Several weeks have passed since the start of 2017. Are your plans going well?
We also have a plan to read the whole bible once within a year. It will be worth reading the bible in your life at least once if you believe in Jesus Christ. Of course, it is better to read the bible several times rather than once. And if you read the Bible, you will learn something new every day. This year, I hope that all members will read the Bible at least once.
We have been reading the Bible every Sunday morning since last December. In January of this year, we are reading the book of Luke. Today’s text was read last week. As I read the passage last week, I was curious about the meaning and interpretation of today’s text. I especially wondered what it means to make friends with unrighteous wealth. I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned as I meditate on today’s passage.
To understand today’s text, there is a keyword that we need to know, which is ‘steward’. A steward manages what a host asks. For those who believe in Jesus, the concept of stewardship is very important. The content of today's text contains a command for the disciples of Jesus (ver. 1). This is also true for the people who believe in God.
God created the world, and the task that He gave to men is found in Genesis 1:28.
"God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
The first meaning of this statement is that "all creatures that move on the earth, the sea, the fish, the sky, the birds, and the earth” are not ruled by gods, but are ruled over by human beings. The second implication is that the people of God must take on the role of stewardship.
Do you know what happens when people neglect this mission? It is global pollution. Suffering is not limited to the man but also to the earth, the sea, the fish, the birds in the sky, and all the creatures that move on the earth. Therefore, the consciousness that we have to have is to take care the world that God has made, which is ‘stewardship’. Then, we can live and also the environment will be sustainable. It is very important to manage the world made by God with stewardship.
It is not only nature that God has entrusted to us, but also our wealth, time, and talents that we possess: the house we live in, the car we ride on, the money we have in the bank, the time we have, the talents we have, the church building we're using, and also our influence. These are not ours. It seems like an argument, but it is true. Everything we have and we enjoy can be used for a while, but these will return to the owner, God.
Let’s think about King Solomon. He was a man of great wealth. But his richness was only for a while when he was alive. As he died, all the wealth he was proud of was passed over to other countries. All that he had were neither his nor his offspring’s. This is true for Bill Gates. Now, he is the richest man in the world in the 21st century. What he has is only temporary. If he dies, his wealth is no longer his. It seems to him that everything he has is his forever, but it is not. While he is alive, Bill Gates can enjoy what he has. Therefore, we need to have the consciousness of ‘stewardship’, which is important for the believer. It is the duty and responsibility of a steward until the master allows him to work.
And what we need to know is that someday we can also be told this to the Lord. 'Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer” It is the content that the Lord can tell us when we cannot handle the stewardship as well today. How afraid and trembling it is!
Do you know how afraid it is to be told not to work? People who lost job should know the steward’s mind in today’s passage. 'What shall I do? Because my master takes away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed (ver. 3).’ Before this happens, we need to work hard as a steward. In the sight of the Lord, the steward seems to be wasting his goods. Nevertheless, there will be a night that we cannot work even though we want to work. Therefore, before nightfall, we must take good care of our stewardship.
Work hard when you can. Do it when you have many things to do! These are the words that stewards should engrave.
For example: I'm in the ministry. I am preaching, teaching people, meeting people, and participating in various volunteer activities. It may seem like what I always do when I want to do it, but someday, it is the day that I cannot even do although I want to keep doing it. It may be so because the owner is not satisfied with me, or the night of life comes.
In that sense, Paul's confession is truly impressive. It is because he has done all the loyalty he has entrusted to the Lord.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." (Acts 20:24)
It was the confession that Paul had made as he finished his life for Jesus Christ. I hear his confession like this: I have lived as a steward without regret. This confession will be you and me. It will be a confession to please our Lord. It will be a confession to refresh the spirit of his masters.
“Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters." (Proverbs 25:13).
I hope that you and I will refresh the spirit of our Lord. I believe that life that pleases the Lord is a good life as a steward.
3. Steward who made the owner's mind frustrating
But the steward in today's text was not the same as Paul. It was because the owner's heart was heavy and heavier while listening to what the steward did. Eventually the owner notified the steward of the dismissal. We can read the steward’s mind in ver. 3. “What shall I do?”
