HOW TO MANAGE SOMEONE ELSE’S MONEY
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 19, 2018
1 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. 2 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.’ 3 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. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 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.’ 8 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. 9 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. 10 “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. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13 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.”
— Luke 16:1-13, ESV
In the year I became a follower of Jesus Christ, the late Larry Burkett published his seminal book, “How To Manage Your Money.” It launched an entire realm of stewardship ministries in the evangelical church and proved to be most helpful to many Christians, including myself. It is important to view your money and material possessions as gifts from God and to learn how to manage them wisely and generously.
But do you know what can be more fun than managing your own money? It is managing someone else’s money! Capitalists like Bernie Madoff enjoyed it, until they caught him and put him in prison. Socialist governments, like the defunct Soviet Union, repressed Cuba, and bankrupt Venezuela, think it is great, until you run out of other people’s money to spend. Someone needs to teach a course, write a book, or just teach a good lesson on “How To Manage Someone Else’s Money.”
Actually, Jesus did. In what may be His most perplexing parable, the Lord tells a tale about a money manager gone bad. His original audience of tax collectors, Pharisees, and disciples found it very interesting. So should we, because all of us manage someone else’s money.
A Twisted Tale
On the surface, this parable seems to praise a dishonest manager for dishonestly mismanaging his dishonest boss’ assets in order to curry favor in the eyes of dishonest customers. Every actor on the stage is dishonest! The rich man was charging exorbitant interest on his commodities, in express violation of Jewish law. The manager was derelict in his duties and after getting caught, schemed with customers to cheat the boss and enrich himself. The customers themselves were complicit, switching the price tags to lower their bills. How could this be good?
It isn’t. Nowhere else and not here does Jesus ever praise dishonesty, deceit, nor ungodliness in any form or fashion. This is a parable, and the purpose of a parable is to present a plot that makes a point. The characters here are all bad, all dishonest, all lost and unrighteous people doing what lost and unrighteous people do, namely looking out for number one! But out of the cesspool of their selfishness, Jesus identifies a redeeming virtue, shrewdness.
Even the robber baron boss recognized it. The man mismanaging someone else’s money acted shrewdly to make a place for himself in this present world when his current job ran out. Of course, I doubt it ended well. He got caught, after all, and we can all be sure that one day our sin will find us out. He lost his job, the forged receipts were collected as evidence, and the customers wound up paying full price. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and everyone lived miserably ever after.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, go and do likewise!
A Turned Plot
God would not want us to be greedy. He does not sponsor fraud. But He recognizes shrewdness when He sees it, even among heathens and pagans. With the characters He created for this parable, He pulls out their unrighteous shrewdness and commends the righteous to be shrewd in more righteous ways.
The unrighteous manager was planning for the future, albeit unrighteously. He handled his present capital, which was actually someone else’s money, in such a way to provide for a prosperous future. Amidst a backdrop of ungodliness and underhanded dealing, this lone quality of living today with an eye towards tomorrow, was praised by the rich man and highlighted by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Forget about someone else’s money for a moment. Focus on the twists and turns of the parable. Preparing for the future in the present is shrewd, wise, commendable, even when the wrong kind of people do it in the wrong way. Now turn it over. God wants His people, the right people, to live for the future today, and all of the right ways. How?
The same word Luke uses for “shrewd” was used by Matthew when he recorded another parable of Jesus to close his version of The Sermon on the Mount (ref. Matthew 7:24). There it is usually translated “wise,” and refers to the man who built his house on the rock instead of sand, a man who definitely lived for tomorrow today.
Start with your very own soul. Repent and believe the gospel, look to Christ and trust in Him completely, today! In the future, this soul and resurrected body will have a reunion in Heaven that is just too wonderful for words. Live for tomorrow today!
Learn the word of God and faithfully obey His commandments. Faith is the opposite of sin, and faithfulness will keep you from sinning. Sure, once you come to Christ all of your sins, past and present and future, are forgiven. But unfaithfulness robs you of precious fellowship with Christ now and will cost you rewards later. Furthermore, a bad witness for Christ now may cost someone else their soul, later. Live for tomorrow today!
