What To Do With Possessions?
April 23rd, 1986 @ 7:30 PM
WHAT TO DO WITH POSSESSIONS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-23-86 7:30 p.m.
We are going to turn in our Bibles to the Third Gospel; Matthew, Mark, Luke, the Third Gospel, the Gospel of Luke. And in that Third Gospel chapter 16, and we shall read out loud and together the first ten verses. Luke 16:1 through 10. Do we all have it? If a neighbor does not, you share your Bible with him. We will read it out loud together. Ready? Luke 16:1-10 together:
And He said also unto His disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
That is one of the most unusual and interesting parables that our Lord ever taught. I am taking out of it, in this little brief word of introduction, the question in the third verse, “What shall I do?” [Luke 16:3]. And these services on Wednesday night will each one be centered around that question, “What shall I do?” They shall address the problems of human life, the things that we face as we journey through the pilgrimage of these days. For example, next Wednesday night I am going to speak on, “What Shall I Do about Pornography and Perversion?” And the reason for it lies in the headlines of our papers as our city council wrestles with these adult magazines and these adult movies. What is the effect of pornography upon people? And why should we be interested in that result? What should be our attitude toward it and why? That will be the service next Wednesday night. What does God say about that?
Now I have here messages that I am preparing for these services on Wednesday night: “What Shall I Do?” Here are some of them:
- What Shall I Do with All My Troubles?
- What Shall I Do with All My Failures?
- What Shall I Do?
- I Am a Civil War Inside Me: What Shall I Do With My Inward Conflicts?
- What Shall I Do? I Want to Be Happy.
- What Shall I Do? I Am a Sorry Christian.
- What Shall I Do? I Have Trouble in My Home.
- What Shall I Do? I Have Trouble with My Children.
- What Shall I Do? I Want a Happy Marriage?
- What Shall I Do with This Child? That’s what Manoah and his wife asked the angel of promise, Samson [Judges 13:8].
- What Shall I Do to Lead My Child to the Lord?
- What Shall I Do to Make a Home for the Child?
- What Shall I Do with Questions Teenagers Ask?
- What Shall I Do about Gambling? What does God say about that?
- What Shall I Do about Worldly Entertainment?
- What Shall I Do about Sexual Drives?
- What Shall I Do about Living with Homosexuals?
- What Shall I Do about Drugs, Drunkenness, and Nakedness?
- What Shall I Do with My Spiritual Struggles?
- What Shall I Do with How the Christian Should Dress? God has a whole paragraph about that.
- What Shall I Do When a Child Wants to Be Saved?
- What Shall I Do When I am Faced with Whose Slave Am I?
- What Shall I Do with God and the Alcoholic?
- What Shall I Do about Demon Possession?
- What Shall I Do about Mixed-up Religion?
- What Shall I Do with My Sins?
- What Shall I Do with My Loneliness?
- What Shall I Do with My Despondency?
- What Shall I Do with My Handicaps?
These are just messages that I am preparing for these days that lie before us as we assemble on Wednesday night. Each night in these immediate days will concern a problem we face in human life.
Now the message tonight is on this parable, which is one of the most unusual in the Bible. And I have taken out of it that question, “What shall I do?” [Luke 16:3]. So I thought we would speak of the parable itself. This is absolutely an almost impossible thing that our Lord has done. He is commending here a scoundrel [Luke 16:8], and I mean one of the worst. Every once in a while the Lord would do something like this.
For example, in His parable of the unjust judge, He likens our Heavenly Father and our relationship to God, He likens it to an unjust judge [Luke 18:2-8]. Well, here He is commending to us one of the sorriest creatures that you could ever read about in God’s Book. The fellow is a cheat, and a liar, and a schemer. He’s everything bad. He is so bad that the rich man over whose possessions he presided as steward called him in and said, “You are done. You are fired. You can be no longer a steward” [Luke 16:2].
And this man facing the problem of his life, “What shall I do?” he says. “What shall I do?” [Luke 16:3]. And he concocted a scheme that was as sagacious and wily as anything you could ever think of in your life. He ran down all of the creditors of his boss and said, “What do you owe the boss man?” [Luke 16:3-7].
And this guy says, “I owe him a hundred dollars.”
“And well, you give me fifty dollars, and we’ll cancel it out.
“What do you owe him?”
“I owe him two hundred dollars.”
“You give me seventy-five dollars, and we’ll cancel it out. What do you owe him?”
“Oh, I owe him five hundred dollars.”
“You give me three hundred dollars, and we will cancel it out.”
The scoundrel, cheating his master and saving his own sorry, good-for-nothing hide.
