Entertainer Sophie Tucker reputedly said, “From birth to age 18, a girl needs good parents, from 18 to 35 she needs good looks, from 35 to 55 she needs a good personality, and from 55 on she needs cash.” And on another occasion she suggested, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”
But is it better? And how should we think about money? It’s easy to acknowledge that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10), but when you’ve been unemployed for six months and have accumulated $30,000 in consumer debt and each month’s bills initiates the game of paying every debtor enough to stave off their demanding phone calls while keeping enough to eat for another day, it’s difficult to keep money from being the dominant part of your daily thinking.
So how should we think about money?
In Luke 16 Jesus tells an unusual story about an unrighteous household manager (vv. 1-13). The story itself is not particularly unusual, in that it likely happened often in those days (and we have many similar examples in our own day). What is unusual is that Jesus uses a story of ungodly activity to establish three godly principles about money.
That the activity in this story is ungodly is clear: the manager was wasteful (v. 1), incompetent (v. 2), proud (v. 3) and cunning (vv. 4ff); and Jesus regards money and the love of money as unrighteous (vv. 9, 11, 14). So how does He apply this story to a believer’s thinking about money?
- Invest money into spiritual ventures to gain eternal rewards (vv. 8-9). Eternity cannot be bought, but money can be invested into ministry so that people trust Christ and follow Him — becoming friends in heaven. Money should be seen as a commodity that can be used for eternal purposes. In fact, while ungodly people use money in deceptive ways, believers should be even more shrewd (wise and and creative, though never dishonest) in the ways in which they use their resources.
- Money reveals one’s trustworthiness (vv. 10-12). If one uses money (which Jesus calls “a very little thing”) in ungodly and unjust ways, then he cannot be trusted with things that are “true riches” (v. 11). Conversely, if he is trustworthy with the little thing, he will also be trustworthy with the greater thing (v. 10).
- One cannot love both money and God (v. 13). There cannot be two objects at the center of one’s life. God will not share His throne with anything else. Only God is worthy as an ultimate desire, and if money or anything else is made ultimate, it means that God is not desired. He alone is our Master.
So use money to pay your bills, but even more, use the resources God has given as opportunities to invest in something that will last longer than today’s meal or tomorrow’s technology. And realize that your actions with money and your attitudes toward money reveal the true nature of your character (trustworthiness) and your relationship with Christ.