Luke 16:1-13 Tithing a Way to Social Reform

He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures[a] of oil.’ 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?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures[b] of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world[c] are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth,[d] so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Tithing a Way to Social Reform

The shrewd manager realises he is going to get the sack, so he makes plans.  We wonder if his boss commends him for squandering more of his possessions.  A surface reading would seem to indicate that to be the fact.  However, when the manager made deals with clients, he was probably living by commission.  The commission would be significant and gave him a living wage.  He is not so married to this commission, though, so as to hang on to it when it can serve a better goal.  In giving up his commission he shrewdly sets up good will with his master’s clients and so secures his future.  Even the religious in Jesus’ day were so enamored with their riches that they couldn’t make godly choices that would involve sacrifice.  In contrast with them, here is a man who is obviously wicked, deals with finances all day, but he holds them with a loose hand.

Darrell Bock, in his commentary, asks whether western Christians are cynical about welfare systems because they sincerely are concerned about the corruption in the system.  Is the motive for refusal to contribute to social schemes really a deep rooted concern that such schemes produce learned helplessness, or is it that Christians who work hard for their money are then too attached to it?  Relevant Magazine asks, what would happen if the church tithed (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/what-would-happen-if-church-tithed)?  I would also ask, why don’t those in the church give?  It is a biblical responsibility to give up the idea that our finances are our entitlement.  It is a biblical idea to trust God for security rather than a bank account.  It is a biblical principal to support those in full time ministry with gifts and offerings made by those whose vocation produces finances.  However, somehow Christians do not give God what is due from their finances.  They resist what they think is a socially liberal redistribution of wealth by maintaining a capitalist greed. I have had conversations with those who state that church programs rather than government programs are the answer to corrupt government systems.  However, such an idea is failing because Christians are giving to some idea of social justice by paying their taxes and refusing to give to a better system of social justice by paying their tithe.  The conclusion that I would reach is that greed is an acceptable sin whilst sloth is not.  All sin is abhorrent to God and confession, not denial leads to reform the world will take note of.

Prayer

God, I have some finances and I wish I had more.  I release to you my desire for more material comforts and I promise to give to you at least a tithe of what I earn.  Whether I have olive oil or I have wheat, my resources come from you and I sacrifice my right to a commission.

Questions

  1. How does Jesus challenge the upstanding and religious people’s love of money?
  2. How do you think Pharisees excused their comparative wealth?
  3. How could a Pharisee reform?
  4. How do religious people in the west justify not giving their money to others?
  5. How could God’s people in North America and Europe show the effects of money well spent?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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