Luke 16: 1 – 13 (Pentecost 18 - 2016)
“Christian Stewardship Makes Eternal Friendships”
I received a rather saddening note from a dear friend early this week. My friend had apparently been very betrayed by many people. It seemed the let down was quite unexpected. What was his concluding remark? “… save six for pall bearers.” I know the person well enough that there is a tinge of humor in a hurting soul. I wonder how often all of feel like huddling up at least our family, our closest friendships and hunker down. As we huddle for the remainder of our days, we are satisfied that no one else will hurt us and no one else will be hurt by me. There will be a few left to bury us.
That very thinking goes against some very basic commands the Lord gives his people: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” “Let us not forsake the coming together as some are in the habit of doing.” “Hunkering Down” goes against the grain of our Savior’s command that we work together with others in the interest of his Gospel ministry. In another parable Jesus rebuked the guy that buried his talent in the ground.
In today’s parable Jesus tells of a Christian shrewdness that will be rewarded. He tells the parable of a man who knew he was about to be fired from his job. His plan was to cheat his boss in order to make friends for when he is jobless. It seems like a pretty un-Christian thing to do. Yet, in the end, his plan was rewarded by the very master that he schemed to cheat. Then Jesus explains “I tell you use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
This is what I like to call Cheating the False god of Materialism. It could also be more broadly called cheating the false god of anxiety, depression, pride, selfishness and a number of other things.Shrewd Christianity takes a different view of earthly time and blessings than the world does. Christians see earthly blessings as they are: blessings from God. They are reasons for thanksgiving. They are tools for providence. They are tools for God-pleasing pleasure. They are tools for generosity and charity. They are also tools for the spread of the Gospel. In their proper place, everything we are and have is a blessing from God. How we divide up our time, energy, resources, abilities is a God-given right. He has given us time and blessings as a way to bring honor to our true Master, Jesus Christ.
The “god” or master of Materialism is real. He can sometime be a real slave driver. Keeping up with the “Joneses”; keeping up with the busy parent vehicles; keeping up with the neighbor’s way of life, keeping up with the world, without losing our sanity and perspective; this is frustrating slavery. We have all been there, or are even daily tempted to trade it all for laziness or despair. That despair often results in sinful solutions, needles worry and guilt, and a fear about things that will pass away.
Jesus took away that burden. He avoided the things of the world to focus on his work of sharing the Gospel and to focus on his primary work of being the Gospel. He unloads your burden by taking upon himself and marching it through the lost crowds to the cross. On his way he cared about those crowds. He taught those crowds. He used what was around him to make friends for eternity. Remember, the Son of man who had no place to rest his head did a mighty amount of caring for the eternal wellbeing of others.
Jesus offers us the way to cheat the gods of this world. His answer is to make eternal friends with earthly resources. Now that does not mean “buy your friends.” What it simply means is this: Our devotion to the spread of the Gospel contributes to the making of eternal friendships. Take some of that energy we “waste” on the earthly way of doing things and channel it to the kingdom of God. When we are spreading the Gospel of Jesus, we are like that guy in the parable. His thinking process is this, “Hey, I’m not going to be here very long. I better start thinking about my life after here.”
Shrewd Christians are on alert for the eternal consequence of their actions. That kind of thinking is foreign to the lost souls and in some cases fellow believers around you.
- They may not understand why you would spend four hours at a church event.
- They may not understand why you would get out of bed on your day off to spend it with God’s family.
- They may not understand understand why a congregation would send some of its offerings away to missions in other lands or the support of our church body, or Christian Schools of learning.
- They may not understand why you would take much of your energy, gifts, time, and everything else that you have and invest it in the furtherance of God’s good news in Christ.
- They may not understand why you would spend the last few moments of your day talking to God and reading his book.
“You however, know the grace of God in Christ Jesus: that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). God invested in you the blood of his Son, and “along with Him graciously gives us all things” (Romans 8: 32). You know that God created you, redeemed you, keeps you in faith, provides for your daily bread, and keeps you from all harm, and will one day deliver you from this earthly life and bring you to the place where all God’s people have eternal dwellings. Look what Christ has spent on you: 30 plus years in humble humanity; 3 plus years in laboring public ministry; and the eternal supply of his salvation. Peter reminds us: “know that you were ransomed from futile ways … not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or stain.” (1 Peter 1: 18-19).
Let me illustrate from the parable. Where the shrewd manager was lowering their bills to make friends, your Savior says to you, “Take out your insurmountable debt to me and make it zero. I have paid it in full with my righteous sacrifice on mount Calvary.”
Knowing that, you start thinking like the guy who says, “I’m not going to be here forever. I best start making friends for the eternal place.” We begin to grow in perspective of priority. We begin to be more alert as to how what I have can help more people know Jesus and his eternal blessings. The lost souls around you may not get it … at first. But if he, or she, is brought to faith through God’s message of Jesus, then your witness of the Gospel, your support of the Gospel, your efforts and resources just made you another friend in eternity who will say, “Thank You!” and Jesus will commend your shrewd Christian behavior.
I suspect that my troubled friend will cheer up soon. I have prayed for him and reached out to him. I know he has prayed for me and others. Together we have become friends in Christ through the Word. Use what Christ has given to make more eternal friendships. The voice of our dear Savior Jesus lifts us up to see his cross and an open heaven. The Ascended Lord has showered us with resources and open doors to support the business of his kingdom. I trust that Christ is rebuilding all of us each through that Word to be shrewd managers, shrewd Christian stewards of all that he has given for us, to his glory, in thanksgiving to Jesus, and for the saving of many friendships that will last for eternity.
The world seeks after wealth and all that money offers.
Yet never is content though gold should fill its coffers.
I have a higher good, content with it I’ll be.
My Jesus is my wealth! What is the world to me! (477:4) Amen.