Jesus gives us the simple law for the right use of money. It is in that sixteenth chapter of Luke. He is talking about the dishonest overseer of a wealthy man's estate. His dishonest practices have been discovered, and he is required to make a final settlement preliminary to his being discharged. He has evidently been living extravagantly, for the loss of position threatens him with beggary. Distressed to know what to do he hits upon a farther extension of his dishonest practices, and uses the position he is about to lose to buy up friends for his coming days of want.
As he tells the story Jesus adds this comment: |for the sons of this world are for their own generation wiser than the sons of light.| Practically they go on the supposition that the present generation is the only one. For the short space of years making up their own generation they are wiser than the sons of light. But for the long space of all coming generations they are the rankest fools. That is included by contrast in Jesus' words. The man who in his use of money thinks only or chiefly of the years making up his own present life is -- a fool. The man who takes into his reckoning not only the present generation, but all coming generations, in disposing of his money is the shrewd financier.
Then occurs the sentence that contains a wonderfully simple statement for the keen, wise use of gold. The old version runs like this: |Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations.| The revised version, both English and American, reads this way: |Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness that when it shall fail they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles.|
I have ventured to make a rather free translation that I feel sure is true to the words here in their connection and that gives in simple English just what Jesus means. |Make to yourselves friends by means of money, which the unrighteous world reckons riches, that when it fails they may receive you,| and so on. Money is not riches. The world commonly has been befooled into thinking that it is. Perhaps we have not all quite escaped that delusion. And money is not unrighteous. It is neither righteous, nor unrighteous. It gets its moral quality from the man owning it for the time being. It is as he is. It takes on the color of its ownership.
Make to yourselves friends by means of the money that comes into your control that when it fails they may receive you. That is to say, exchange your money into the kind of coin that is current in the kingdom of God. Exchange your gold into lives. That is the sort of coin current in the homeland. This yellow stuff we call riches they use for paving stones up in the homeland. Would that we might get it under our feet down here, instead of being ruled by it.
The current coin of heaven is lives of men. And that too will be reckoned the precious metal when the Kingdom of God comes to the earth. Exchange your money into men; purified, uplifted, redeemed men. Buy letters of credit that will be good in the homeland, and in the coming Kingdom days on the earth, if you would be wealthy.
|That when it fails,| Jesus says with fine discernment. Money will fail. There is an end to the power of gold in itself. Money will be bankrupt some day. It has enormous buying power now. Some day its buying power will be all gone. Then it will take the place of cobble-stones. Yet it would seem to be a failure there unless some new hardening process had been found for it. Better use it while it has power of purchase. Better not be caught with much of the yellow stuff sticking to you when the true values are being settled. It'll all be dead loss then; dead stock, not worth the space it occupies.
You remember the very old story of the wealthy man who died. And in a group of people talking together somebody asked the usual question, |How much did he leave?| And a wise man in the company replied tersely, |Every cent; didn't take a copper along.| That story is apt to provoke a smile. But, do you know, it is sadder than it is witty. The man had gained great wealth. He must have been endowed with some force and talent to do that. His whole life and strength and talent had been devoted to making money and hoarding it. That money was the whole output of the man's life. Then he died and the whole output of his life was left behind. He passed out of this life stripped to the skin. Into the other world, where wealth is reckoned otherwise than in gold, he entered a sheer pauper. The purchasing power of his wealth stopped at the line of departure out of this world. It failed.