Sep 23, 2019
Join us as we explore God’s ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Being a pastor in several churches, you get to see some of the best and the worst in society. And honestly, sometimes it's easy to get a little jaded if you're not careful. You watch a small segment of society try to take advantage of the generosity of churches that try to reach out to those in need. Their stories tug at your heartstrings and make you want to do anything you can to help because of the sad plight they find themselves.
Then you happen to see them getting into their brand new BMW in the next county. They are a little surprised you're there, but not embarrassed in the least as they have discovered a way to make lots of money through the generosity of others. And it's all tax-free. No one knows about it. The church seldom keeps records or reports it to the government. They certainly didn't. And so it goes. Money. Wealth. Things.
Jesus warns us about it. He said these words after a story that, to us, can be a little confusing. "No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
The confusing story is about a dishonest manager that got caught and was about to be fired. So he goes out and begins slashing the bills his master's debtors owe. He hopes by doing so, he will gain favor in their eyes and have some means of survival after his discharge since he has no other skills. One bill is reduced by 20% another by 50%. His master finds out and gives this report. "The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness."
Jesus goes on to say, "For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 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 dwellings.
"One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."
I've got to tell you, it's easy for me to see the logic in the last part of Jesus' teaching. Why would God entrust us with great riches if he can't trust us with little things? I talk about that to the people that work with me all the time.
New people that come to the team are always scrutinized until I get to know them. It's not that I don't trust them, but we all think differently. We understand words in different ways and have different experiences, talents, and skill sets. So until I know how my instructions are received, understood, and carried out as a leader, responsible for the outcome of some project, those working with me to help complete that project are under some level of scrutiny to make the end result what it is meant to be. If I'm not sure the capability of one of the team members, I have to watch that team member more closely than those with whom I've worked in the past whose strengths and weaknesses I already know, so that I can make whatever needed adjustments early so work doesn't need to be redone or a project fails because I fail to give appropriate guidance.
It's all about communication. Learning how to trust and when to trust. And if one of the team members never learns to move in the same direction as the rest of the team, that member will never get critical pieces of the project. The outcome is too important to put critical pieces in the hands of someone that is not trustworthy. And if that goes on too long, that team member will disappear from the team. It's just the way it is. Those who refuse to be trustworthy, dig themselves into a hole they have a hard time climbing out of.
So this trust part of Jesus lesson is pretty simple, especially when it comes to money. A few questions get to the root of it all. Whose money is it? Yours or Gods? All it takes is a quick peek at your bank account, and you can tell. Do you think you are a steward or an owner? Are your palms turned up or down when holding the funds God entrusts to you? Simple, but very tough questions we must answer when we read those last verse in this discourse.
But what about those earlier verses? "The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 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 dwellings."
Does God want us to be shrewd the way the world is shrewd? Does he want us to make friends with unrighteous wealth? What does that really mean?
I've been thinking about that the last few days since I read those verses and starting putting together my thoughts about this podcast. At first, I was going to skip over those words and just do what most of us do and go straight to the "you can't serve two masters" part. But something stopped me from doing that.
First, the word used for wealth is the Semitic word mammon often also translated as money or possessions. It reminds us that whatever we have in this world is not really ours. We are just stewards. It doesn't go with us into eternity. It's not the eternal treasure that lasts Jesus talks about elsewhere. But we must have possessions here. We can't survive with nothing.
Yes, most of us have more than we need. We live in a culture that pushes us to accumulate more and more and more. The motto "the boys with the most toys win" is alive and well in our culture. We seem to strive for that extra pay that bigger house, that newer car. But do we need those things? No. We want them, but we don't need them. Our culture demands we have them. Our need does not.
Our need demands we have our daily bread. Enough to sustain us for another day. Enough clothing to stay clean and dressed appropriately for the climate in which we live. Not necessarily fashionable according to the cultural fad, but dressed comfortably for the environment. We need housing to protect us from the weather. Not mansions and not cardboard boxes, but housing sufficient to protect us from the weather in our particular locale. That's about the extent of our real physical needs daily; food, clothing, shelter, and not much else.
Look around you at all the extras God has entrusted to you. And none of it lasts. It all goes away. It all requires time and energy and more resources to take care of it. And every single item you add to the list of things takes a little more time, a little more energy, a little more resources to care for it that could be used for something else. All of our time-saving devices …don't. Even as I write this, I'm thinking of the time I have to spend removing the deck from my riding mower that is supposed to save time. It has a bent shaft, and so I'll spend a couple of hours removing it, taking it to be repaired, a couple of hours putting it back on, and a bunch of dollars that could have been used for something else. What happened? I hit a hidden rock in my yard that is too big to mow with a push mower and probably too big for two people. But the culture caught me like it catches most of us.
So what does the scripture tell us? I think it says be smart with all that stuff. Use it the same way the world does. Don't hold back. They use it to make friends. They use it to invite others into their piece of the world. They get people into their fold. They use their possessions, whether money or things, to capture the interest of those around them for some purpose.
Sometimes the purpose is nefarious. Sometimes it really is just to make friends. Sometimes it's for business, to lure you into one of those pyramid schemes or something. But shrewd people of this world will use their possessions to capture the attention of those around them.
I think Jesus is telling us, God entrusted his followers with the same worldly possessions unbelievers use for their purposes. Why not use those same tools, those same kinds of possessions for holy purposes? Why not recognize those possessions as gifts from God and use them just to make friends? Or capture the attention of those around you to show Christlike behavior? Why not use the possessions at your disposal to do good in a world that has evil intent on its mind? Why not recognize as shrewd followers of Christ, we can use the same possessions, the same money, the same mammon the world treats at tools to tempt as tools to win people to God.
It's incredible to me how many things God created that we have perverted. Why not turn the tables? If there is something we think we created (we probably didn't, but that's another story), why not turn it around and use it for God? Use the skills and talents and processes the world might have taught you in business and use them to build the Kingdom of God. Bring others to Christ with the same tools you use to bring others to your business. Christ will sell himself, we just need to make the introductions.
Be shrewd, not worldly, but shrewd. Use what God has put in your hands. And if he can trust you with the little things, you'll be surprised how your life will change as you become a steward in his Kingdom.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright© 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.