Be generous with your resources and give away as much as you can. The master in this parable gave the manager oil and wheat to manage. The Master in Heaven has given His children time, talents, and treasure to manage. Spend them, now, in ways that will benefit others and even yourself in the future. Live for tomorrow today!
By no means does this mean you cannot enjoy the moment. By all means, do so. But since it is better to give than to receive, our present moments will be richer when we give riches away. So give your time to the worship and work of God’s church, use your strengths an abilities to glorify God and do good for others, and keep the money you need to provide for yourself and family and find ways to give the rest away.
Remember the two famous quotes of the late, great missionary Jim Eliot. Live for the moment: “Wherever you are, be all there.” But, primarily for the future: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Thank you, Jim.
A Telling Point
If you are a Christian, you are forever managing someone else’s money. For, everything belongs to God, and every good and perfect gift you have, including your money and property, is a stewardship for your to manage. Manage it well.
Begin by being faithful in the little things. Make an honest living. Pay your bills and taxes. Give tithes and offerings to God’s church. Be generous to family, friends, and strangers when you can.
Be faithful in the big things. Nothing should be bigger in your life than the glory of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are you living for these things? Are you giving for these things?
Have one Master, not two. Jesus closed His teaching here with one of His most memorable quotes: “You cannot serve God and money.” But, you can serve God with your money, with all of your means, with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Look out for number one, and make sure your number one is the Lord Jesus Christ!
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 19, 2018
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him! ’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
— Luke 15:25-32, ESV
While the title of “prodigal son” is generally applied to the younger brother in Jesus’ story, the older one is a prodigal, too. The parable is plainly about a man with not one but two sons, both of whom can be seen wasting a part or the whole of their lives. But the extent of their respective prodigalities are quite different, as different as the two groups who served as the Lord’s original audience.
Remember “the tax collectors and sinners” as well as “the Pharisees and scribes” had gathered around Jesus for the telling of the three parables of lost and found. Prodigal one, the younger, clearly represented the first group whose sins were public and whose potential for repentance and faith were as good as the father’s love. Prodigal two, the older, was clearly an abstract of the religious rulers whose secret sins of pride and prejudice caused them to reject the Lord Jesus Christ.
The younger brother indeed wasted his life, for a season, or so it seams. While sin should never be sanctioned for any reason, it was this prodigal’s sin that led him to cling to grace, which he found in his father’s eyes. His sins were forgiven, his rebellion redeemed, and all things worked together for good in the life of this true son of the father.
On the other hand, we have the older brother. This little piggy stayed home. He feigned love and obedience for the father, but eventually his boiling sins bubbled to the surface. He was the kind of person who would never miss church a Sunday in his life, but at the same time never grasped the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This ending to this trinity of tales is terrifying. It condemned self-righteous Jews and it condemns self-righteous Christians. At the end of tales of lost and found, it warns of the dangers endemic to people who think they are found but lost, who think they are sons and daughters of God, but who remain prodigals, too.
A person remains a prodigal when they refuse to love.
Love is God’s greatest gift and a godly person’s greatest characteristic. Love abounds in a believer’s heart for God and God’s church, lost and unchurched people in the world, and in healthy and reasonable esteem for one’s self. But love seems absolutely absent from the elder prodigal son.
He showed no love for his father. His tone towards him was tainted with anger, accusation, and disrespect. Of course, it is not always wrong to be angry (ref. Ephesians 4:26), but there is an anger that is the opposite of love, and this persistent prodigal flashed it. He accused the father of bad judgment regarding the younger son and bad faith in respect to himself. He disrespected the father by declining his gracious invitation to come in and join the party. Of course, the father in this story represents God. People who are persistently angry, judgmental, and disobedient to God are prodigals, wasting their lives.
He showed no love for his brother. He refers to him as “this son of yours.” Pride is not always wrong, either (ref. Philippians 2:16), but there is a pride that is the opposite of love. The elder brother was obviously looking down his nose at his brother and could not bring himself to rejoice at the miracle of his repentance. Even if the younger brother was just visiting, still a slave to sin, he should have loved him. When the brother came home to stay, redeemed by the father, he should have loved him even more. We should remember the words of Christ’s Apostle and best friend John who wrote, “For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (ref. 1 John 4:20).”
