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Luke 15:11-32

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.


“Compassion for the Lost Ones!”  (Stewardship Sermon # 3)


I want to start with something funny. I heard this story about a congregation. Down in the south, many churches are known as “answer back” churches. When the Preacher says something, the congregation naturally replies. On Sunday, a preacher was speaking on what it would take for the church to become better. He said, “If the church is to become better, it must take up its bed and walk.” The congregation said, “Let it walk, Preacher, let it walk.” Encouraged by their response, he went further, “If this church is going to become better, it will have to throw aside its obstacles and run!” The congregation replied, “Let it run, Preacher, let it run!” Now really into his message, he spoke stronger. “If this church really wants to become great, it will have to take up its wings and fly!” The congregation shouted, “Let it fly, Preacher, let it fly!” The Preacher gets louder. “If this church is going to fly, it will cost money!” The congregation replied. “Let it walk, Preacher, let it walk.”

We keep February as “the Stewardship Month.” As you may remember, I talked about the meaning of “steward/stewardship” on the first Sunday of February. 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 members, 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 the steward of God whether one recognizes it or not.

And, we talked about being a faithful Steward of money last Sunday. I quoted John Wesley’s suggestion regarding the steward of God. 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 as you can.”  Wesley’s purpose in earning and saving money was to give all to the poor.

Remember the parable story of talents. If we keep one talent in the ground, we have just one talent. Furthermore, we may lose one talent. However, if we work with one talent, we may double it. God entrusts us with his property according to our abilities. Some receive more, and some receive less. However, depending on how we manage them, our future could be different, like the stewards who received five or ten talents. Each of them worked sincerely until their master came back. They made their portions double, and the master entrusted them with more. The master said to them, “Well done, good and faithful servants. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” The way we help others would be the way we manage God’s property well, and it would be making our way to the eternal home.

God’s property that he entrusted to us is not limited to money, talents, skills, abilities, and opportunities, but also it includes people like our family members, friends, loved ones, and community family. Today, I want to talk about the stewardship of God’s people. We know about Jesus’ great commandments that say love God and love our neighbors. Loving our neighbors is one of the biggest commandments. Jesus said, “Love your neighbors as you love yourself.” Who are our neighbors? Our neighbors are all people who might need our care, help, support, and love. As God entrusted us with his property, God entrusted us with his people to care for, love, and support. It also goes against God’s commandment if we don’t love ourselves. If we don’t care about our family, it also goes against God’s commandments. As Jesus said, “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” (Luke 16:10).

Let us review today’s scripture. Today’s scripture is used to talk about God’s love and a prodigal son. But, I want to talk about this story from the stewardship perspective on family. The story goes like this: There was a man with two sons. One day, the younger son asked his father about his heritage, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” His father divided his property between them. The younger son left his father’s house, taking his father’s property and spending all things. There was a severe famine in that country, and he began to need. He was hired to feed pigs and eat the pigs’ pods because no one gave him food. He repented that he had left his father’s house with his father’s heritage. Finally, the younger son came back home.

His father was waiting for him, and as soon as he saw his younger son, he ran to him and hugged him. His father didn’t ask anything from his younger son but welcomed him joyfully and provided him with good clothes, shoes, and even a ring. In addition, his father had a party with good food. Later on, the older son came back from work and heard that his brother came back and how his father treated his brother. And the older son was upset with his father and refused to join the party, saying, “Listen! For all these years, I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has spent your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then his father said, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”

Jesus told this parable story to Pharisees and teachers of the law, who were grumbling when Jesus had meals with tax collectors and sinners. So, the old son implies the Pharisees and teachers, and the younger son implies the tax collectors and sinners. I want to point out the old son’s behavior rather than the younger son’s because we Christians are mostly like the old son and like Pharisees and teachers. As Christians, I wonder if we judge people outside the church or don’t want people who have sinned to come to church. We Christians, perhaps work hard at the church as the old son worked hard in his father’s house. However, I wonder why we don’t care about others who left the church like the old son didn’t care for his brother. The younger son was welcomed back home because of his father’s compassion toward his lost son. His father was waiting for his lost son every day. That’s why his father could see his younger son and accept him in his home.

Let us think about where our brothers and sisters are, where our sons and daughters are, and where our loved ones are. They perhaps, left you refusing your care, love, and support, but please make space for them in your hearts and prayers. Someday, God may ask us where our brothers and sisters are, like counting our stewardship on God’s property. In the story, the father says, “your brother was dead and is alive again.” Like this, our lost ones are perhaps going to die in spirit. Let us make them alive. Do you remember the parable story of the lost sheep? When the master noticed he had lost a sheep out of a hundred sheep, he left ninety-nine sheep and went out to find the one sheep. We may be curious why he left ninety-nine sheep for a single sheep. If he doesn’t find the sheep, the sheep shall be killed by wild animals. Don’t leave your loved ones in the field. Please try to find them and bring them back alive. Don’t cease praying for them. Don’t give them up trying to get them back to God’s house. Let us have compassion for lost ones as God has for them. Thanks be to God. Amen!