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Another Kind of Stewardship September 19, 2010

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Luke 16:1-15

Proper 20

September 19, 2010

Focus:  God works through us and the gifts that He has given us in order to prosper His kingdom.
Function:  That the hearers take the ordinary and doing the extraordinary with it.

Structure: Text-Application

Another Kind of Stewardship

            In our gospel reading, Jesus tells His disciples a parable, that of the shrewd or dishonest manager.  We just heard how the parable went.  But why would Jesus commend this man for doing what we see on the surface as a bad deed?  He cut the amounts that were owed to his master.  How is that ever going to help him?

Jesus answered the question of how it was going to help the dishonest manager.  By cutting their debt, he had managed to create a couple of new friendships for himself, friendships that he was counting on for when the master fired him.  He was searching for someone who would take care of him.

Oddly enough, Jesus never finishes the parable.  He only mentions that the master commended the man for his quick-thinking.  He very well may still have gotten himself fired.  Jesus intentionally leaves out the ending.

Instead, Christ adds on His own ending to the tale: “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwelling.”  Jesus gives the story its meaning.  Using your unrighteous wealth…that sounds like a stewardship lesson.

But this isn’t the stewardship we’re used to hearing about, is it?  Jesus isn’t talking about tithing, or about devoting your time and talent to the church, and He certainly isn’t talking about keeping the earth green.  And it’s not that those aren’t all good things.  They are.  They just aren’t where Jesus was going this time.

We need to look back at who Jesus was speaking to.  A Pharisee invited Jesus into his home for a meal.  And when Jesus came, that crowd of sinners and tax collectors who seemed to follow Him everywhere, they followed Him to that house as well.  And much to the disliking of the Pharisees, Jesus wasn’t sending them away.  Instead, He responded to the Pharisees’ grumbling about associating with those kinds of people.  So Jesus hits them with a barrage of parables: the lost sheep, the widow and her lost coin, and the parable of the prodigal son.  All of these parables focused on God’s mission of retrieving people who have fallen away from Him: sinners, tax collectors, even the Pharisees.  Everyone.

But for our parable, Jesus turns to His disciples to tell the tale.  That’s because this parable is about discipleship.  Stewardship?  Evangelism?  Jesus has combined all of these elements into one.  He uses the example of money in the parable as the means.  “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth.”  He hasn’t left the idea of the “lost” at all from the previous parables.  Just as He later specifically instructs the disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations,” that is also what He is doing here.

The idea of evangelism often brings up many fears or things that prevent us from doing it.  “I don’t want to go there.”  “I don’t know anyone who isn’t Christian.”  “I’m not comfortable around strangers.”  “What if they reject me?”  “I don’t have anything to give.”  “I don’t have the time.”  The list of excuses goes on and on.  We could brainstorm together and be here all day.

But this is a smaller scale.  It is not Christ’s grand command to do something spectacular or to travel to far away places.  Rather, He is telling you to use what you already have to help those whom you already know.  He is focusing on building and strengthening relationships.  That’s one of the Spirit’s primary means of evangelism.  He works through you and the relationships that you already have in your life.

Perhaps it is a coworker, or the mail man, or the owner of your favorite small-town deli.  We all have people in our lives whom we see on a fairly regular basis. We all have acquaintances.  Use what you have to build up these relationships, to open the road for the Spirit to do His work in their lives.  Let them see you living out your faith.

And again, we’re not only talking about money here.  An old British author once recalled a woman who received a knock on her door.  She opened it, and there stood a tramp, desperately in need of anything she could spare him.  The woman searched the house for some spare change, but she just couldn’t find any.  So instead, she sent that poor man off to the market with a larger bill.  She had promised that upon returning, she would use the change to give him a spare coin.  A single, puny coin?  She just gave him a large bill!  He never had to return.  But he did.  And when he returned, he was in tears over what she had given him.  It was the first time in years that someone had trusted him.

Jesus isn’t telling us to do something that He Himself didn’t already do.  Do you remember the feeding of the five thousand?  The four-thousand?  Jesus took those ordinary loaves of bread and fed the masses.  He gave the people what they needed.  Yes, Jesus is God, and that was a miracle.  But, we can do that too.  It isn’t a matter of having to do something beyond belief.  There’s a deeper meaning to stewardship: taking the ordinary and doing the extraordinary with it.

Some of you may be thinking right now that the little things that we do don’t matter that much.  But they do.  I remember an example of this that was floating around the internet a decade ago.  Perhaps you received this story in your email as well.  But even if you did, it’s worth hearing one more time:

“One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.” I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friend tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.

“As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye.

“As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said,“Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him.

“Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Man, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends.  Kyle went on to be valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.

“Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled.“Thanks,” he said. As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began.

“Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach…but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.” I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”

“I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth. Never underestimate the power of your actions.  With one small gesture you can change a person’s life.  For better or for worse.  God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way.”

 

It’s a touching tale that moves the heart.  And while it is likely a made up story, the imagery is very real.  God works through us.  The Holy Spirit works in our lives to the glory of God.  And in case you’re looking for a reason, Jesus gives that in the parable too.  “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”  Did you catch that?  It isn’t a matter of “if” our worldly things fail us, but “when.”  The earth is a fleeting moment.  Life is a gift, a blessing that is over in the blink of an eye.  It fails in comparison to the eternalkingdomofGod.

Christ is telling us that by doing these things, we are receiving another blessing, an everlasting one.  We are obeying God by spreading His kingdom.  That not only delights Him, but everyone else in that eternal dwelling place.  Have you ever pictured Heaven as one big happy family?  That’s sort of the image here.  Or maybe you’ve pictured it as a big celebration that goes on forever.  That fits too.  Because everyone will be happy to see you there, and anyone whose path you crossed ways with on the way, will be thankful that the Spirit used you in their life.

So how do we all get there?  Jesus provides that answer too.  This time, we’re not talking about another of His miracles.  We’re talking about stewardship, His stewardship.  Christ didn’t have to do what He did.  He could have chosen to live a long and pleasurable life, enjoying many of the fine things of that age.  But He gave what He had.  He gave His life.  And through His sacrifice, we receive the forgiveness of all our sins.  Everything you’ve ever done wrong?  He forgave it.  He died for every one of us in this church.  He died for everyone out there as well.  And now that God has raised Him from the dead, we have the opportunity to celebrate with Him and everyone else forever.  That is the blessing which Christ chose to give to us through His relationship with us.  It’s the ultimate example of stewardship.  It may have only been one act, but its effect was truly something extraordinary.

We are richly blessed by God.  Not just with the money that allows us to live comfortably, but with other possessions, with years of life, and the knowledge, skills, and abilities that we have come by in our lives.  We are blessed with relationships, those with parents, peers, spouses, children, and acquaintances.  We are blessed with forgiveness and a God who deeply loves us.  Our lives are abundant with blessings from God.  Jesus is asking that we share these blessings with those around us, that we use them to make our relationships stronger and invite others to come home.

 

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