But he had the fancy idea. It was the wisdom of the steward. In ver. 4, the idea of what he had was revealed. “I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.” Then, he called in each one of the master’s debtors. 'How much did you owe? Eight hundred gallons of olive oil; take your bill, and make it four hundred; .. How much did you owe? “A thousand bushels of wheat… He told him, take your bill and make it eight hundred… ‘
It would be natural for his master to be angry after his master know this happening. However, the master in today’s text showed a cool response.
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. (Ver.8)
The master praised his steward who damaged his properties rather than the punishment. Most of the owners could get angry if this happened in the real world we live in. However, the owner of today's text is special.
Then, in verse 9, the master said, "…make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings (NASB, ver.9)”
Does it mean to get friends with unrighteous methods? No.
In other translation version, the meaning of master’s comment will be clear. “.. use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings (KJV. Ver.9)."
4. Make friends with worldly worth.
Make friends with worldly wealth, which is a summary of what the Lord commented to his steward. This was an evaluation when the master saw how wisely the steward manage the master’s properties. Thus, this also applies to us as well. I would like to say that our Lord is telling us how wisely we will use what the Lord has entrusted to us.
The reason that the steward could do like today’s text was that he realized that what he had was not his, but his master. The steward's attitude was different when he could or could not distinguish between "master’s or his" The steward might waste when he confused the ownership, but he worked wisely when he realized his reality as the steward.
The stewardship is to recognize that I am the only person who manages my master's things. This is a confession of the steward that it is the Lord's, even the steward worked hard to earn money.
I would also like to share with you the story of a person who made friends with worldly wealth.
It's a story about a movie called "Schindler's List" made in 1993 by Steven Spielberg. It is a very long feature film with 192 minutes. It's the only movie I've seen three times.
Schindler’s dream was to be one of the world's richest man. At the start of World War II, Schindler became a Nazi party member and managed a factory to procure armaments while paying bribes to the Germans. He used the Jews in the camps as workers. Through it, he became a great rich man. At that time, Schindler began to hear the conscience of the Jewish massacre. Then he made an important decision. It was to abandon his dream to be the richest person in the world, and to buy Jews from Nazi and take them home. Schindler bought about 1,100 Jews and took them to his hometown and protected them from working in the new factory. And when the Germans surrendered after World War II, Schindler gave freedom to the Jews who worked at his factory. The final scene of the movie ends with a scene where the Jews and his descendants who were survived by Schindler attended his funeral and placed a stone on top of the graveyard. One of the most impressive aspects of this film was the scene where Schindler broke up with 1,100 Jews just after the end of the war. The Jews gave Schindler two gifts. One was a list of Jews who were survived by Schindler. Another was a gold ring. People made this from their gold teeth. In receiving this gift, Schindler pointed his own car, saying that "Why did not I sell it? If so, I would have saved ten more."
Schindler was a man who had made many friends with the worldly wealth. Also, according to God's promise, his friends welcomed him into eternal dwellings.
The New Year has begun. During this year, God will give you many things. He will give you money. He will give you time. He will give you more talents. He will give you influence. He will give you strength and health. I hope that we live as a steward. This is what we must bear in mind. Although it seems like you have, it is the fact that the Lord has entrusted you with a moment. And what the Lord wants is for us to use wisely what the Lord entrust us.
I hope that your life does not become a wasteful life. I want you to be able to use what the Lord has entrusted to you for good works, for making friends, and for the Kingdom of God and glory. I hope that we have not sinned against what God has entrusted us. Do not use what the Lord entrusts us to do evil. Instead, let’s consider what the Lord will be pleased. That is what the Lord wants us to do.
The Lord says that if you have not been faith in the use of unrighteous wealth (worldly wealth), who will entrust the true riches to you? (ver. 11). A person who is loyal to a small thing can be loyal to a big one. A man who was dishonest to the least was said to be dishonest to the great. The Lord said that a man who can be faithful to what is on the earth can be faithful to the heavens. Therefore, we must be well-trained in small things.
Finally, I hope that you will have a good stewardship and refresh the spirit of the Lord. Our night of life will come soon. When you can work, let’s work for our Lord.