The gospel tells the uncommon story of a steward who made new friends at a time when he needed them most.
One of the hardest part about taking a new joy or moving to a new community is the task of making new friends. True friends are hard to come by. Some people find it difficult to make friends. What do you say? How do you develop a good relationship?
The steward in Jesusí parable made friends in an unlikely way. His job was like that of a butler. He was in charge of the household supplies from which he had been stealing. A little here while no one was looking. A little there that no one would miss. But one day someone did miss something, and when the master of the house looked into things, an exit interview was scheduled with the dishonest steward.
This is where the butler made new friends. He told the customers to change their bills, so they wouldnít have to repay all the money.
Itís important to not here that Jesus does not commend stealing. It is a serious sin to take things that arenít ours, or to give away things that donít belong to us Thieves should be severely punished to teach them to respect the rights of ownership.
What Jesus wants us to notice about this steward is his shrewdness. Shrewdness is the crafty way someone maneuvers in a tight situation. By forgiving the debt the customers owed, he made friends for himself when he would be out of a job. Then he would have some help until he got back on his feet.
Jesus would have us know that it is wrong to steal, but it is good and right to make use of the things around us to serve the mission of the gospel. He would have us make friends with the world so that we can work in the world to accomplish his purposes.
Making friends with the world means doing what you do best so that the word of God can be spread. Some people are good at making money. I know a man who has been so successful in his life that everything he does seems to turn to gold. When he was a boy, he and his brothers bought an old piece of farm ground. It was dry and good for nothing. They dug a well, built a windmill out of scrap metal, and turned the property around for a good profit. His whole life has been like that. Everything he gets involved in brings a huge profit. But he has also seen the purpose of all the wealth God gave him. He gives a percentage of all he has to the church and its mission. Scores of churches have been helped because God made him good at what he does, and gave him the vision to see how to use his wealth properly as a Christian.
Money isnít the only blessing God gives us. We are all special creations of God. We have skills, talents, and abilities. Some are energetic, some patient listeners, some artistic, some organized. Some people have lots of time on their hands. Others have been through loss and hardship, and can help another person through grief and sorrow.
Whatever we are, whatever gifts God has given us, Jesus asks that we be shrewd with these gifts so that benefit goes to the kingdom of grace. That is what making friends with the world is about.
Friends bring joy into our lives, and there is great joy to be found in using what we have to serve the Lord. The problem is, we see giving to God as something that hurts, rather than something that feels good.
Our lives are crowded with demands. So many bills to pay. So little time left for ourselves. How can adding something else feel good?
Giving does feel good. It fells good because when we are giving to God we begin to realize how much God has given to us.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We have been giving the forgiveness of sins. We have been given salvation from a world that is going to die. We have been given life with God in heaven that lasts forever. This is not for sale, but if somehow it was, what would you be willing to pay for it? Every dime you ever made? All your free time youíll ever have? Your health and all your prized possessions? These are mere trifles compared with the joy and serenity, the peace that Jesus brings to you. An noówe may not offer any of these things to purchase the grace of God. It is not for sale. It can only be given to us by God himself.
Therefore, since God has been pleased to give us the kingdom of heaven, it brings us joy to use our earthly treasure for his purposes.
God promises to bless us when we give to his purposes. He says in the book of Malachi In tithes and offerings, you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Mal. 3:9-10)
I never thought that not giving an offering to God was robbing from him, but here it says that plain and clear. Here is also the promise that God will bless us in some way, not necessarily in money, beyond our expectation.
Look at it another way. If we find it hard to give to God, and its something we all wrestle with as humans, then why would God give us more? If you canít get by on what you have, and donít ever give an offering of thanks to God, why then would God give you more? You would only spend the extra on yourself and return nothing to him.
If you have no time to stop and listen to God, why would God lessen your load? You would only find something else to occupy yourself with rather than listening to his word and praying to him. This is what Jesus means when he says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
I challenge you, therefore, to find the joy in giving to God. October is stewardship month at church. You are going to be hearing a little bit each week about giving to God. I ask you to rememberówe are not begging for your money or your time. We are asking you to find real joy seeing yourself as a servant of God. Ask yourself why God has given you the good things you have. Then find the joy of being a blessing, by giving God some of the things you love. Donít give him whatís left over, or what youíre not using. He gave us his only beloved Son. Give back to God some of what you love most.
This is something the Lutheran Womenís Missionary League has done for many years. Women from various congregations who give of themselves to support the churchís mission of preaching the gospel and making disciples of all people. These women find great joy in serving God together.
You can find the joy as well. Who is your true master? Who do you love most of all? Is it your money? Is it your personal time? Is it your kidsí busy schedule? Who is your master. Who do you sacrifice yourself for? These are all good things, but Jesus says we can only have one master.
Remember, a master is the person who helps you when you need it. When life ends and we must leave this world, will money help us then? Will our job, or even our dear children be able to save us? Only our true master will help us then, Jesus Christ the Lord, who gave himself to death for us. Only he can help us then.
Find the joy in making friends with the world. Serve the Lord in giving of yourself in whatever way you have been blessed. Remember the church, and how God has blessed us through her.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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