Everybody’s thinking about money these days – me included. I wrote a little about the concept of money as it relates to Jesus’ parable of the shrewd steward in Luke 16 in the Bible study, The Tough Sayings of Jesus II.
Peace. That’s what it would feel like if we had mastery over our money. We wouldn’t feel like we had to have anything. We could take and leave things at will because we were in control. Jesus audience would have called that experience shalom. The word is translated peace, but it actually has a much broader meaning. Shalom is not just the absence of conflict but a way of life. It’s greater than the absence of conflict. It describes a life that is complete. Indeed, the fullest meaning of shalom is “wholeness” or “completeness”—and the result is wanting for nothing. Notice that we want for nothing not because we have everything, but because we are already complete. And there we find the key.
In Luke 16, Jesus told a story that had as its point this: We need to use our money as a tool to think about the future. Easier said than done, Jesus, because we need our money. We need it because we do not live in shalom; we do not live in completeness. Or at least we don’t think we do.
Fortunately, Jesus had been thinking ahead in Luke 15 where He gave us the key to wholeness. If you scan back a chapter, you’ll see that Jesus was telling parables there too. In fact, it’s almost as if He started a string of stories in Luke 15 to be extended into Luke 16. The stories in Luke 15 have a very different theme, though. In that chapter, Jesus talked about a sheep, a coin, and a son to illustrate this point: God places incredible value on people. Shown through the picture of a shepherd who leaves 99 to save 1, a woman who goes to extraordinary lenghs for a moderately valuable coin, and a father so overcome with love for his son that he humiliates himself to welcome him home, Jesus clearly meant to point out that regardless of what the world says, God values you. He thinks you are important. He likes you.
God values you, and that fact brings peace. It brings s wholeness. It brings completeness. If God values me, then I am in want for nothing else. I can live in shalom because of Him. It is as if Jesus is saying, “Please understand the value that you have. Now respond by living in the freedom of wholeness. And one way to respond to that is to no longer be ruled by money in an effort to gain the wholeness you already have. Realize your value, and be free. Be whole. Be complete.”