Now the lord commends him. In the eighth verse He says, “The lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done phronimos” [Luke 16:8]. The Greek word for mind is phrēn. You’ve got several English words based on phrēn, phrenology, frenetic, phrēn. It is a Greek word for intelligence, for mind. And the lord commended the unjust steward because he had done phronimos. He had done smartly. He had done wisely. Then the Lord remarked, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make unto yourself friends of the mammon of this world.” Jesus is the only one that ever uses that word mammon. It refers to the possessions of this life, “that when you fail, they,” God and the saints, “may receive you up into heaven” [Luke 16:8-9].
Now when we look at a thing like this that the Lord has done, if you read a great deal, you will find world without end expositors and exegetes and commentators who are critical of the Lord for doing such a thing as this. What you have to remember when you read a parable is, there is one tremendous lesson that is taught in it. Always there is one great, overriding example, teaching, that the Lord is bringing to our hearts and minds. And the detail of it may have no pertinency at all. What we must look for is the central thrust of what our Lord is saying. And in this parable, when He commends this scoundrel, this unlikely candidate for any kind of acceptance or commendation, what we must look for is, “What is the Lord saying to us?” The tremendously, marvelously spiritual meaning of what the parable teaches, now what is that?
It is two. One is this: the Lord is commending to us sagacity and foresight in our lives. It is no honor to God for a man to be stupid and to do crazy, silly, inane things. We ought to ask God for sagacity in all of our planning, in the rearing of your children, in the paying of your home, in the work that you do, in the saving of your money, in the investments that you make, to be provident, to have foresight, to be sagacious, to have sagacity. These things God commends in you, in us. There wasn’t any rain in the days of Noah. I’m one of those that believes that the world had never seen it rain. I think the whole earth was covered with a canopy. And the earth was watered by distillation of moisture, by dew. They had never seen it rain.
I think the first time the world ever saw rain was when the forty days and forty nights God punctured that canopy that covered the earth [Genesis 7:12]. I think that’s why you find flora and fauna in the Arctic just as you will down there in all of those tropical zones of the planet. I think the top of this earth, where the Arctic is, had just the same kind of luscious foliage and foliation that you find down there in the heart of the jungles under the equator. There was a canopy over the earth, and every part of the earth was just beautiful. It was flourishing. It was well-watered, and the growth was luxurious. And God punctured that thing. And for forty days and for forty nights, all of that canopy of the earth fell down from the sky to this world [Genesis 7:12].
Now who was sagacious? And who had the foresight to prepare for that unlikely event? There was one man, and his name was Noah. And when God revealed to him that the world was going to be deluged, Noah preached that gospel for one hundred and twenty years, for a hundred twenty years [Genesis 6:3, 7], and nobody listened to him. Nobody paid any attention to him. Only Noah, and when he brought the eight members of his family into the ark, they alone were saved [Genesis 7:7, 22-24]. That pleases God, to be sagacious, to be provident, to be full of anticipation and planning for the future. All right, that’s the first lesson of this parable [Luke 16:8]. May God give me wisdom to know how to plan for my family, and how to plan for my life, and how to plan for this church, and how to plan the future. May God give us wisdom to know what to do.
Number two in this parable: this parable teaches us that we can use mammon [Luke 16:9], we can use the things of this earth and turn them into the coin of heaven. We can take what God has given us in this life and use it for the glory of God and for our eternal reward in the world that is yet to come. This is the way by which we create an inheritance above us in the glory of the goodness of God that lies in the years beyond our days. God does that [Acts 20:32]. And He gives us opportunity to learn in that way, by using the things in this world. If I have any treasure in heaven, it is because I have used the treasures of this earth in a way that glorifies His name [Colossians 3:17]. These things that I have are the things that I can use to be rich toward God, using the mammon of this world [Luke 16:9].
Now I have two other things that I take out of this parable. When it says that “you are going to be no longer a steward,” going to take that away from you [Luke 16:2]. I think that is a picture of our final giving up of our stewardship, the day when we die, the day when we lay this assignment down. Now when that day comes, how will it be?
First, may I point out a rich man? This is the first time in my life that I was ever introduced to men of great wealth, coming here to the city of Dallas. I grew up in a little town. If anybody had anything, it would be a mystery to God Himself. Everybody was poor. Did you grow up in a little town like that? I mean poor, poor, poor. But when I came to Dallas, I hadn’t been here thirty minutes until some of the richest men in America wanted to see the successor of the great George W. Truett. Well, as I look at these rich men, and, for these forty-two years since, have been with them all of the time, as I look at these big tycoons and magnates in our queenly city of Dallas, what a tragedy! What a sadness to see so many of them use their possessions for the personal gratification of ambition or entertainment or worldly pursuits, and think nothing about God.