He showed no love for himself. Angry, prideful, legalists are the most miserable people I’ve ever encountered. I think the person they love least is themselves. Instead of repenting and believing, they judge, blame, and compare. It gives them a temporary high to cope with the pain of self-loathing. The elder brother should have embraced the father for embracing the brother, he should have joined the party, loosened up, and had a good time reveling in God's love. He deprived himself, because he did not love himself, because he did not love his father and his brother.
There is more to the gospel than John 3:16, but that is certainly a great place to start. For the gospel deals with sin and rebellion, requires repentance and faith, teaches the great doctrines of justification, sanctification, and glorification. But it begins and ends with the greatest gift: love.
A person remains a prodigal when they refuse to embrace grace.
I have myopia and cannot see past my nose. There are corrective lenses for this, and with them though I was once blind, now I see. I have arthritis in my knees and I cannot run and jump like I used to. There is a correction for this, it’s called the fountain of youth, and I haven’t found it yet. I was once a lost person, a prodigal to the extreme, and I could not see God nor run to Him. There is only one cure for this. It is the grace of God.
The elder brother remained a prodigal because he failed to see grace in his father’s actions toward his younger brother. He would have preferred his sibling be punished and banished. But the gracious father gave him forgiveness and redemption. “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind,” Gandhi said. Indeed, the younger son spit in his father’s eye, so to speak, but the father returned only tears of rejoicing upon his repentance. The older brother would have preferred spit. He was blind, you see, blind to the grace and goodness of the father.
The elder brother remained a prodigal because he failed to grasp grace in his father’s attitude towards himself. He tried to impress the father with his litany of works. The father appreciated them, no doubt, but he did not want his son’s works, he just wanted his son. Come on in, the father said, all I have is yours, the father said, join the party, the father said, but the elder son said no.
Let us reflect upon the great theological treatise of Ephesians 2:8-10. Grace is preeminent. Faith is grace’s gift. Works cannot merit unmerited favor. Works are a fatal substitute for faith. Works flow from grace through faith. Get these things out of order, as the elder son did, and you will die a prodigal, much farther from the father’s house than the younger son ever ventured.
Sometimes people who are the closest to grace totally miss it. This was true of so many Jews in Jesus’ day and so many church members in ours. No wonder Jesus said about prodigals everywhere, “Many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we [do this, do that, do the other thing] in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (ref. Matthew 7:22-23).
A person remains a prodigal when they refuse to come into the father’s house.
Admittedly, Jesus’ story leaves us hanging. So, all we can do is go with the facts and look at the last thing the elder brother did. “He … refused to go in” (ref. vs. 28). Maybe he was a vegetarian and didn’t want any fattened calf. Maybe he was a Baptist, turned off by the wine, music, and dancing. Certainly he was a legalist with, in the words of Haddon Robinson, one eye on his prideful self, one eye on his sinful brother, and no eye left for God. Evidently, he remained a prodigal, too, on the outside looking in.
Prodigals everywhere will be absent from church this Sunday and many will be found in the pews. Prodigals everywhere will continue to run from God with their eyes wide open and worship God with their eyes wide shut. Prodigals everywhere will continue to be smug in their decisions to live life on their terms, not God’s, clothed in both secularism and religion. Until they discover the love and grace of God, they will remain prodigals, too.
God loves you. Essentially all He wants if for you to love him back, without reservation. Love Him with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. You can see Him, but only with the eyes of love.
God is gracious to you. Essentially all He wants is for you to accept His grace, by faith, in the perfect person and work of His Son Jesus Christ, who preached these parables, gave His life, and rules and reigns forevermore. You do not have to run to grace, grace will run to you. As a matter of fact, it is right here in Luke 15.
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 12, 2018
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
— Luke 15:11-24, ESV
Jesus’ theme of lost and found now incarnates from a sheep and a coin to two human beings, two sons, a younger and an older. The youngest is a representative of “the tax collectors and sinners,” while the elder is more like “the Pharisees and scribes” (ref. Luke 15:1-2). For two thousand years the young son has garnered the most press, being dubbed with the infamous nickname, “The Prodigal Son.” However, he is just prodigal one. The older brother is prodigal, too.
