God gives us dreams and capacity to fulfill these as per His plan for us but only the diligent and faithful get rewarded with more while the manipulators lose even what they have.
God created everything on the earth- the fruit bearing trees with seed within, the animals, birds and the fish of all kinds with the power to procreate and “God saw that it was good”. In His creation neither was anything lacking nor could it be improved in any way and it was then that He decided to create Adam and Eve. God placed them in the Garden of Eden with a one point directive “tend to it” and to subdue the earth. Man was and is placed on earth to care for God’s creation as a manager, to use it for God’s glory and benefit of all on it. The larger directive is also applicable for all that He has placed in our control at home, our place of work and area of influence. Sin changed our attitude by diverting our focus from God to self and what is God’s gift to us we appropriated it as our own to use it for our glory. Word of God is a guidebook for us to be used as a manual for our personal, social, financial and spiritual life.
Lord Jesus used parables to illustrate the point about various aspects of our life to guide us to righteous living. The parable of the unjust steward is one such example. A master employs a steward to manage his affairs for him and later learns about his adopting wrong practices. The manager is confronted and asked to give account with notice of termination. He assesses his chances of a comfortable future life being nil due to his inability to labor and find another job. The debtors to the master are called by him, one by one, and asked to rewrite their books to reduce the amounts owed, which they gladly do, being under the impression that the master is rewarding them for their good business dealings. The manager would not have revealed to them about the threat to his job at this stage and hopes to be welcomed by the grateful debtors.
It is at this stage that the Lord’s teaching appears to at odds with His preaching for “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly” (Luke 16:8). Apparently the unjust man is being rewarded for his deceitful ways. After retirement from the army I was employed as Chief Administrator of a big Cardiac and Trauma hospital. A young man with serious head injuries was brought in by his father and after preliminary tests the Neurosurgeon declared that his chance of survival was very little. It was learnt that this was the only child of a very rich farmer owning vast tracts of land. The father wanted all possible options to be explored to give a chance to his son. The young man died after 23 days of hospitalization at about three early in the morning and I was deeply disturbed by this tragic death and waived about seventy thousand rupees that was yet due. The father of the child was reluctant to accept this waiver and took a promise to let him know in case the hospital demanded payment for he said “You are also an employee and not the owner”.
I was called by the hospital owner to his house around eight in the morning and I was fearful of rebuke for the loss caused through the waiver. To my surprise I was commended for the act and told that this act will be discussed by the distraught parents with everyone in future providing free publicity to the hospital. Needless to say the hospital gained tremendous goodwill and business because of this. The Lord teaches a similar thing and much more through this illustration.
We are custodians – God as Creator retains all rights over His creation and we are entrusted with the responsibility to “tend to it” only. In this capacity our responsibility is to use it in such a manner that we reveal God’s glory to every user that gets benefited from it. We are to use it for the benefit of His creation to lead them to Him thus. Our loyalty towards the Master demands that whatever is entrusted to us- our personal body, our family, our property and business/employment and our social position, must reveal the Master’s merciful grace through our handling of it. The Omnipotence of the Master is revealed in the first verse itself when the steward is confronted. Our God reads all our thoughts, knows every word yet unspoken and is aware of each and every deed undertaken by us. We must be fully aware of His presence always with and in us and thus conduct our lives in reverent fear of God. The unjust steward erred in misusing his authority and resources entrusted under his managerial control to his own detriment (verse 2).
We must acknowledge the Master – Since all that we possess is not ours, the way we use the gifts must reflect the Master’s traits- His Love, His mercy, His forgiving and His grace available in and through His Son. All our deeds must be in conformity with these traits of the Master so that others must be able to see Him in us. We are all His debtors and the Merciful Master is ever willing to write off our debts accrued through our sinful living in violation of His command. We must not only repent of our misdeeds but also change to be a righteous person to retain the right to the gifts. Even when caught with his hand in the till, the manager did not repent and seek forgiveness from his master thus acknowledging his authority but planned further deceit to ensure his own future.