And when they die, as they certainly have, I’d say practically all, if not all, of the rich men that I knew when I came to Dallas, all of them are dead, all of them. I don’t think there is one of them still alive. I don’t believe so. When they come to die, think of the poverty of their appearance before the great Judge of all of the earth. What they could have done, what they might have done staggers the imagination. But instead, dissipate all that God has given them into nothingness, emptiness, sterility, and die like that.
But that also applies to people who are not affluent. It applies to all of us people who are not rich. How do we do with what God has given us? Whatever it is?
I read of a Chinese man who was walking down the road and came face to face with a poor, ragged beggar. And the man had ten coins. And with his hand he took out his ten coins. And he counted nine of them, and gave them to that wretched beggar; gave him nine of his ten coins, and kept one for himself. And the man with the ten coins, who had given the beggar nine of them, walked on down the road. And the beggar followed him. And when the man in the road came to a lonely place, the beggar attacked him and stole away from him the tenth coin, the one that the man had kept for himself.
And when I read that, I thought of all of the impossible, unthinkable things in this world, the man give the beggar nine coins and just keep one for himself, and the beggar follow him and attack him and take the other tenth coin out of his hand. Then I got to thinking about us. Did you know most of our people are like that? God says, “Nine tenths I give to you. Just one tenth I reserve for Myself, I keep for Myself.”
And we say, “Not so, Lord. I’m going to take that tenth coin, too.”
O God forgive us, and the Lord help us. If I, He says, am unfaithful in that which is little, then it counts as if I was unfaithful in that which is great [Luke 16:10]. I need, Lord, whatever it is in my hands, I need to remember that a part of this is sacred for Thee. And God help me to be true and honest before God. If nine tenths of it, Lord, You say is mine; and one tenth of it, Lord, is Thine; Lord, don’t let me steal that one tenth. Don’t let me take it for myself, but help me, Lord, to do a good thing for Thee with it.
And that leads me to my last avowal. There is something about possessions, no matter what it is, big or little, there is something about possessions that gets vitally involved with our souls and with our lives.
Let me tell you one of the most unusual things I ever listened to in my days. I was seated as you are there in front of me. I was seated, listening to a layman, not a preacher. I was listening to a layman, like you men here who are seated on these front rows, godly men. He was a godly layman. And he began to describe an evening that he was spending by himself before a fireplace. And he said he took the poker in his hand and he took the poker in his hand and jabbed the logs in the fireplace to burn brightly. And then he sat down back in his chair and just happened to keep that poker in his hand. And he said as he sat there before the fireplace, he closed his eyes and was just quiet and meditating, with that poker in his hand.
Then he said he began to move the poker, and, with his eyes closed and just full of quiet meditation, he felt the carpet. The edge of the poker had fallen down on the carpet. And with that poker, he felt the carpet. Then he said he lifted it and moved it forward and with that poker he felt the brick of the fireplace. Then he said, with his eyes shut and just meditating in quietness, he moved the poker forward yet again, and he felt the heat of the fire. And the layman said, as he sat there with his eyes closed, just thinking, being quiet, he began to speculate how he went down that poker, and he felt the carpet down on that poker, and he felt the brick down that poker, and he felt the fire down that poker. And he said, “I just had to face the conclusion that I go down to the end of that poker. I do.” Then he said, “I began to think about everything we possess in our lives. They are a part of my very being. I go down to the end of every one of them. And every one of them vitally affects me.”
Well, when I got through listening to that layman I thought, that’s a truth of God that had never entered my mind before. What I have, I don’t care what it is, what I have has a vital repercussion in my soul, in my life. And how I do it, and use it, and dedicate it, makes the difference between here and there. That’s what Jesus was teaching us in this parable of this unfaithful steward [Luke 16:1-10]. And Lord, I want to do good for Thee. What I have, I can’t keep. It is just for a moment and a while, and then I give account of it to God [1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10]. Lord, may I do good for Thee. Grant it, Jesus, amen.
WHAT SHALL I DO
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The problems of human life (Luke 16:3)
B. Sermon seriesII. The parable (Luke 16:1-11)
B. Mammon only used by Jesus; refers to the possessions of this lifeIII. Jesus criticized for this type of story
A. Always one overriding example, teaching
B. What He is teaching in this parable
1. Prudent foresight, sagacity
2. Use of material possessions to gain eternal reward in heavenIV. “No longer a steward” (Luke 16:2)
A. Picture of our final giving up of our stewardship, laying this assignment down
1. Rich man – what could have been done
2. Poor man – what could have been done
B. Using possessions for God
1. Vitally involved with our souls, lives