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Be Shrewd!

Handling our finances for the glory of God

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In the movie Young Victoria, the future queen confesses to her future husband, Prince Albert, that she struggles with the political realities of her role. She feels like a chess piece being maneuvered and manipulated on a game board. He responds by offering some advice: “You will need to master the rules of the game better than your opponents.” In other words, “Be shrewd!”

Shrewdness isn’t a word we normally associate with the Christian faith. It’s not listed in the fruits of the Spirit. Neither is it one of the Spirit’s gifts. Yet Jesus recognized its importance when stewarding our money.

Worldly Wealth

In Luke 16 Jesus tells a parable about a manager who is terminated from his job. Wanting to protect his interests, he contacts his employer’s customers and offers substantial discounts for future consideration. In the end, while his employer is surprised, he commends the manager for his shrewdness.

After telling the story, Jesus shares both an indictment and an invitation. The indictment is, “[T]he people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light” (v. 8). The invitation is, “[U]se worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (v. 9).

While Jesus doesn’t commend the manager’s dishonesty, He applauds his shrewdness. In other words, when it comes to using your money for God, be astute, wise, and smart. Be shrewd!

Five Questions to Ask

How can we tell if we’re being shrewd when it comes to handling our financial resources for God? We have to ask some hard questions.

  1. Am I planning for the future creatively? The manager in the parable creatively planned for his future. He was proactive, benefiting himself and others. Do we? One reason we may not plan creatively is we tend to think in either/or propositions. For example, “When I die, will I leave my money to my heirs or designate a ministry as the recipient of my estate?” Yet, through such creative vehicles as a Charitable Remainder Trust, one can reach both goals. You can leave a financial legacy, for instance, with a partner of The Christian and Missionary Alliance—The Orchard Foundation—while directing proceeds to be distributed to your heirs over a period of time. In the end, ministry and heirs will benefit.
  2. Am I focusing on the present or the future? In the parable, Jesus speaks about the future rewards we receive when we are “welcomed into eternity.” Compare that perspective to our culture that emphasizes instant gratification: “Buy now! Get it while you can!” Life in God’s Kingdom focuses on the gratification we will experience when we arrive in God’s presence affirmed that we have used our resources for Him. Who will affirm us? God, of course. Yet Jesus suggests that we also are affirmed by individuals who will be in heaven because we gave. Imagine the delight and joy people experience when someone already in heaven approaches them and says, “I’m here because you gave! Thank you!”
  3. Do my resources produce friends for Christ? Every week my wife and I receive solicitations in the mail or by phone from organizations requesting support. Many of these organizations do outstanding work. Yet the question for the Christ follower must be, “Is my investment contributing to making friends for Jesus?” Doing good as a witness of God’s grace is important. Yet nothing is more satisfying than supporting causes like the Great Commission Fund that produce Christ followers for eternity.
  4. Does my giving reflect my priorities? Jesus made it clear: you cannot serve God and money. If we ask Christ followers, “Where is your allegiance?” most would say, “It’s with Christ!” Yet what do our checkbooks say? What does the contribution deduction on our tax returns say? Tangible measurements can be revealing.
  5. Is the outgrowth of God’s riches evident in my life? In Luke 16:11 Jesus promises that wise stewards will receive riches from God. This isn’t a promise that if we give, a financial windfall is coming. It’s a promise that we will be blessed with the spiritual richness that accompanies the work of God’s Spirit in our lives as we act shrewdly in giving. God’s Spirit will work in us and through us as we commit our resources to God. In us, He gives peace, contentment, and joy. Through us, He alleviates needs, calls others to Himself, and receives glory.

Where Joy Is Found

Several years ago, I visited a country where I accumulated several pieces of cash. A few years back, I returned to the country, taking the money with me. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the currency had changed. It was worthless! Had I known, I would have cashed in the money when my first trip concluded.

As believers, we know what the future holds when it comes to our wealth. At some point, our earthly wealth will expire when our Lord returns or when we exit this earth and are ushered into His presence.

We have a choice: Either we can hold on to our wealth or we can choose to be shrewd by giving for the growth of God’s Kingdom and for His glory. One option brings disappointment. The other brings joy. Choose wisely. Be shrewd!

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