One thing they both have in common is a fabulous father, who should be and will be the focus of this familiar story. But the two sons’ respective relationships with the father are diametrically opposed. The younger son seemed far from the father, and indeed ventured afar, yet he was always close, very close, to the father’s heart. The older son seemed near the father, virtually hand in hand, yet his hard heart was always very distant from the father.
This sermon will touch on prodigal one’s relationship with his father. Next week we’ll tackle prodigal two. I hope prodigal one’s story is your story, for I am quite sure it is mine.
Prodigal one rebelled and the Father let him.
There are some things you just didn’t do in the polite Jewish society of Jesus’ day, things that would be equally uncouth today. You don’t dishonor your parents and you certainly don’t wish out loud they were dead. Prodigal one, however, did both.
In seeking to claim his inheritance before his father’s demise, the young son, the prodigal one, said at least two things. He pronounced his hatred of the provincial life provided by his father; and, he declared his wish for the father to be dead, so that he could get his hands on the family money. Strangely, in the story’s first twist, the father took no punitive action but rather acquiesced to the younger son’s demand. Prodigal one, in the words of the Steve Miller Band, took the money and run.
This is a scene of youthful angst and rebellion that has played out on a billion stages. He gets the keys at sixteen and hot rods into the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. She goes off to college and the former teen queen turns into a wild woman. Family and faith are left behind in the dust of another rebel, another prodigal, another wild child, another natural and normal human being.
We are all rebels at heart. We are born that way and we choose to be that way (ref. (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23). This is why salvation requires a re-birth, or new birth (ref. John 3). This is not a surprising beginning to the same old story, child rebels against parent. What is unusual is the father’s response. He lets him go.
The father allowed the son, prodigal one, to make a free and willing choice. But the bondage of his will made him want to be free from God and godly things. He could have stayed, under the father’s care, love, and guidance; but, he chose to go headlong into a wide, wild world. God has given every man, woman, boy, and girl the same choice. And all of us, without exception, choose to rebel, sin, and break the heart of our heavenly Father.
Prodigal one ruined his life and the Father watched him.
After the money came in, prodigal one’s hormones kicked in. Without the guidance of the father, freedom imprisoned him. Apparently, rebellion is not all its cracked up to be.
I’m sure when the young man was spending his father’s money on wine, women, and song (in inappropriate ways), he had lots of new friends. His house of fun was actually a den of iniquity, but human lust longs for nothing more than a party past God’s curfew. Sooner or later, however, the music stops.
The Holy Spirit is the only fountain that never runs dry. Everything else is bound to evaporate. Prodigal one’s money ran out and his friends ran off. He went from being a free man to an indentured servant on a pig farm, something that would have been especially repulsive to Jewish sensibilities. His young life, so full of vim and vigor, was ruined.
The father is not credited with a response in the text. But read between the lines. You know the father knew, for he could see with spiritual eyes. Wise fathers and mothers always know what their kids are up to, the approximate state of their rebellion, and the cost they will incur. Godly wisdom knows the old cliche is true, that sin will take you father than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.
Prodigal one paid it all. So did someone else, but His story is hidden in this one.
Prodigal one repented and the Father inspired him.
At the end of your rope there is nothing but hope. You cannot spend it, drive it, or drink it. But hope is there and it is more valuable than any material thing on earth. Godly hope ignites the mind, spreads to the heart, and transforms the will.
Knee deep in mud and starved half to death, a memory pinged in prodigal one’s mind. He remembered the kindness of the father, how even the servants were well cared for on his family farm. Oh to live back home, even as a slave and not a son. It would be so much better than the end of this rope he was holding.
Then, prodigal one’s heart broke. He realized the extent of his rebellion. He knew, or at least he thought he knew, he had forfeited forever the right to be the son of such a fine father. It was his fault, too, not the father’s. Still, like Dylan said, you gonna have to serve somebody, and serving the old man as a bond-slave would be better than remaining lost in a far country.
So, another free choice was made, this time enabled by a nobler will. Just as prodigal one had decided to leave home, he endeavored to return, and put feet to his prayers. Off he went on the most amazing adventure of this life, and the life to come.
The turning of the mind, the heart, and the will is a biblical thing called repentance. It is a gift from God, inspired by God, instilled by God, and it changes everything. You see, it absolutely was the love, grace, and spirit of the father which enabled the son to come home.
