Today’s post is from my new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). Last Saturday we posted Chapter 26: Love Like Jesus — Open The Door To Heaven. Love Like Jesus is due to be published in January of 2020.
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.
How Jesus Loved People
So why were the Pharisees ridiculing Jesus? It was because Jesus, in the previous verse, had just made the statement: “You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:13)
And the Pharisees loved money.
So they ridiculed Jesus.
I’ve noticed many of us Christians have a tendency to tap dance around the topic of greed. Maybe that’s partly because of its subtlety. We all need money to live, right? But how do you know when you’ve stepped over the line? “When someone commits adultery,” says Timothy Keller, “they don’t say, ‘Oh, hey, wait a second, you’re not my wife!’” But when we get greedy it’s hard to recognize it. I think greed may be the most difficult sin to recognize in ourselves.
When it comes to greed in the bible, it might surprise you to know that, with few exceptions, God’s heroes didn’t struggle with it. Most of them struggled with other sins, but not greediness. And of course, Jesus never fell into any sin, including the sin of greed. Jesus seemed inclined to spend money on others.
Jesus loved people by giving, generously.
Jesus On Generosity: Make Friends With Money
To put the verse at the beginning of this chapter in context, Jesus, shortly before his statement, “You cannot serve God and money,” told the parable about a manager who was guilty of mismanaging his rich master’s possessions. Just before this guy was about to be fired, he called in his master’s debtors and forgave a percentage of debt for each of them. He did it to change his future circumstances. He did it so he would be welcomed into their homes after he lost his job. (Luke 16:1-8)
In the very next verse, Jesus tells us to do the same. He says,
“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
I used to think that manager who was about to get fired was a scoundrel. But now I recognize I have more in common with him than I like to think. I’ve come to realize there are at least three things we all have in common with that manager.
- The manager’s resources aren’t his own.
In Jesus’ parable all the resources belong to the master. It’s the same for me, and it’s the same for you. When I’m doing well I like to give myself the credit. But in reality, everything I have was given to me by God. Every good and perfect gift comes from above. (James 1:17) I have some material blessings and I say it was my hard work and my brains and my energy that brought in those blessings. But who gave me my brains? And who gave me the drive to work hard? And who gave me all that energy? The answer is that it all came from above, it all came from God, it all came from my Master. I like to think of it as my own but it’s not. Everything I have is my Master’s. Every breath I breathe comes from Him. (Genesis 2:7)
- The manager is guilty of mismanagement.
The manager in Jesus’ parable was guilty of mismanaging his master’s resources, and so am I, every single time I sin. And so are you every time you sin. And so are we all. We all sin. None are righteous. Jesus leveled the playing field in his sermon on the mount. Every single one of us is guilty of sin. Every single one of us is guilty of mismanaging our Master’s resources. Cain mismanaged the strength God gave him when he murdered his brother Abel. David mismanaged the leisure time, the celebrity, and the vitality God gave him when he sinned with Bathsheba. Aaron mismanaged the resources of the Israelites when he crafted the gold idol. Whenever we sin we’re mismanaging in some way. You could even say when we sin we’re mismanaging the very life God blessed us with.
- The manager had opportunity to change his future.
The manager who was guilty of mismanagement had the opportunity to change his future life. He could have been passive. He could have just taken his pink slip and entered into a life on the street. But he didn’t. He took initiative and was generous with his master’s resources so that he would be welcomed into dwellings after his life of employment was over. I have the same opportunity. I also can choose to be generous with my Master’s resources to impact my future. In verse nine, when Jesus says to us, “. . . I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings,” Jesus is telling us to take opportunity to be generous with the resources God has given us.
So no, you can’t take material wealth with you when you die, but apparently, according to Jesus, you can send it ahead.
According to Tim Keller, following this teaching of Jesus to make friends with generosity in this way, is one of the reasons the early church grew so rapidly. There’s an ancient letter from a man named Diognetus, and in it he says the reason the church grew so fast is because, “we share our table with all, but we do not share our bed with all.” In other words, during that time, in that culture, the unbelievers were stingy with their money, but promiscuous with their bodies. And the early Christ followers were generous with their material possessions (and kept their bodies for their spouses).
How To Love Like Jesus
John, a former skeptic and current Christ follower from our church once found out about a single woman who had a serious health problem. John’s wife Jenny worked with her at Starbucks and noticed she was experiencing weakness and dizziness. Throughout the workday she would have to stop and take a minute to sit down to recover. John and his wife also found out that this woman had taken on a second job. In spite of her weakened condition, she had no choice. She was in debt because the necessary treatment was expensive. Her medical bills were mounting.
