Luke 16:1-13 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 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 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 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, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. 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. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 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."
Jesus told this parable about a manager who was about to be laid off by his employer for mismanaging his funds. Before he was relieved of his duty, the manager quickly set about insuring his future survival by building good will with the employer's debtors. He discounted their debts by up to 50%. The employer came to know of this manager's action. He did not condemn him but instead commended him for being shrewd. Jesus concluded that the "sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light" (v.8). The sons of light therefore should use money to lay up for themselves friends in eternity: "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" (v.9).
In short, Jesus is not against having money but rather he has problem with the way we are using our money. Money is a neutral medium of exchange--we can use it to spend on ourselves or we can use it to invest in eternity. As his disciples, we are to love God and use money, not use God and love money. Money is a good servant but a bad master: "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" (v.13).
One of dangers of the Prosperity Gospel--that wealth is a sign of divine blessing--is that it distorted Jesus' teaching on discipleship. When we constantly laud material prosperity as a sign of divine favour, we are very likely sooner or later to throw away Jesus' teaching about self-denial and cross-carrying. The Prosperity Gospel caters to the spirit of our age--namely the pursuit of happiness at all costs. But the Kingdom Gospel is contrary to the spirit of the age--namely the pursuit of holiness, even if it means suffering and loss. In fact, suffering and loss are God's instruments for training our character: "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." In other words, the path of discipleship is the only way to receive the outpouring of God's love through His Spirit into our hearts.
The Prosperity Gospel promotes success and happiness as the supreme goal of the Gospel instead of holiness--whatever that makes me happy and wealthy is a sign of divine favour. Even if we have to get it by compromising our sexual morality and personal ethics. No wonder discipleship preaching is now getting out of fashion in many churches because the church is being conformed to the spirit of this post-modern age. The Prosperity Gospel affirms and encourages the pursuit of happiness.
Truth is out because Truth hurts and it makes me unhappy. Grace is in because Grace heals and makes me happy. Discipleship Gospel calls for self-denial but the Prosperity Gospel encourages self-gratification. No wonder churches that are preaching the Prosperity Gospel is now slowly ditching Discipleship.
Father, turn our hearts towards You, to love You and willing to deny self, take up the cross to follow Jesus. Amen.