As we heard last Sunday (26/3), the faithful stewardship of finances that God entrusts to us is the dominant concern in Luke 16. Jesus’ words here and elsewhere (see Luke 12:13-34) are primarily designed to challenge us about our attitude toward money; that the money we have comes from God and belongs to God. That being the case, then it is completely reasonable for God to call us into account for how we’ve used his money; namely that we are to use it, ‘to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings’ (Luke 16:9).
The verse means to be wise and use whatever finances God delegates to us for good works that praise our Father in heaven (Mt 5:16); works that impact the world for the gospel. This doesn’t mean we are not allowed to spend it on ourselves. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that the whole duty of man is not just to fear God and obey his commandments but to to eat, drink and be glad for his blessings to us.
But what does using worldly wealth to gain friends for ourselves look like practically? Jesus gives us a very clear example in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The parable will no doubt comfort the poor but Jesus tells it primarily to challenge the rich (a relative term by the way) about their privilege and responsibility to be generous with their wealth in helping the poor.
Another way we invest our wealth to gain friends is in our frontlines. One of the struggles we grapple with is, “How do I take my faith in God into the public space?”. Most of us assume this means being vocal about our ethics and morality. This is such a turn-off for non-Christians because we come across (even if that is not our motive) sanctimonious! We will do well to remember that ethics and morality are not the monopoly of Christians. Even atheists can be moral in their conduct!
I think a very effective way of taking our faith in God into the public space, aside from how we go about our work is to intentionally take a genuine interest in the ‘Lazaruses’ in our lives (Project Frontline Assignments was an attempt to achieve this). Because beneath the façade of “I’ve got it all together; I’m good” is a desperate longing for meaning, love, fulfillment and belonging. These are longings we all have in common! Along the way, you may also discover practical needs they have. However, this requires that we make time to get to know them and just like in the Bible, we can do this over cups of coffee, tea or meals (make room in your budget for this).
We would do well to remember evangelism is playing the ‘long game’ which is the ‘idea that if Christ is truly sovereign in your life, you don’t need to inject Him into conversations. He will show up naturally. You will share what He’s teaching you. You’ll share the peace you have, or how you are relying on faith to get through when that peace is hard to find. You will pray for those around you. It isn’t about getting to the agenda. It’s about interacting with the overwhelming movement of the Spirit of God in your life and possibly theirs” (Mike Perna, “Playing the long game: The cost of relational evangelism”).
Lord, increase our faith in you!