Making Friends by Unrighteous Mammon

One of the most familiar warnings within Scripture are Paul’s words from 1 Timothy 6:10a, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Paul concludes this verse by saying, “for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Society would have mankind believe that material wealth is the root of happiness and contentment. In reality, wealth and the pursuit of wealth, never lead to satisfaction. They lead to strife and destruction. Paul expresses this thought in verse 9, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” Unfortunately, the pursuit of wealth can even impact churches, when greed, jealousy and the worship of material things, are sown in the hearts of those who once served God and loved Him above all.

It is important for Christians to be reminded that all their wealth and possessions have merely been temporarily entrusted to them by God. They belong God. David writes in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” The prophet Haggai records God saying in Haggai 2:8, “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts.” All creation belongs to God. However, God gave mankind dominion over His creation, as stated in Genesis 1:28. This dominion entails stewardship as described in Genesis 2:15, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Adam and Eve were God’s first stewards here on earth.

This stewardship remains today, and in a general sense, includes every living person, because everything everyone possesses really belongs to God. However, more specifically, God’s true stewards are those who belong to Him. God entrusts each Christian with various material and spiritual gifts. According to Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, God distributes these gifts according to one’s ability (Mat. 25:15), meaning one’s ability to invest them wisely on His behalf. It is important to God that believers take this stewardship seriously and remain faithful in that which they have been entrusted with. Paul warns in 1 Cor. 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”

Scripture teaches that followers of Christ ought to invest their God-given gifts (whether material or spiritual) to further His kingdom here on earth. One specific area is in serving others. Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Through such good deeds, Christians are able to let their light shine and glorify their Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). 

Jesus further elaborates this type of stewardship in His Parable of the Unjust Steward, located in Luke 16. Jesus begins His parable with the words, “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg.” Up to this point, the steward had performed poorly with his assigned responsibilities. Therefore, he was required to give an account to his master, in the same way that all Christians will one day give an account to the Lord regarding their stewardship in Christ.

Seeing his imminent punishment at hand, the steward devised a plan, located in verses 4-7: “‘I have 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 master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’”

At first glance, it may seem as if the steward was once again squandering his master’s wealth by allowing his master’s debtors to reduce their debt. This is partially true, since Jesus even explains the steward’s motives for doing so: that they would receive him in their houses after being removed from his stewardship (verse 4). However, the master commends his steward for finally behaving as a wise steward. Scripture states in verses 8 and 9, “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” The New Living Translation says, “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”

Jesus uses the term “unrighteous mammon” to describe earthly riches. They are unrighteous because they are temporary, and prone to entice earthly attitudes and behaviors as mentioned earlier. Like the steward, the Lord encourages His followers to invest the material gifts that He has entrusted them with to help others, or as stated here, to “make friends.”

Using material wealth to help others can produce spiritual, eternal fruit. Or as stated in our text, fruit that will help us receive our everlasting home. For example, giving to others allows Christians to protect themselves from becoming overly attached to their possessions. If not careful, one’s wealth can become one’s master and god. Jesus warns in verse 13, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Second, generous giving glorifies God for it reflects His mercy and compassion on mankind. Scholars note that the master in the parable would have received honor and thanks from the debtors whose debts were lowered. It’s a beautiful thought that one’s giving can increase praise and thanks towards God. 

Third, giving is a tool that Jesus wants to use to further His kingdom here on earth and His eternal kingdom in heaven. This includes financially supporting missionary work or supporting benevolence programs in one’s community. Benevolence can soften hearts for God’s Word. Either way, God’s life-giving seed can be sown through generous hearts that give. Perhaps, God may even show us one day how our benevolence helped to win souls for Christ. 

God has called all of His children to a life of stewardship, and He wants His children to be reminded of the warning Christ shared in His parable: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10). May the Lord help us to remain faithful stewards with what He has entrusted us. One day, we will give an account.

David Knelsen 

Seminole, TX

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