Archives
20

 

The Rector’s sermon for November 12, 2017   


                                                                                                                            

 

Living Each Day as a Steward! (2 of 3)


2:  The Steward’s Purpose


 

Last week we began our 2018 Stewardship Program:  Living Each Day as a Steward, and we looked at “The Steward’s Identity.”  In summary there are four traits that identify a steward:  First, a steward is called by God to be his steward;   Second, a true steward, according to Holy Scripture, is a cheerful giver;  Third, a true steward wants to extend God’s Church in any way possible, and; Fourth, God’s steward believes in the promises.  What promises?  The prophet Malachi puts it this way:  “ ‘Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house.  And thereby put Me to the test,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need’ ” (Malachi 3:10).  Those four traits identify a steward.

 

Once we have been identified as God’s steward, the question becomes:  What is the steward’s purpose?    We find our answer in the Parable of the Dishonest or Shrewd Manager, Luke, chapter 16:

     1”There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property.  2So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you?  Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’  3Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me?  I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.  4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’  5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’  6 He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’  He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’  7Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’  He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’  He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’  8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of his age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.  9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.  10Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.  11If they you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?  12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?  13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”   

 

Many of Jesus’ parables focused on finding and recovering something that had been lost, particularly souls that have been lost.  In this parable, the focus shifts to dealing with the life and living of those who have already been found; this parable is aimed at the faithful and how our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior is reflected by the way we live.  For the faithful people of God, for you and me, the way that we go about conducting the day-to-day business of our lives cannot be separated from our relationship with God. That’s what Jesus is sharing with us in this Parable of the Shrewd Manager, also known as the Unrighteous or Unjust Steward.  This parable touches the lives of every one of us as we struggle to balance our relationship with God, keeping him first and foremost, and our wants and desires and dealings with the things of this world.  We are often misled—tempted—into thinking that having more and more things of this world will make us happier and more secure, and nothing could be further from the truth.

 

This parable is a genuine picture of worldliness.  If we live in the world, we are all capable of being too worldly.

No matter what our age, involvement with the things of this world are part of all of us.  And we may not want to admit that often God’s purpose for our lives is replaced by the American dream:  the big house, the fancy car, and large retirement account, and just about anything and everything that we might want.

 

In the parable we have a rich man with a business so big that he needs a general manager—a steward, who is authorized to handle all of his business affairs.  With such a lucrative business, the manager surely made a good salary.  But the manager wanted more; he became greedy.   We would call him a crook.  And sadly, that’s nothing new in some managers who have power like his.   In the parable we look in on him at a time in his career when somebody has blown the whistle on him to his employer. The evidence that is presented is apparently overwhelming and convinces the employer to fire the steward. And it’s interesting that the steward makes no effort to defend himself, which is like admitting to his guilt.  But the concept of shrewdness is not the main point of Jesus’ parable, although the main point does revolve around shrewdness.

 

The steward thinks about his predicament. He makes a decision and then he acts very quickly.  He isn’t going to lower himself to work as a hired hand, and he certainly isn’t going to beg.  So he lowers what several debtors owe his master in the hopes that they will take him in now that he no longer has a job.   A very clever, shrewd maneuver!  I don’t think there is anyone here as dishonest as this manager, but let’s look at his cleverness from a different direction.

 

The majority of us here are retired or perhaps close to it.  The idea of retirement beings with it concerns of whether or not the “nest egg” will be enough, and we try to accumulate as much as possible toward some mental picture of what is enough.  Unfortunately, because we are prone to sin, worldliness can get hold of us.  Greed and pride can motivate us and we can easily lose sight of our need for God.  Then we would be lost.  The shrewd way that unjust steward feathered his nest was praised by his employer who himself was shrewd enough to appreciate it.  And now the question arises, what does Jesus have in mind by telling this parable?

 

In the verses following the Parable, Jesus helps us apply the parable to our lives as his stewards. In verse 9,  Jesus said, “9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.”  In this verse, Jesus refers back to the Shrewd Manager who used worldly wealth in order to make friends for himself who would take him in when he was fired.  Jesus tells us as stewards to use the same shrewdness in using our resources. The difference between the Shrewd Manager and us, however, is the motivation and goal. God calls us to use all his gifts to us with the purpose of helping others to come to know his Son.  In so doing, we will be welcomed in Heaven by those to whom we have witnessed and with whom we have shared our blessings.

 

In the next verse, verse 10, Jesus says, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.”   Sometimes we fail to see the Christian witness and conduct that we can communicate in little things: how we deal with our neighbors around the block, how we value our conversations with our children or our parents, how well we do our jobs—paid or volunteer, perhaps even our ethics on the golf course, or how we play a game of cards.  Our consistency of good conduct, and our honoring of principles will be seen in the “little things,” and these are the stepping stones for the big things in life that God entrusts to us.



 

In the final verse, Jesus concludes his explanation and application of the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. It reads, “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”   I don’t believe anyone of us would admit that he or she is serving money and not God; however, God looks at our hearts, and he sees how we use what has been loaned to us.  God knows what motivates us and what we see as our purpose in life.  When we seek God’s forgiveness and help, he will take away our love for money and possessions, because those things won’t last.

 

In this Parable, we see that the shrewd manager’s entire focus was rest and comfort in this life.  But remember Jesus’ words.  Who is it that receives us into the eternal dwellings mentioned in the parable?   God in Christ alone. So, our motivation as people of God is not rest and comfort in this life.  It is serving almighty God.  It is becoming wise stewards of the material things that God entrusts to us by using them to fulfill his purposes.  It is loving him because he first loved us, enough to die for us.  And how do we respond?   With worship, praise, and thanksgiving for who God is and what he has done for us, living each day as stewards who give him glory and honor. 


Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
 
Archives