future, caring for his earthly well-being. Now, think about how much more thoughtful, caring, and intentional you should be about your eternal future."
I know some people who spend more time organizing their annual vacation than thinking about heaven. We can learn from this crook. We can learn to be shrewd with our time, talent, and treasure in preparation for an eternal future. We can invest all God has placed in our hands for eternal rewards. You've heard it said, "You can't take it with you." Actually, that's wrong. According to Jesus in Luke 16, you can send it on ahead—by investing in the Kingdom of God.
There are three things the Lord Jesus Christ is saying to His faithful disciples. He calls us to be wise in facing reality, in projecting the eternal future, and in acting upon our conviction.
Be wise in facing reality. If we know we are going to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus, then we must regularly ask ourselves: What plans am I making with eternity in mind? Do my life plans reflect the reality of a future in heaven with Christ and an age to come—a new heaven and a new earth? Am I writing my personal budget and managing my earthly resources with this Truth in mind?
If you are a follower of Jesus, you will one day stand face to face with Him. That is the reality of your future. To what degree is that reality driving your choices today? The crooked manager from Jesus' story recognized his reality and adjusted accordingly. We must likewise adjust our lives here and now to reflect the anticipation of a heavenly home and a resurrection to come.
Be wise in projecting the future—specifically, your eternal future. Are you going to have friends in heaven? I'm not talking about your church or Bible study friends or your loved ones. I'm talking about people whom you have never seen. Will people, whose names you have never heard, be waiting for you in heaven to thank you for your investment in their spiritual life?
Take a moment to imagine yourself face to face with Jesus and then face to face with people from every corner of the globe. In heaven they will know your name, and you will know their names. Who will come to you and say, "Because of your investment in the work of God, I am here in heaven today"?
Consider the souls you could help usher into the Kingdom of God! Let me give you an example. Recently, our Leading The Way Field Team received this powerful testimony from Walid, a viewer of our KINGDOM SAT channel in the Muslim world:
Five months ago, . . . your Field Team spent some time with me explaining who Jesus is and what He did for humanity. . . . I believed in Christ, who changed my life completely. . . . I started spreading the word around me and sharing with many of my friends and family about Jesus' changing power. . . . and six families accepted Jesus as their Savior. Twenty-six persons sought baptism and left Islam altogether. These days, I see people leaving Islam in abundance because the voice of the Lord is clearly heard and all those who receive Him find a tangible change in their lives. We thank the Lord, who chose us and saved our souls to experience joy and happiness. Thank you again for connecting us to the church leaders here in Iraq who have accepted us and baptized all those whose lives have changed forever.
In heaven, Walid is going to know the people whose investment resulted in his transformation and that of many more souls. I believe he will thank them face to face. Can you visualize the thousands of souls like him whom you may one day meet?
Be wise in acting upon your conviction. There are a lot of well-meaning people who do nothing with their intentions. I am flabbergasted with how Christians in the West squander their Biblical convictions on life's trivial matters. Meanwhile, those who are spearheading godless causes work tirelessly, day and night. If Jesus were telling this parable in the twenty-first century, I believe with all my heart He would say, "Look at the jihadis, look at the atheists, look at the agnostics. Look at those who worship the environment and at the secular humanists. Look at their commitment to their causes. Look at their willingness to invest themselves—and learn from them. Look at them, and do not do less for the Kingdom of God than they are doing for their evil causes. Don't do less for My church. Don't do less for the saving of souls. Don't do less for the Great Commission. Don't do less for your eternal home."
TODAY IS THE DAY TO INVEST IN GOD'S KINGDOM
This brings us back to Luke 16:9. In effect, Jesus is urging His followers: "Make friends for yourselves in heaven." He's not telling us to go out and buy people to amass fickle friends around us for today and tomorrow. He is commending the use of worldly wealth to make friends in heaven for eternity. Use whatever earthly resources you have so that when you don't have them anymore— and in heaven you won't—the people in whom you invested will welcome you into their eternal dwelling places—people whom God will have brought into His glory because of your faithfulness.
The time to give of yourself is now. The time to invest yourself is now. The time to serve is now. The time to put yourself out for Jesus is now. For eternity is the only place where you will get compounded interest.
Jesus did not praise a crook but rather used an earthly example to teach us an eternal principle. May we act as intentionally and zealously as the shrewd manager did—not for ourselves in this life but out of a fervent desire to have many friends in heaven. And may we be fueled for this good work by our love for the Lord and what He loves, the saving of souls.