St Paul's UMC
September 18, 2022
  • Glorious Day
  • Trust In Jesus
  • Doxology
      • Amos 8:4–7NIV2011

      • Luke 16:1–13NIV2011

  • What are we to make of today’s parable taught by our Lord. As I shared two weeks ago: Jesus, as God in the flesh, entered into a specific time and place in history to convey eternal truths – and to do so, he needed to communicate in a way that would be easily remembered and transmissible. Many of Jesus’ teachings were in the form of parables - short memorable stories that communicated larger truths. He wanted his hearers to remember what they heard, mull over it, dig for the treasures that each parable contained, and be able to share it with others.
    A great example is the parable of the Shrewd Manager that we heard this morning. It would be easy, especially in our modern context, to miss what Jesus is saying and be offended by the story he tells. Why would the master commend the shrewd manager for ripping him off? What does Jesus mean when he says “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with others than the sons of light”? Is Jesus saying what this guy did was ok? Is it ok to be dishonest if it means we have a more desirable future? Short answer - No - that is not his point. So what is the point? Let’s look at it.
    This parable directly follows last week’s parable of the prodigal son. He presumably is still speaking to the same audience - his disciples and the tax collectors and sinners.
    Jesus shares with them this story - and I’m sure the tax collectors and sinners would agree that this is indeed how the world works and could relate to doing something morally unethical in order to get ahead.
    A very rich man finds out that the man he hired to manage his business is doing a terrible job - so he intends to fire him. The manager gets wind of his predicament, and so before he is fired, he comes up with a scheme to better his own future. He calls those who own a great deal to the rich man and basically cuts their debt in half if they settle up now. By doing so, the manager has made friends for the future who will be obligated to look out for him. As a twist in the story, even the rich man commends him for his shrewdness.
    We do not need to dwell on the sin committed by the manager - Jesus tells this story simply to set up his point. And the point is this: The manager knew how to use money for his advantage - and believers are to do the same. Our motivation and our tactics are of course different - but we should use the money and resources that have been entrusted to us for the purpose of winning people into the faith and as a blessing for those who are already brothers and sisters in Christ.
    One commentary puts it this way:
    Luke (The Parable of the Shrewd Steward (16:1–13))
    ... the parable admonishes the children of light to learn from the people of this world. And what is the lesson? Like the steward in the parable, use possessions so as to gain, not lose, one’s future.
    Here is a practical real life example of this principle.
    At the mission center, we use financial resources to buy food for the food pantry in order to give it away for free. By worldly standards, a horrible business model.
    Why do we do this?
    One reason, the Lord cares for the poor and this is one of the ways he provides for their needs. There are people who do not have food to eat and so we provide food.
    But is that the only reason? There are other organizations and agencies that distribute food and financial resources for people in Cambridge - Why not just connect them to those resources?
    Because we want the opportunity to win people to faith in Christ since we know that it is only in Jesus that true healing, wholeness, peace, and hope is found.
    Almost all clients of One Mission Cambridge live in survivor mode. Each day they wake up and try to figure to how to meet their need for food, shelter and clothing knowing that it can all be gone tomorrow. Survivor mode is stressful. Survivor mode makes it difficult to plan ahead and break the cycle of poverty.
    Even when you begin to secure your basic needs, it is often ingrained in you to always grab what you can whenever you can.
    At the mission center, as any St. Paul/Grace servant can tell you, the food may well be the reason people walk in the door, but once that need is addressed, we can begin to ask “what else is going on in your life right now? What other help do you need?”
    That is when stories are shared and relationships are formed. Someone cares. As they are treated with dignity and respect, they begin to feel human again. And as they are offered prayer, they hear of God who has met their needs and who loves them.
    So many of the clients truly desire to be part of a healthy community. This is where our Community Dinners come in which we are launching October 3rd. There is already a waiting list of folks who want to come. They will enjoy a free meal, a time of fellowship, hear a Jesus parable, and experience the abundant grace and love of our Lord.
    Luke 16:9 ESV
    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.
    Unrighteous wealth is simply worldly wealth. It is what most people chase after. It is possible to use worldly wealth in a way that produces heavenly rewards. We never know who we will help in this life, by means of our generosity and the giving of ourselves, but they very well may be the ones who greet us in heaven when we get there.
    And while the Mission Center is a prominent ministry that I can easily point to and use as an example, the lesson of this parable is applied to way more than our involvement in a particular outreach ministry.
    How do we view our tithes and offerings? God has entrusted each of us with a different measure of worldly wealth. Some possess great wealth, some moderate, and some with less. Regardless of the amount, how do we use what we have? To whom do we give thanks? And do we trust God as our provider and view him as owner of all?
    Psalm 24:1 CEB
    The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants too.
    This is why our offering is given during the worship service - because it is an act of worship. We declare in our giving that we trust God will provide what we need and acknowledge that it all belongs to Him anyway.
    Our giving is not primarily to the ministries of the church, or the denomination we belong to, or to our own pet projects - it is a gift to God. It is me saying to God - thank you for all that you have entrusted to me. Here is a sacrificial gift that I give back to you - help me to remember that all things come from you.
    Now the church has the responsibility to use those gifts wisely, to meet our obligations and to fund Kingdom building ministry - but the gift itself is always an act of worship.
    Still, the lesson in this parable speaks to more than our outreach ministry and our giving.
    Luke follows Jesus’ parable with a proverbial lesson.
    Luke 16:10 ESV
    “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.
    Are we using the little things in our lives to win souls for Christ?
    What has God entrusted to you that you can use to bless others?
    Iron Man weekend is always a bit hectic here in town. It is a great economic boost to Cambridge but it comes with its share of challenges. How we respond to those challenges makes a difference - especially as Christians.
    I heard one story this weekend of an athlete who was having a personal challenge - she had recently contracted the flu and was still recuperating, but she did not want to miss out on competing. She had put tons of hours into training, spent a lot of money to be here, and was determined to race. Her body on the other hand was not cooperating. One of our church members came across her on the street and noticed that she was really upset and stressed. What was the little thing she could offer? Her time and her attention. She asked what was wrong and immediately helped the woman deal with a challenging issue. In doing so, she unknowingly showed Jesus that she could be trusted with the little things.
    Each day, as disciples of Jesus, it is good to remember and recognize that every thing we do can bring God glory and be an investment in His Kingdom.
    We can use our money, our resources, our homes, our time, our vehicles, our listening ear, our connections, our friend group, our prayers, our service, our compassion, our voice, even our personal testimonies - to win people into the faith and to bless others.
    And when we do, God will multiply our investments and the eternal reward will be worth it.
    Matthew 6:20–21 (ESV)
    ...lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
      • Luke 16:9NIV2011

      • Psalm 24:1NIV2011

      • Luke 16:10NIV2011

  • King Of Kings
      • Philippians 4:19–20NIV2011

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