Prodigal one returned and the Father embraced him.
Israel, then and now, contains a heartland and a wild west coast. Sounds like the USA, doesn’t it? Rebellious kids always head for the coast. This means that every evening, this father looked into a setting sun with a burning eye, a broken heart, and a boundless hope, waiting for his boy to come home.
Then, that day dawned. The father saw him a long way off, of course. He had been looking for him the whole time. The shepherd finds the sheep, the woman finds the coin, and the father finds the son. For the reunion, the son used hands and knees. The Father takes his everlasting arms and throws them around the redeemed prodigal.
The son is profoundly changed, and will continue to be changed, by the compassion and grace of the father. Prodigal one confesses his sin and rebellion, pledges his willingness to be a slave, and begs for grace, mercy, and peace. Of course, he gets all three, and more.
Surely you see the picture. By grace he is clothed with a robe of righteousness, in mercy he receives the ring and authority of a son, and he is made to walk in peace with shoes on his feet, for the first time as a truly free man and fortunate son of a fabulous father.
A celebration is certainly in order, and ordered immediately by the father. Partying is always better if you go with God. Every one seemed overjoyed at prodigal one, except prodigal two. His story remains to be told.
But for now, focus on prodigal one. If you were once lost but now found, he is you and you are him. For his story, the parable of the prodigal son, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
THE VASTNESS OF LOSTNESS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 5, 2018
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
— Luke 15:1-10, ESV
As Jesus continues His journey to Jerusalem for the last time, three parables are pulled out of Him that preach the redemptive theme of lost and found. The emphasis, of course, is on the glory of being found by God. However, we cannot appreciate the victory of salvation until we comprehend the vastness of lostness.
A later verse in Luke helps put these parables into proper perspective. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (ref. Luke 19:10). Before this statement, Luke’s previous six uses of the word “lost” all appear in chapter fifteen wrapped around a sheep, a coin, and a son (or two).
The word “lost” in Luke and the entire New Testament means more than just missing. The word is used to described Herod’s motive in trying to find the newborn Jesus in Matthew 2:13. The word becomes a proper name in Revelation 9:11, “Apollyon.” To be lost, in Christian terminology, means to be on the road to or already arrived at a certain place, the place of destruction.
Lost is not a good word, lost is not a good place, and this one sermon on two parables (to be followed by two sermons on one parable) offers particular insight into the vastness of lostness.
Lost People Are Everywhere
The parables are prefaced by a parade of lost people. “The tax collectors and sinners” were lost, having sold their souls to unrighteousness, mostly money and pleasure. “The Pharisees and the scribes” were lost, having entrusted their souls to self-righteousness, mostly religion and rules. Greed and lust, pride and prejudice, and all manner of other ill will lurked in all of their hearts, as it does our own. Some call it sin, some call it depravity, for today we will just call it lost.
Lostness is vast because it covers every part of the planet and inflicts every member of the human race. We are born lost. We have to be born again to be found. This is exactly why Christ came to earth, why He loved and surrounded Himself with sinners, and why He preached these parables of lost and found.
Are you lost or found? If you are lost, please stay tuned. If you are found, it is your job to help the lost find the way to Christ. This is easier said than done, I know, but it begins with the realization that lost people are everywhere.
I cannot boast of being a great witness for Jesus, although I should be. One of the requirements of my first seminary was to turn in a report every Tuesday on witnessing to at least one lost person. This was a terrible and wonderful rule. It was terrible, because frankly with a full-time class load, plus a full-time job, plus a full-sized family, a few Tuesday mornings dawned without meeting the requirement. So, I would arrive at campus early, park my car, stand near the busy street that passed the school, and wait for someone to walk by who was willing to talk with me about Jesus. It usually took about five minutes, even early in the morning. I learned the vastness of lostness. I learned that lost people are everywhere.
Lost People Cannot Save Themselves
We also learn in these parable that lost people cannot find or save themselves. This is part and parcel of the vastness of lostness. Jesus proves it well with these two parables of the sheep and the coin.
