Angie Benjamin

Handling Money and Possessions {Luke 16}

2:08 AM

By Angie Benjamin

The use of wealth is the major topic of  Luke 16. Wealth can be a blessing or a curse, depending on whether it is used as a means to exercise power, a tool of self-indulgence or a resource to serve others. 

In this chapter Jesus tells two parables—the unrighteous steward and rich man and Lazarus—to show that God’s perspective on riches and our perspective are often very opposed. If we want to be truly rich, we need God’s perspective on money.

Wealth's danger is that it can turn our focus toward our own enjoyment, as the rich fool showed in 12:13-21 and as the rich man of 16:19-31 will show. Money is a tool. It is an excellent resource when put to the right use. It can help to build many things of use to others. But to possess money is also to hold a sacred stewardship. Our resources are not to be privately held and consumed but are to be used as a means of generosity, as a way of showing care for our neighbor, as the good Samaritan showed in 10:25-37 and as a restored Zacchaeus will show in 19:1-10.

Jesus' applications extend in various directions. First he notes that people of the world are more shrewd than the people of the light (the disciples) are. People of this world think about how they use their resources. Even if they misuse them, they still give it thought. They think about the long-term benefits of what they acquire. Disciples should apply themselves to honor and serve God by their use of resources. They should think through their actions, both short and long term.

Money cannot come with us to heaven. Its value is limited when it comes to everlasting life. So recognize its limits and use it for others, not selfishly. To gain friends by means of mammon is to use money in such a way that others appreciate you for your exercise of stewardship, your kindness and generosity.

Jesus calls mammon "unrighteous." The NIV is too soft here, calling it simply worldly wealth (NRSV has "dishonest wealth," which is not quite right either). Mammon is called unrighteous not because it is inherently evil but because of the unrighteous attitudes the pursuit of money can produce. If money were inherently unrighteous, then all uses of it would be evil. But that is not Jesus' view (see 19:1-10). The attitude reflected here may be similar to that of 1 Timothy 6:10, where Paul says that the love of money is the root of all evil. Money itself is not  evil because of how it brings out distorted values in people.The attitude towards it can be evil. Pursuing money can make people selfish, leading them to take advantage of others, to treat other people as objects and to be unfaithful to God. It tends to reflect an excessive attachment to the world. So it is better not to be attached to the pursuit of wealth.

Possessions are a responsibility, call it time, skills and talents...their use is a test of character, values and stewardship. The one who is faithful in little is also faithful in much. So also the other way around--to be dishonest in little things is to be dishonest in much. Faithfulness with the "little thing" of money indicates how faithful we are with the big things, the true riches of our relationships to God and to others. So if we have not been trustworthy in handling possessions that produce unrighteousness, who will trust us with true riches? The true riches in this passage seem to involve future kingdom service--that is, service for God and to others. True wealth is faithfulness in serving him.

The theme of responsibility continues as Jesus raises the question about being faithful with something that belongs to another so that later one can receive reward for oneself. If someone is unfaithful as a steward, why should that person be entrusted with ownership? Handling wealth is a preparatory lesson for other responsibilities before God.

The entire chapter should make us all stop and think carefully about our attitude toward can you tell if you're slave to money?

Ask yourself... Do I think and worry about money frequently? Do I give up doing what I should do or would like to do in order to make more money? Do I spend a lot  of time caring for my possessions? Is it hard for me to give money away? Am I in debt?

To ponder:
Our use of money is a goo test of the lordship of Christ.
  • Money belongs to God, not us; so let us use it for good.
  • Money can be used for good or eveil; let us use ours for good.
  • Money has a lot of power; let us use our material goods in a way that will show and inspire others to faith and obedience.

Becky Bramlett Austin

Lost and Found {Luke 15}

12:00 AM

By Becky Bramlett Austin

Have you ever lost something that was very important? Do you remember how diligently you searched for it?  Did you think about anything else?  Did you search the same areas over and over again?  

And do you remember the relief, the pure joy, the celebration that came naturally when you finally found what you had been seeking so earnestly to find?

I think we all can relate to such a situation.  When the Scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus for allowing sinners and publicans near him, he told three Lost and Found stories that even today we can universally relate to:

1.  THE LOST SHEEP:  Sheep can get lost easily. In that day, a shepherd was very protective of all of the fold.  He was their protection from the elements, from the dangerous terrain, and from the wildlife that would devour them. If a single sheep strayed from the others, it was extremely vulnerable and wouldn’t know how to find its way back.  So too are those lost in their sins. They don’t know how to protect themselves from the dangers around them or how to save themselves.  David could relate: “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, For I do not forget your commandments. (Psalm 119:176)” It’s interesting that he uses the active words “Seek”.  That is what Jesus does for us.  He actively seeks and pursues us. For thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I Myself will search for my sheep and seek them out. (Ezekial 34:11)  And Jesus further emphasizes seeking after even one: “ What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?”  Jesus came into “our dangerous wilderness”, taking on the form of a human in a very dark, cruel world just to find and save each of us. And when he finds us there is incredible joy and celebration. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. “And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. (v6)”

THE LOST COIN: “what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?”  No one wants to lose their hard earned money.  I’m sure the woman in this story felt the impact of losing one of her 10 coins.  I can imagine that she left no crevice unchecked, no item unturned.  If it took her hours and hours, I’m sure that finding that coin took full priority and all of her attention.  Again, we see the active seeking as in the first story and also the gathering of friends and celebration when the lost coin is found.  Can you imagine God seeking you diligently because he values you dearly? “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)”

But what about the second son.  He does not rejoice that relationship has been restored between the Father and the first son. His focus is on criticizing and judging his brother.  The scribes and Pharisees were doing the same when they criticized Jesus for allowing the sinners to gather near him.  Instead, they should have been rejoicing that these “sinners” were interested in changing their hearts toward God. Are we guilty of the same?  Do we know how to truly rejoice when others draw near to God? Do we gossip and criticize or do we pray for and hope for God to work in every heart we encounter? Do we realize that Jesus came to die for every human being and as the old hymn says, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” Rejoice, my friend, if you were lost and now are found! Rejoice over every lost soul that is brought safely into the fold.