So John and Jenny met with her after work one day, and they gave her a significant sum of money. And they said to her, “We want to give this to you, because we know that Jesus loves us, and Jesus loves you too. And we know that you’re going through this, that you’re suffering. So this is relief. There’s no strings attached. Spend it on whatever you want. Spend it on medical bills, spend it on groceries, we’re not going to track it. It’s yours.”
She was surprised. She sat there and didn’t say anything for a long while, and then, at a certain point, she said, “You guys know I’m gay, right?”
And they did know. And they told her they knew. And they told her that all they wanted to do was to show her that love. The love of Jesus.
This woman was blown away because the only image of a Christian she had was a caricature she carried around inside her mind. And that caricature carried a bullhorn and screamed at people it disagreed with.
John and Jenny’s gift was unexpected and the amount was enough to surprise the woman in need. And that’s how we see Jesus love people. When you’re in a crowd of thousands in a remote location and Jesus feeds everybody, you’re surprised. When you’ve been blind from birth and Jesus gives you vision, it’s astounding. When Jesus helped someone, their expectations were almost always exceeded. His help was unexpected and surprising, “like an unforeseen kiss” as David Crowder puts it in his song “How He Loves”.
My observation has been that people who love like Jesus by giving, tend to give the way John and Jenny gave, in a way that’s unexpected and surprising.
I knew a twenty-something named Greg who died young. While he was alive he liked to walk around downtown Portland and ask homeless people how he could help them. Then he’d deliver to them a sleeping bag, or a meal, or some other basic necessity. I know a man named Robert who does something similar in a town near me. He just walks around downtown, praying, and looking for people he can help. And sometimes that help is in the form of giving materially. When these men help people, they often do it in a way that’s surprising and exceeds the expectations of the receiver.
Inspired by Jesus, and these examples of people who love like Jesus, Kathy and I set up a bank account with a debit card. The sole purpose of that account is to help people who can’t pay us back (as Jesus described when he said to help those who can’t pay back in Luke 14:12-14). Sometimes we’ll walk around prayerfully hoping to encounter people who need help, and then we use the money from that account to help them. More often we just encounter someone who needs help during the course of our normal day’s activities. I ask myself sometimes: What would the world look like if all Christ followers did this? Would we experience rapid growth similar to the time of Diognetus? It’s so easy to fall into the trap of studying how to love like Jesus, but never actually engaging in the act of loving people. Love is a verb. Love does, as Bob Goff would say. The manager took the initiative when he used his master’s resources to help people with their debts. Jesus tells us to do the same. Loving like Jesus involves active generosity.
I’m not discounting the more common ways of giving. Tithing, giving extra to your church, giving to missions are all great ways to give. I’m just saying Jesus tended to give in a way that was surprising and exceeded expectations. That’s how he loved people.
Jesus Wasn’t Much of a Dancer
At the beginning of this chapter, I wrote that we tap dance around the issue of greed because of its subtlety. But there’s another reason. The main reason I think many of us dance around this issue is for the same reason the Pharisees ridiculed Jesus — we simply love money. And we’ve become very clever about justifying our love for it. We’re skilled at rationalizing why we don’t turn loose of our money (which is really God’s money) to help those who can’t pay us back.
But Jesus spoke plainly and directly on this issue: The love of money is bad, and generosity is good. (Luke 16:1-17, 19-31, see also 1 Timothy 6:10)
The Pharisees dismissed Jesus’ teachings about serving God and not money. I want to encourage you to run in the opposite direction of those Pharisees. To love like Jesus, make your heavenly Father the ultimate in your life. Seek God’s kingdom first. Use the money your Master has blessed you with to show Jesus’ love to others. Give in a way that’s surprising and exceeds expectations. (Matthew 6:33)
That’s how Jesus loved people.
That’s how you can love like Jesus.
“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.”
- Timothy Keller Teaching, Preaching Today Tape #230, May 2, 1999, via Christianity Today, URL: http://www.preachingtoday.com/sermons/sermons/2005/august/230.html
- Bob Goff, Love Does, Thomas Nelson, 2012
- Marcus Davis, Seeing Jesus, Colossae Church, April 8, 2018, URL: http://tigard.colossaechurch.org/messages/