Sheep, one of the Bible’s favorite analogies for humans, are awfully dumb animals. Their stomachs are bigger than their brains, so they follow their appetites out of the pen and get lost. When they do, they lack the mental or moral or spiritual ability to say to themselves, “Hey, I’m lost, but I can figure this out and go back to my home.” They will remain lost until the shepherd finds them.
The flipping of the coin is even more heads up. A coin is an inanimate object. It gets lost due to human error, and human error is what makes all men lost. When a coin is lost, obviously it cannot find itself. It has no free will. It has no Spirit within. A lost coin is just dead, depraved, and covered in darkness. This is the vastness of the lostness of human beings.
I do not understand why Pelagius ever imagined that a lost person can figure out or otherwise cooperate with God to save himself. Neither did Augustine, and Pelagius was rightly branded a heretic. I do not understand why the Roman Catholic church devolved into selling indulgences and regulating penances for eternal salvation. Neither did Luther, and he protested. I do not understand why Charles Finney and his followers, like Pelagians and Catholics, believe people can be saved by their own free will, if just turned on by a proper pitch, ritual, altar call, or other so-called right uses of means. Against this I have protested for years.
The point is that lost people cannot save themselves. They need guidance, not gimmicks. They need the word of God and gospel of Jesus Christ. They need the Lord, who lives within every true believer. Believers must step into the vastness of lostness for unbelievers to be saved.
Lost People Have No Value, As Long as They are Lost
Consider now the worst part about living in the vastness of lostness. You may think this idea harsh, or even untrue, but please bear with me in this brash assertion. Lost people are worthless.
Think about the parables. What good is a sheep who wanders off, gets lost, never returns, and is never found? What wool comes from a lost sheep? What food on the table is provided by a lost sheep? What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
Can you spend a coin you do not have? Does a lost coin pad your bank account, accrue interest, or serve as a gift to someone else? What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
Lost people are worthless, not actually but ultimately. Lost people are created in the image of God. Lost people display common grace, help other people, lead happy lives. But think about something else Jesus said: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul” (ref. Matthew 16:26)? What is it ultimately worth to be a great human being but a lost person apart from Christ? Absolutely nothing.
The saddest thing about he vastness of lostness is that lost people ultimately waste their lives. They don’t realize it, any more than the sheep or the coin realize their lostness. But their lives will end and they will stand before the true and living God. Then they will know that God is real, Jesus Christ is Lord, and the opportunity to be born again by the Spirit and the word has passed them by. They will blame themselves, they will blame you and me, they will blame God. But blame never changes anything. They will be lost, in vast darkness, forever.
Lost People are of Infinite Worth, When They are Found
Enough of the darkness, let’s turn on the light, the light of love. Lost people are loved by God, and you can see Jesus loving the lost in the Gospels. But the only way lost people can love God back is by believing the gospel.
These parables are pictures of being found, being saved, being loved by God. They major on light over darkness, joy over sadness, and victory over defeat. In both cases, the lost is found and a party in Heaven breaks out resounding with choruses from the angels and the Almighty Himself. What makes the lost found, the dead alive, and the chorus of Heaven? It is the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is the search vehicle that finds the lost, driven by good shepherds and wise women. We must go to the lost, for we cannot expect the lost will come to us. The church gathers for worship, she scatters for evangelism. And lost people are everywhere.
Games and gimmicks will not reach them, but the word of God and the witness of Christians will. Always have bibles ready to give away. Always invite people to your gospel-centered church services. Always be ready to share your testimony of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
And do one more thing. Remember what it was like to be lost?
I remember, in a physical sense, the first time I got lost. I was about ten, our family went to Six Flags over Georgia, my sisters were with my mother while my father and I went to an area where Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were signing autographs. There was a huge crowd, so big we could not walk side by side, so Dad told me to follow him. I guess all men must have dressed the same in those days, for the pants and shoes I steadfastly followed turned out not to be my father’s. I was lost. I felt sick. I felt small. I was not capable of looking above that crowd and finding my way back. But my father was bigger, wiser, calmer and it was he who found me.
To be found, spiritually and eternally, is the same, only infinitely greater. It is the Father’s doing (stay tuned for the next parable). But to do it, the Father has sent the Son and the Spirit, and you and me. Look now into the vastness of lostness, reach out to those who are there, and give them the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org