We must benefit His creation – The Lord demands of us to be to use our money wisely to do good and point the beneficiaries to the Lord. This is the only way that we can benefit others that they also are made aware of the love of God available for all in His Son. “People of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light” (Luke 16:8) and we as people of the light must shine bright to lead them to the right way- not by acting shrewdly but in righteousness. Our acts must reflect the glory of God to reveal Him to others. The manager’s action to help the debtors rewrite their accounts was to benefit them and in turn the master anticipated the resultant goodwill and commended him. His wrong act turned out to the good of the owner but we must use our given authority to lead others to Christ through our honest dealings by setting an example for others.
We are people of the light – The master while commending his manager for his shrewdness in dealing with the debtors provided the reason also. “The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light”. We are classified as “children of God” since we believe in the Son of God and He dwells in us and makes us children of light since He is the light of the world. In this capacity our dealings with others must be in variance with those of this world. We worldly wisdom is not for us for we are guided by the ‘knowledge and wisdom’ that is gift from God by the Holy Spirit. Our dealings with others must stand the test of two questions- What am I doing it for? And secondly, What do I aim to achieve through this? My actions must be in conformity with my faith and that is in the “living Word of God” and what it teaches me. Will it display my love for God and my neighbor in all my ways? If it does not then it does not stand scrutiny of the above two questions and will be folly for me. I may gain something today but on the day of judgement I will stand condemned since I would have strayed from the path of light into the path of darkness.
Be trustworthy in little – Our Lord finally explains the exact meaning of the parable ‘to be trustworthy in little’ to become eligible to be given higher responsibilities. We are assured of God’s presence in our midst ‘where two or three are gathered’ in His name and there is a similar assurance for the answered prayer; where two of you agree on something it will be done by the Father. A family is the smallest unit of God’s Church and a husband and wife start this by becoming one in agreement in all social, financial and spiritual matters through settlement of all disagreements through discussion and prayer. This unity ensures trustworthiness of each one for the edification of both and for bringing glory to the Father. From this then further responsibilities are added and in a similar vein the worldly and spiritual tasks are assigned by the Lord.
The family being our own close group declares our faithfulness to others and to our God. We tend to desire greater tasks to be assigned while failing to succeed in the smaller role. Lord Jesus commands loyalty to start in smallest to the greater things and not the other way round. Heavenly riches are compared to “the pearl of great value” for which we are urged to sell everything and buy it. Worldly wealth can promise far too much but cannot ensure anything – even a little peace in our lives. Following God’s ways, on the other hand, guarantee riches in eternity.
Lord Jesus has laid emphasis on the power of God the Father to bless us abundantly for our sincere efforts in working for His kingdom. The principle of “How much more” is illustrated that we must realize how much more will God the Father bless us for our honest and earnest efforts in using the least that we have while being thankful to Him. “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29). The authority entrusted to us is directly proportional to the way we handle the given responsibility. We definitely want more authority but fail to deliver on compliance of the God established commands.
What do we value – “The Pharisees who loved money sneered at Jesus” and people of this world also in like manner will laugh at the righteous master who commended his manager for using his money to ensure his own future prospects. God the Father loves us unconditionally and is merciful towards us. But do we place any value to that love of our God over possessions of this world- prestige, honor, financial assets and the like. Lord Jesus declares “What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15). The Pharisees of that era and even today desire to be esteemed in the sight of men- demanding places of prominence in the Church- which are detested by God.
Lord Jesus established the way we do charitable deeds also by commanding that even the left hand should not know what the right hand has given. Generally we demand a public acknowledgement of our acts of charity with specific plaques being established in a prominent place as a reminder to others. The Lord decrees that “they have their reward in this world” and should not expect any recognition from the Father in heaven. What do we value more- pleasing the Lord or the people; getting a commendation from the Lord or others in the world? This attitude of ours decides what we can hope for in this as well as in future life. Money is a hard and deceptive master which can lead us to or far away from God and we can either serve money or God; not both.
In today’s world the maxim is “Ends justify the means” while in God’s kingdom means are provided by Him keeping end in sight. There has to be a balance between our aims and capacity and God and furtherance of His kingdom must be our end by faithful use of the given capacity. In this will we manifest God in our lives for others to recognize and come to explore His bountiful love.
We are to “tend to” His gifts and use them for His glory failing which the deserved stamp on us will be ‘O Fool’!!