On Wednesday of this week, I stopped by a friend’s house who is a professional cabinet maker.

He has helped my church, the REFINERY, so much. In the last few years, he has put beautiful cabinets in our upstairs kitchen, a kitchen in our youth center, cabinets in our offices – and they have all been free materials, free labor, no cost — his gifts.

So on Wednesday, after my friend and I greeted each other warmly, he began to apologize to me.

I’m like, “What?”

He kept saying he was sorry. He was sorry he hadn’t come by lately and done more. He talked about how he remembered we wanted to add some cabinet doors to our office, but he hadn’t gotten to it.

Then he told me that he had some new cabinets he wanted to give us — free.

When I left I was struck by the fact that even though he has done so much, he was apologetic for not having done more.

And I thought about how, when we get to a point of maturity, then giving time, goods, money to others — it’s normal, it’s fun, it’s just how we treat our friends.

Luke 16:1

“Jesus told his disciples: ‘There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. [2] So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

[3] “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— [4] I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

[5] “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ [6] “ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ [7] “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’

[8] “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.

[9] I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Wow, what an odd, and fascinating story Jesus tells.

A business manager is getting fired. So he goes to people who owe his boss, and he reduces their debt. Apparently he has this power, even though he doesn’t have his bosses approval for this.

Why does the shrewd manger do this? So he will have friends, later, when he doesn’t have a job.

The people, whose debts he reduced, will welcome him into their homes.

It’s a quid pro quo, a this for that.

When the business owner finds out about the scheme, he congratulates the dishonest manager for being smart, savvy, shrewd.

We don’t know if he went ahead and fired him or not. Probably.

But we do know this: The shrewd manager was set up — with friends.

Use money, Jesus tells us, to make permanent friends. Set yourself up by means of generosity, (not dishonesty for that was never something Jesus condoned in his teaching) with God and others forever.

What? Jesus said, “What?”

Jesus said we should see wealth, just like my cabinet maker sees it, as a means to good relationships.

I have a $20 bill. If I go buy lunch for myself with this, does that use of it make any friends for me?

Well, it might, if while I am buying lunch I talk to and have fun with the person taking my money. And, I am paying that employee’s wages. And I am benefiting the owner of the restaurant. So such exchanges are intrinsically transactional, and relational.

But can I, in some way, load this $20 bill with even more relational value than buying something for myself?

Yes, if I just give it to someone, asking nothing back, then I weight it with even more relational value.

Hobart Brown once said, “Money doesn’t always bring happiness. People with ten million dollars are no happier than people with nine million dollars.”

It is the use of the million dollars … for others …that brings happiness.

There are two ways to view money and things. One is that money and things are objective, they have a value in themselves, that they are cold, impersonal objects to be used for ourselves alone.

Then our relationship with them is very limited. These isolated things are weak and they have no connective, far-reaching, relational value.

Or we can see money and goods as primarily relational. They exist to connect us to each other.

Wealth exists to make good relationships. Then these things are warmed up, they become personal — bridges to connect us — hands reaching out and taking hold of each other. They become full of love.

Consider my iPhone 6.

With this phone, I can do stuff for myself, I can take selfies, check my bank account, make a shopping list, pay for a sandwich for lunch. If I do only these things with the phone, then it exists only for me. Then it is disappointingly non-relational, unsocial, small and limited.

But if on my phone, I write a text, if I post a picture on Facebook, if I use my phone to make a donation to a charity, if I make a list of gifts I am going to buy for my wife, (vacuum cleaner, broom, laundry soap), if I use this to pay for someones lunch, then this phone transforms into something relational, full of social good.

How do we view our money, and our stuff?

Jack Handey once said about money, “I hope that when I die, people say about me, ‘Boy, that guy sure owed me a lot of money.’

Better yet, I hope they say about me, “Wow that guy sure helped a lot of people with his money.”

How do we view our money, as personal or relational?

Why did God give us what he has given us?

Perhaps God has given us what we have so that we might do good, connect with others, share, make friends.

According to Jesus, To be shrewd with wealth is to use it to connect, to bond and to befriend.

Money and things — they were made for love.

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