Be Faithful with the ‘Little’ You Have

Luke 16:1–13

Jesus also said to his disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager who was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 The rich man called him in and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be manager.’ 3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, since my master is taking away the management position from me? I am not strong enough to dig. I am ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from my position as manager, people will receive me into their houses.’ 5 “He called each one of his master’s debtors to him. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘Six hundred gallons of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write three hundred.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘Six hundred bushels of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and write four hundred and eighty.’ 8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the children of the light are. 9 I tell you, make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings. 10 The person who is faithful with very little is also faithful with much. And the person who is unrighteous with very little is also unrighteous with much. 11 So if you have not been faithful with unrighteous mammon, who will entrust you with what is really valuable? 12 If you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something to be your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters. Indeed, 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 both God and mammon.”  (EHV)

Dear Friends in Christ,

If you have children or grandchildren, you know that even if you dearly love them, you don’t put very expensive things into their hands, until you learn you can trust them with smaller, simpler things. God tells us today that He operates with that same principle. But in God’s economy, gold and diamonds, even your precious body, mind and abilities—yes even your earthly life itself are the “little things” Jesus is speaking of in our text when He says, “The person who is faithful with very little is also faithful with much.” So today, Jesus urges you to “Be Faithful with the ‘Little’ You Have.”

Use Worldly Wealth to Gain Friends for Yourselves

A manager is found guilty of wasting his boss’s possessions. The books give written record of his shoddy work, his selfish ambition, his misuse of funds and embezzlement. He’s not a ‘good guy,’ but he is a clever man. He does what he can to make the most out of a really bad situation and see to it that he doesn’t wind up out on the street jobless, or stuck doing something for a living he’s not able to do. He gets all those who have accounts with his boss’s business to think he’s the good guy, by cutting their bills in half. That way, if he finds himself out on the street, he’ll hopefully have friends who will help him out.

His boss is a world-wise businessman himself. He may not like the fact that this man’s latest move as manager is going to cost him a bundle, but he can’t help but admire the guy’s cleverness.

And then after telling this story, Jesus urges us to be like this shrewd manager. Now, that may seem pretty strange at first glance, and it may still seem awfully confusing even at second glance. How on earth should we imitate this manager who’s getting fired for squandering his boss’s property? Well, in one way—and in one way only!

“The children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the children of the light are. 9 I tell you, make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings.”

As the dishonest manager used someone else’s property to gain friends for himself, so we Christians are to use Someone else’s money to gain friends. And that Someone else whose money it is – is God.

Okay. So where do you get God’s money? Do you rob a church? You don’t have to, or have you forgotten that all money is God’s? And all things? God really and truly owns everything, even the things you’ve put your own name on and the things in your pockets. Your pickup truck? That’s God’s. Your house? Same thing. Your bank account? Ditto.

The same is true for your back, your knees, your hands, your brain, your job—absolutely everything belongs to God, and you are simply the manager or steward. With that in mind, Jesus says, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings.”

In the case of the unfaithful steward, remember that his cutting those bills in half was commended by the boss. What got him into trouble was what he did before that—wasting his master’s money for his own selfish purposes.

So if everything belongs to God, and we’re simply the managers of our rich God’s things, then just what does God mean, urging us to use everything to gain friends? God spells that out for us in Scripture. He asks us to wisely use our talent, our work, our money to take care of our own families. Scripture says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Providing for our children, giving them Christian training is part of that equation. Solomon said, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6) Use worldly wealth to keep your children friends of God in which case they’ll be your eternal friends.

God also tells us to help others in need. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17). Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). Do you remember that little guy Zacchaeus who climbed the Sycamore tree to see Jesus? When Jesus came to his home and instructed him about salvation through faith in Him, the Redeemer, Zacchaeus was overwhelmed by the joy of being able to go to heaven. He stood up and said to Jesus: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor” (Luke 19:8) And Jesus commended him as a true believer.

God also expects us to be responsible, contributing members of the community by paying our taxes.

And God expects us to also use his stuff—our talents, our time and also our offerings to share the Gospel, making eternal friends who will welcome us into heaven saying, “Thank you! God used your words to bring me into his church.” “Welcome! So nice to see one of the people who sent missionaries our way!” Paul wrote, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income” (1 Corinthians 16:2) “[He] should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings.”

God expects us to honestly do what he has hired us to do with His money as His managers. He’s the boss. We’re the employees. And He’s watching and keeping books.

Whoever Can Be Trusted with Very Little Can Also Be Trusted with Much

The person who is faithful with very little is also faithful with much. And the person who is unrighteous with very little is also unrighteous with much. 11 So if you have not been faithful with unrighteous mammon, who will entrust you with what is really valuable? 12 If you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something to be your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters. Indeed, 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 both God and mammon.”

If I had all the wealth in the world, it would still be a tiny pittance compared with God’s wealth that He has to distribute. It’s all “very little” because whether we’re rich or poor, it’s all passing away. It’s all “very little”” because Jesus is comparing it with what awaits us after this life. There’s a reason the heavenly Jerusalem is described as having gates of pearl and streets of gold. The reason is that the wealth of heaven so far exceeds all the money in the world, that this world’s wealth is literally very little.” 

Do you remember that TV show “The Apprentice”? That’s when Donald Trump was mainly known for the words, “Your fired!” Jesus says it more elegantly: So if you have not been faithful with unrighteous mammon, who will entrust you with what is really valuable? 12 If you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something to be your own? During these years we’re on earth, God wants to see whether we can be trusted to “run the business.” If we’re not faithful with His little stuff here on earth, He will clearly see that we can’t be trusted with the truly important and very real things to come after this life, worth more than we could ever imagine.

So are you a good manager? Are you honest? Trustworthy? It starts with with realizing that we are not owners of anything but only caretakers. It’s all God’s, from our possessions to our health to our strength to our talents to our money. It’s all God’s, and He’s watching to see how we manage it.

We’ve made mistakes, haven’t we. We’ve acted at times as if it all doesn’t belong to God but to ourselves. Wouldn’t it be scary to be called to account the way the manager was in Jesus’ parable? We’ve withheld our help from those in need and treated mission work like some exotic luxury. We’ve acted as if it’s our own labors and skills that have earned us everything, forgetting that even being born without a handicap that keeps us from working is a gift of God. When we do give, it’s often not as a cheerful giver. It would be scary indeed to be called to account for our Stewardship by our Holy God.

Thank God that He mercifully sent His Son Jesus to be punished for our miserly idolatry. Jesus served His Father as the Perfect Steward in our place, as our Substitute. He never bowed down to mammon. He never denied others’ needs. Jesus wasn’t cheap and selfish. He generously paid the highest price of all to save the selfish world. He poured out His holy precious blood on the cross. He even gives us to taste and drink of His priceless Body and Blood in the Sacrament to purify us anew each time we celebrate His sacrament.

Jesus has lavished on us gifts beyond our wildest dreams. But then He’s also said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” The much that has been given us begins with salvation. Through faith, you are absolved and forgiven. On top of that, you’ve also been given great opportunities here at Our Saviour Lutheran to learn God’s pure Word. In this country, you’ve been given the freedom to share your faith without reprisal. And you’ve been blessed to live, even in economic recession, in one of the richest times in history. Resolve, therefore, to “Be Faithful with the ‘Little’ You Have” as faithful managers of God’s gifts. Amen.

Pastor Timothy Buelow

Our Saviour Lutheran Church

Lake Havasu City, Arizona

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