“Make Friends by Means of Dishonest Wealth!” (Stewardship Sermon # 2)
As you may remember, I talked about the meaning of “steward/stewardship” last Sunday. The steward of God is the manager of God’s property. Stewardship is based on our confession that God is the owner of all creation, including ourselves, family, people, and creation. Furthermore, as our abilities, opportunities (time), talents, skills, ideas, and gifts are from God, we are the steward for all gifts and skills as well. No one can avoid being a steward of God whether one recognizes it or not.
And, I hope you remember the parable story about “talent.” The parable story of talent gave us the lesson that the more we use our abilities/talents, the more we increase our abilities/talents; the less we use our abilities, the less we increase our abilities. We may even lose our abilities, if we never use them. This includes money because money is also God’s property. Therefore, I added that the more we use money, the more we gain money. I know some of you don’t agree with that. I said, however, “It depends on how we use our money.” If God is pleased with us, we may gain more money. Today, I want to talk about “How to use money as the steward of God.” In other words, it is about “when God would be pleased with us regarding spending money.” Today’s scripture gives us obvious wisdom regarding “spending money.”
As I said last Sunday, the steward has the authority to manage his master’s property. However, sooner or later the master would count how his stewards worked on his property. According to their work, they would get rewards or judged. Therefore, the stewards have the authority to manage all the master’s property and responsibilities on how to manage them at that same time.
Let’s review today’s scripture. The master heard his steward was squandering his property, called him, and said, “I heard about you. Give me an accounting of your management because you cannot be my manager any longer.” The steward is about to lose his job and thinks of his situation, ‘what can I do? If I lose my job, how can I get the other job? What do I do? If I get a job to be a farmer, I don’t have enough strength to dig. But I don’t want to be a beggar on the street because it is too shameful. What am I going to be?’
Suddenly, he got an idea that he would use his master’s property for the people in debt to the master before he lost his job. He thought if he did so, the people might welcome him into their homes even after losing the job. So, he called his master’s debtors one by one and discounted their debts. We can find how he used his master’s money in today’s scripture, verses 5 -7. He asked the first, ‘how much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘a hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’
What do you think of his work? In verse 8, we find how the master reacted to his steward’s work. Verse 8 says, “His master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” It is strange. We wonder why the master commanded him instead of being upset with him. We have to know the background of the story first. The Israelite culture had begun from a God-centered mindset. Their rules and laws are built based on The Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, from God through Moses. The Book of Deuteronomy is focused on “love of God” and “love of neighbors,” especially the laws of protection for the poor, the powerless, and the weak in society. Here is one of the examples: “You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent” (Deuteronomy 23:19). However, the political and religious leaders made the laws distorted for their greed. They added the interest to the actual portion they lent. For example, if they borrow $100, add the interest of 20% to $100, and the bill becomes $120. So, the people’s debt for the olive oil or wheat was not actual all their debts, but also included their interest. In other words, the discount of the bills the dishonest manager made is supposed to represent the actual bill the people would payback, which means it’s according to God’s will. Therefore, the master commended his dishonest manager’s wisdom. The dishonest manager noticed what he did wrong and corrected it quickly.
However, even though we understood the background of the story, we have one more curious thing in the story. We still wonder why Jesus told people, “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes” (vs.9). “The dishonest wealth” doesn’t mean the money itself, but it means “the worldly wealth.” Money itself is not dishonest, but the way people make money might be dishonest. Therefore, it is more important to use money than how to make money. Jesus meant, after all, the best way you use money is to make friends. In other words, money is a tool for use in our lives in the world, and the best way we can use them in the world, according to God’s will, is to love our neighbors in acts.
The reason Jesus brought this story to the people is that the Pharisees and the teachers of the laws were grumbling to Jesus, who was eating with tax collectors and sinners, and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2). Jesus’ purpose to bring this story is to encourage people to repent and make friends with all people without any judgment or bias. The right way to use money is to share it with the poor, the powerless, and the weak in society. Remember when we treat the poor, the powerless, and the weak, we treat Jesus. Therefore, in helping the poor and the powerless and the weak we are making our way to our enteral home.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, says that God’s stewardship is “to give money to the poor.” He gives us threefold commands, namely, “to earn, save, and give all you can.” He said, “Gain all as you can. Save all money as you can. And give all you can.” Wesley’s purpose in earning and saving money is to give all to the poor. Christians do mission work through church while non-Christians do it individually. The church, which focuses on mission, never fails because God’s purpose is to reach out to the people and proclaim the good news to the poor. That’s why we encourage you to offer your gifts, offerings, and tithes. Let us do mission work through the church, the body of Christ. Some ask me how much we should give in our offerings like tithes, 10 % of our income, or more? I would say, “give through your offering as much as you can.” Tithes of 10 % are the minimum guideline for our offerings. However, if you need emergency funds for your family, you may not have as much to give, and if you have enough, more than 10 %, you may give more. As Wesley says, “gain all as you can, save all as you can, and give all as you can.”
Let us be the righteous steward of the money! Thanks be to God. Amen!