Vol. VIII — No. 34 August 27, 1967
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. 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. 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. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 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. 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. 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.
Beloved in His name, who is the owner of all things:
“How is it that I hear this of thee?” said the owner of a big business to his manager, to his chief administrator. What the boss hears about the performance of his foreman and directors is important. The word leaks out eventually: such-and-such is doing a good job, or so-and-so is really making a good thing of it for his personal gain. The men entrusted with the owner’s property do get themselves a reputation, and it is inescapable that the owner gets to know.
What is more important is this that a servant’s future is very much measured by the diligence with which he does his work. He can do a good job for the industry he represents, so that he makes that prosper; or he can make of it a good thing for himself, so that he gets ahead personally—often at the expense of his employer.
In our text we have an interesting situation: here was a man who did very well for himself, yet so badly for his employer that he was dismissed from his position. Here was a man who was very faithless toward his employer, but very faithful in looking out for himself. He shall see that he was very sharp in arranging things so that in the future he would be well taken care of; He used all his wits, cunning, craft and ingenuity to attain one goal: a safe future for himself. What he did was wrong! Yet Jesus sets up this illustration, this parable, in such a way as to show just one thing: that he bent his whole will toward one goal, and he succeeded in it. Jesus would have us learn one thing from it: that we so learn to be such good stewards of our earthly goods that they will be a blessing to us for eternity. And so we want to show today that
You may like to review the details of this unfaithful steward (who really is a most faithful steward in the direction of his own purposes). He was about to be dismissed. He must join the unemployed. He would be out of a job. What should he do? To go and dig, get busy with his hands,—that would never do; it would be too slow a process, and it would be a demotion for a member of management to join the ranks of labor. Begging was out of the question, for he had too much personal pride for that.
He really thought hard; we can almost feel the pressure upon him. Suddenly he said, as we would say today, “I’ve got it!” “I’ve got a good idea. I will go to each of my master’s creditors in this little time that I have left before I am discharged, and I will reduce the promissory notes that they have signed for what they owe. That way they will be heavily obligated to me, and I can put the squeeze on them to pay me off for the big favor I have done them. Furthermore, I will be in position to blackmail them; I will have the evidence against them that they rewrote their obligations, so they will not dare to deny me my cut.”
Now, Jesus did not approve of what they did, nor what the rich man’s manager did. But both the man’s master and Jesus did commend him for using his head, for leaving nothing undone to further his own welfare, for being prudent, if not moral. “For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” The sons of worldly people, in dealing with other worldly people, are more prudent and farseeing than the children of faith and spirituality are in making provision for their future spiritual welfare. And in that way the unjust steward is in one way an example for us Christians to be as smart as possible in doing those things that serve our future welfare.
This remarkably keen parable of Jesus is one that can surely set you to thinking. When children of this world see Christians do a lot of things that Christians just do simply because they are Christians, they come to the conclusion that Christians are just plain stupid. When they see a Christian business man give good value because his conscience compels him so to do—they wonder why he doesn’t get sharp and really make a killing when he has the chance. They just don’t understand it. In their crowd, that’s the way they do it, and they find that it really pays out (should we add, for the time being?) When they see Christians making real sacrifices that their children can have a Christian education and atmosphere, they simply don’t understand that kind of behavior when they can have schools without paying the extra costs. And they just do not understand that a Christian can be anything but stupid for not squeezing all the juice out of life that can be had so easily. But we do not want to pursue all the leads that this remarkable parable suggests.
We must limit ourselves to the special point that Jesus makes, namely, that we should strive to be just as smart in our way to make the best use of our property, material goods, yes, Mammon,—as the world is smart in its sick and perverse way. We gig learn to be just as wise in our Christian way as the world is wise in its worldly way. And when you read some of the stories of how smart the world is to get ahead, of how individual men in the world get ahead, you will understand how much we have to learn—in devotion, in all-out concentration, in dedication to one’s eternal purpose, in complete commitment to the one cause for which we are here. For we are here for the one unified purpose: that we should serve both God and our neighbor in such a way that we can enjoy them forever.
The key to it all is the use of our “mammon of unrighteousness.” And what is that? In an earlier age we might have explained it by saying our property, our possessions, our goods for trade or barter, our wealth in terms of houses or herds of cattle, real estate or chattels of all kinds. In modern times we have reduced all these things to the medium of exchange and storage of wealth, MONEY—or near money, negotiable instruments and securities of many kinds—to which all is eventually reduced when we ask what a man is worth.
