B.C.P. Trinity 9 : 17/8/03 Luke 16:1-9
LK 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5 So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
There was once an absent-minded professor
who became so absorbed in his work that he forgot the simplest details.
One morning his wife said, "Now Henry, remember, we are moving
today. Here, I'm putting this note in your pocket. Don't forget."
The day passed by and the man came home to his house. He entered the front door, and found the place empty. Distraught, he walked out to the curb and sat down. A young boy walked up to him, and he asked him, "Little boy, do you know the people who used to live here?"
The boy replied, "Sure, Dad, mother told me you'd forget."
Sometimes we become so absorbed in "the little things of this world" that we forget who we are and whose we are and where we are going.
Jesus tells this parable to show his disciples that they must use the resources at their disposal wisely to show that God is their friend. Then, when their money is of no use to them they can look forward to being with Him.
An initial reading of this parable may suggest that Jesus is commending dishonesty, because it can appear that the steward is giving away his masters effects to secure a good standing before he becomes unemployed.
What was probably happening was that the steward was deducting from the amounts owed to his master the interest that he, the steward, had added to the original bills. The amounts owed were recorded in commodities rather than money, perhaps to hide the interest. Now that he faced dismissal he had no prospect of receiving this interest so he reduces the amounts owed to earn the favour of the debtors. This would also help the master's reputation as well, even though the master was probably unaware of what had gone on.
The man was looking to the long term, planning ahead. He realised that he had 'burned his bridges' having been inefficient or dishonest with his master's goods. So he tries to earn favour with his master's debtors.
Jesus is saying that people of the world act wisely and diplomatically to further their own, selfish ends. They fix their eyes on accumulating position and wealth. In a similar way Christians should act wisely and diplomatically to ensure that they store up treasures in heaven. We should use everything at our disposal to do this.
This does not mean that we can buy our way into heaven, to bribe God, if you like. What this is saying is that, having received salvation we should carefully use what is at our disposal to ensure that we do not neglect or throw away our salvation.
When we come to faith we should realise that all we are and all we have are not ours but God's. He has bought us at a price, the blood of His only Son shed for us on the cross. He loans everything to us, our time, health, talents, possessions, families, friends etc. We are called to use God's gifts wisely. Some of them will wear out before we do. One day all these things will be gone and we will be naked before God, called to account for our use of his resources.
The Reformer, John Calvin; "If honour is rated the highest good, then ambition must take complete charge of a man; if money then forthwith greed takes over the kingdom; if pleasure, then men will certainly degenerate into sheer self-indulgence".
This passage revolves around what is important to the Christian. It does not mean that we are to be unwise with our possessions and make no provision for the future for ourselves or our families. It does warn us against covetousness and trusting in things other than God.
In what way can we use the resources at our disposal for God?
We can use our hearts, minds and wills to obey God's will in the power of His Spirit. Living righteous lives that will please him and bring glory to Him. This will include: witnessing about Him in deed and word; suffering for Him; forgiving others; helping to feed the hungry, giving the thirsty water, clothing the naked, welcoming strangers, and visiting the sick and imprisoned ( cf. Matthew 25:31-46 ).
Someone once asked Wayne Gretsky, the great hockey player, how he managed to become the best goal-scorer in the history of the game. He simply replied, "While everyone else is chasing the puck, I go where the puck is going to be." We are to have the same, far-sighted attitude and follow God rather than following the crowd.
MT 6:19 ( Jesus said ) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The heart of the steward was no longer in his job, he had just been sacked. His heart was looking to the future. As believers our hearts should be set on things above ( Colossians 3:1-2 ) determined to live for our master so that our good deeds can accompany us into his eternal presence.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.