Summary: God wants us to pray when we are in a difficult situation, but he also wants us to act. Pick up the phone Ask for help from a family member or friend. Learn some new skills. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t sit there passively.
There is something that is somewhat ironic in the passage about the shrewd money manager from Luke’s Gospel that we heard today. The irony is that the manager was praised for doing something that appears to be wrong, but in fact he had the foresight to plan for his future by preparing for the financial needs he would have after his dismissal. He used his expertise with money to make friends for himself-friends who could help him if and when they were needed.
Was the manager crooked? Perhaps he was, and perhaps he was not. You see, at that time Jews were not allowed to charge interest to other Jews, but they could charge interest to the Gentiles. The Jews could get around this by charging for 100 items instead of 50 items, for example. Those who received his favour would be obliged to do something for him in return. While they would likely not hire him, they would likely show him hospitality or help him find a job.
Jesus once said that “No one can serve two masters”. In other words, we cannot serve both God and wealth. Jesus was teaching his disciples that they must also use money to prepare for their future, and he teaches us to do the same today. For example, many of you prepared for your senior years by saving and sacrificing when you were younger. Some people think that planning is unspiritual. They think, “I’ll just trust the Holy Spirit. I’ll just go through life. I don’t need any plans. I’ll just kind of drift with the Holy Spirit’. Then there are those people who refuse to work. They are the type of people who think that God or society will provide for them, but Saint Paul said that those who do not work should not expect to eat.
There is a word for those kinds of people-dumb! God gave us his will when he gave us brains. He solved most of our problems when he gave us intelligence. Let me ask you this: why would God give us intelligent brains and then say, “I want you to put them on the shelf and don’t ever do what is common sense”? He wouldn’t. God revealed much of his will for our lives when he gave us brains. All through the Bible, the Scriptures say we plan. God helps all those who call upon his name, but he will not do for us what we can do for ourselves.
Jesus’ idea was that we must use our resources, including money, to serve others and the work of God’s kingdom. We do NOT own our possessions-God owns them. He lends them to us with the hope and understanding that we will use them to do his work in our world. Money is not an end in itself; it is a resource from God that is not to be wasted.
One of the wisest things we can do with our money is to give it away. Why? Because gaining friends through generous gifts means that we will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. How will they help us? One answer has to do with the upside-down nature of God’s kingdom as expressed in Luke 13:30. There, the first will be last and the last will be first. In other words, the poor will be rich and can easily welcome us into their eternal homes. Hopefully they will also serve as witnesses on behalf of those who help them.
We do not have to be extraordinary people for God to use us. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. He makes a way when there is no way. He uses unlikely people so he will get all the credit from their frail and faulty efforts. We start in this journey by doing small things. For example, the choir members who are here with me today use their love of singing and their talent for singing to proclaim the Good News of salvation. If we faithfully help others, God will bless us.
How we deal with little things indicates how we will deal with big things. Faithfulness in the small assignments God gives us qualifies us for the opportunity to serve in greater and more influential ways. My own journey as a lay minister started with reading scriptures on Sunday morning, and has included assisting the priest, preparing prayers and leading worship services. If we are obedient and faithful where God plants us, He will do awesome things in our lives. God has blessed the choir members for helping others, and he has blessed me in my ministry.
Proverbs 14:8 states, “The wise man looks ahead. The fool attempts to fool himself and won’t face the facts”. We must remember that one day God will ask us to give an account of how we have used the resources he gave us. How we use our resources determines how much God will bless us. Long term security is more important than short-term gain. Like the dishonest manager, our lives will be far more secure if we maintain our relationships instead of striving to get rich quick. We must not waste our resources on “stuff”. Stuff does not last. The best investment of our money, time and life is in people and the Word of God, because these are the only things that will last. What is highly valued among men is hated in God’s sight. The choice to serve God rather that wealth requires the wisdom to see that spiritual riches are true riches.