The Gospel in all this is the remarkable fact that because we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and have been ade children of God by the Holy Spirit’s work of creating faith in our hearts, every thing that we touch our hands to can so be used that we will have an eternal blessing from it. as good stewards, then, HE MAKE LONG-LASTING INVESTMENTS.
Timid Christians find this hard to believe—and are we not all weak and timid in taking what God has promised and making it our own? But listen again to what our Lord and Savior says here: “I say unto you, Make unto yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” One reason you and find that saying of Jesus hard to grasp is that it picture language, high poetry of the soaring kind. Money is called the mammon of unrighteousness because as a general rule there are all kinds of unrighteousness connected with the making and the possession of it. We have also come to call it “filthy lucre,” and it literally smells, as you can find by putting a circulated piece of currency to your nose. But in this key passage, verse 9 of our text, Jesus says that there is a way of using all our earthly goods (that is, our money) in such a way that we can have an eternal blessing from it. “When ye fail,” says Jesus, when you and I must give an account of our stewardship, when we die, when we must leave it all behind, when we cannot take it with us because “there are no pockets in a shroud,” “they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” As the unjust steward arranged things so that those obligated to him would have to take him into their houses, so also those who have been blessed by our spiritual use of our goods and monies shall receive us into the everlasting habitations of everlasting life. Obviously those whom we have blessed and benefited by our works of charity will be, as it were, a reception committee, to welcome us into the mansions of eternal life. And suppose one or more are these because we supported the work of the Christian church with our generous gifts of money so that the Gospel was brought to them and they were saved—what a reception from them when we arrive! This is what Jesus promises here. Let us not detract from it.
Oh, sat we could catch the vision of the grace of God in giving! Hear how Jesus expressed this thought in other words on other occasions, in less poetic language, in more earthy words closer to our daily experience: “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful…Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ya mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:36-38. And again Jesus said: “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after; and your Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:27-34.
Listen to that last word again: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Let your treasure be in your own selfish pocket, and that is where it will be; let your treasure be used for the welfare of your family and your neighbor in the fear of God and for His glory, and there will your treasure be—in a LASTING INVESTMENT. Be careful what you want, for you are sure to get it!
By inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Lord’s own Chief Apostle, Paul, has written: “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; for he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption (as did the unjust steward); but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (To be sure, it takes hard work and dedication and commitment to make LONG TERM INVESTMENTS.) As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Gal. 6:7-10. And the household of faith are those who shall receive you into the everlasting habitations!
Your Bible is full of such promises. Hear what God said to Israel by His prophet Isaiah: “If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; than shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day (you shall be seen for your charity as the noonday sun that all men blessl); and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water.”
“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth,” we read in Proverbs 11:24-25, “and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” There is a way of increasing by scattering, as every farmer knows; and there is a way of gathering everything for yourself, and in just that way becoming desperately poor. It is full of blessing to all who will operate with it. So durable is it that God wants us to learn it, repeating two chapters later in Proverbs: “There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing; there that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.” (13:7)
How contemptible that successful business administrator of our text now begins to look! To be sure, he built up his social security for his old age by obligating his master’s debtors to himself. He lost no time and he spared no effort to take care of himself Ho doubt he would have rated a wonderful review in today’s business columns and in “Fortune” magazine. He knew long-term investments in the manner of the world. So Jesus gave him credit for this much, that he could serve as a pattern for His disciples—that they should be equally diligent in using their money and property for an eternal reward of grace. In dedication to a goal, and in persistence as to its pursuit, we can learn from the world.
There is no Law pushing you in this direction. It is a free option. It is pure grace. There is no law that you must plant seed; but if you do plant, you will grow food for yourselves and for your children, and you will be blessed by all the poor with whom you share. You can keep it all to yourself, and be helplessly poor—for who is so poor as the wiser who dies hugging his gold and clutching his securities? Yet the other way is free, wide open to all who will have it: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”
Redeem the time! Use what the Lord has given you to exercise your love. Extend yourself for the work of the Lord at home and abroad, for even the worldling knows that “you can’t take it with you.” The wise Christian also know that you cannot take it with you; but he knows the additional truth that you CAN send it on ahead—the Savior has told us that today. And so the wise Christian further knows that “all you can hold in your cold dead hand is what you have given away.” The abundance of his long-lasting investments and securities is all up to him, even as the Word of God teaches us further, in St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians: “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver.” “See that ye abound in this grace also.”
Is it not remarkable that Jesus both encourages you to become rich and also tells you how to lo it? Yes, GOOD STEWARDS MAKE LASTING INVESTMENTS! Amen
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.