The Gospel this week (Luke 16.1-13) is an interesting piece of Scripture and one that many the Church ought to spend more time with. There are two basic things that I see in the lesson: (1) where is your heart before God is and where others are concerned, and (2) how do you deal with money and possessions?
The story of the shrewd manager is the tale of a manager who was a “freeman” and who handled the affairs of his Master (kyrios). Word reached the master that the manager was not acting properly and the manager acted immediately – suspending the wayward servant and demanding an account of his dealings because he was fired. Knowing that his time was coming to an end, the manager figured out what he was going to do to survive since he could not dig for a living and would not lower himself to beg for charity from others. Instead he chose to earn the kindness and generosity of those who were in debt to both him and his master. In this way, he created a quid pro quo situation. He helped out those in debt to him but removing his commission and making them responsible for what they owed to his master. In turn they were grateful and would make room for him when he had no other place to go. Clearly the manager knew and understood how to look after himself once his job was gone.
The Scriptures has a lot of things to say about mammon. In fact, a full third of every Jesus has to say about anything, has to do with how we use money and possessions. Having them is not an issue. It is how one uses them that can become an issue. Moreover, the ways in which we use our money and our possessions, describes what is going on inside. It shows how we are hearing both the Scriptures and the Spirit. It shows what or who we worship. And in this much Jesus is very clear. There cannot be any divided loyalties were God is concerned. Money and possessions can and do lay claim to people and their lives in ways that cause them to be alienated from God. Mammon can and does compete with God for your attention. So we must choose: God or our “stuff”. Ask yourself, do you have possessions or do your possessions have you?
And while I know that this makes people uncomfortable, I think it needs to be said. One day, each and all of us are going to be called to the throne and before Christ, we are going to be asked to give an account of our lives and what we did with what we have been given. So if Jesus asks me, “So, how was it? How did things go?” the last thing I want to have to say to him is, “I survived.” It is not that I think that would make him angry, but rather it would sadden and make him cry. All of the grace, love, peace, joy and strength that he offers and I could only manage to survive. As followers and disciples of the Master, we are meant to do more than survive. We are meant thrive!
Sure, there will be crisis moments that are going to have to be handled. There will be opportunities that we will miss or worse, squander. For that there must be repentance, forgiveness and absolution. And if you want to be great in the eyes of heaven then you had best learn to give and be ready to make sacrifices because that is the economy of God’s kingdom. Giving shows the heart of God. Hoarding what has been given makes steps in the direction of idolatry.
Remember that it is more blessed to receive than to give because it is only in receiving that we have something to give; for our hands were empty, and God filled them. We need to choose how we will serve and who or what we will serve and to do so faithfully. Being a follower is not just about having faith in and loving God. It is recognizing that God has faith in us and that what we do with the opportunities that are given to us and how we serve God and neighbour day in and day out.