THE PRODIGAL SON:  2 sons.  One is given his inheritance early but he wastes it.  Destitute, and empty handed he returns to the Father.  He returns humble however and truly repentant.  The Father is so excited that his child has returned that he kills the fatted calf to celebrate the restoration of relationship.  We are like that son.  We who are given such abundant blessings and yet we squander and waste our resources on our own pursuits of selfish pleasure and ambition.  I noticed that in contrast to the other 2 stories, we don’t see the Father seek after the son.  But there was no need to. The son knew his way home and he wouldn’t have appreciated the Father coming after him. Sometimes, we need to realize that just because someone seems to be going away from God, that doesn’t mean God has given up on them.  Sometimes they know the way they should go but they have to come to the end of themselves first.  In verse 17, we see that the son came to his senses and was ready to return home. When we come to the end of ourselves, realize how empty handed we truly are and learn to value relationship with our Father above any material gain, then he graciously welcomes us with open arms into fellowship with Him. 


How NOT to Win Friends and Influence People! {Luke 14}

12:00 AM

By Sue Desmarais

I find that often some of the meaning of a passage can be lost over 2000 years. Take this passage for example;

“And there went great multitudes with him: and He turned, and said unto them,
 ‘If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever does not take up his cross, and follow me, cannot be my disciple.’” Luke 14:25-27 (emphasis mine)

Let’s examine this picture before us… A “great multitude”, too many to count, were following after Jesus and He turns and says to the crowd, “Come, join Me and be My disciple and your life will be glorious from this point on!!”

OK, those weren’t quite His words, but some would like to believe they were today! Just think how Jesus’ words actually impacted this great multitude!! The cross was the most horrible, heinous and hated form of punishment reserved for only the very worst criminals, but you and I could probably imagine that the corrupt Roman officials probably liked to use it from time to time to set an example for the Jewish citizens at the time; to keep them in check sort of speak, for thousands of Jews were crucified during that time and not all could have been for murders. Therefore, can you imagine how repulsive Jesus’ words must have been to this multitude pressing in to see and hear Jesus?

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and even his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever does not take up his cross, and follow me, cannot be my disciple.

I imagine a collective gasp of horror could be heard at that moment especially coming from His own disciples, for yes, Jesus had said the same to them in so many words a few chapters back (Luke 9:23), but clearly Jesus must have known this was no way to make converts and influence people!! Surely not! Could you just imagine how this must have thinned the size of the crowd? Just how many do you think were still following after Him then?

Only, Jesus did know the impact His words would have, for He goes on to list several examples where it’s feasible to count the cost before proceeding further. Choosing to follow Jesus will be hard! All will face some sort of persecution; some will loose friends, loved ones, even businesses and some would loose their lives. To say that life would be wonderful the moment you give your life to Jesus would be a lie! Therefore, we too would be wise to follow Jesus’ example here, for too many have bought into a lie, and later fall away when the journey becomes difficult.

Those who choose to follow in spite of the possible hardships must after all, “…deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow” Him (9:23). Which simply means; we must surrender all (our rights, wants, desires etc,) placing Him first and foremost in our lives and pick up our cross (our mission and reason we’re here) and follow Him each day.

Being a disciple of Jesus, or a Christian, is more than learning about him; it includes following His leading. The disciples had already “left everything” to follow Him, and the Lord had promised them “a hundred times as much” blessing in return (Mark 10:28-30). Jesus also promised that they would have trials in this world (John 16:33). But He also promised He would never leave nor forsake them and assured them that He had already overcome the world!

The Christian life is not an easier life, but the joy often times outweighs the hardships. We fix our eyes on Jesus, who “for the joy set before him . . . endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

God has set His followers free from the bondage of sin and through the Holy Spirit; we receive wisdom and understanding on how to go forward, encouragement, and the ability to persevere. And we trust that our “present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed” (Romans 8:18).

There is so much more I’d like to say, but let me close with just a bit of a personal note:

Psalm 1 begins,
“Blessed is the one

    who does not walk in step with the wicked
 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.”- Psalm 1:1-3

My husband and I began following Jesus together after we had been married for more than five years and our children were still young. That was over thirty years ago and I can honestly say, our lives haven’t always been easy, but God has definitely blessed us! When asked, I like to say that our marriage is as good as two sinners can get, for I can’t imagine a marriage being any better, though the Lord often enjoys proving me wrong. We’re also blessed with a wonderful close-knit family that also follows Jesus.

I know that had we not chosen to follow Jesus back then we would not be experiencing the joys we do today! I have been blessed far beyond my wildest dreams! (Eph 3:20) There is nothing more I seek or desire in this life that I haven’t already been given! Therefore, should God call me home today I am good to go! But I need to ask, are you?

There were many, I imagine, that turned away and stopped following Jesus that day, but I’m confident that those who chose to remain and follow Him never regretted their decision!