This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 12:35-48, Jesus talking to us about the importance and eternal significance of being good stewards and laborers at all times. These verses fly right in the face of people who might believe in false Biblical perspectives when it comes to money and possessions. More on that in a moment; first, read this passage and make note of the highlighted areas.
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” 41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” 42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. 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.
What are the various ways people look at money, possessions, management, comfort, community and labor (I’ll call this MPMCCL) in this age? 1) self oriented: God equipped us to tackle life with gusto, and to grab as much from it as we can, for our own use and enjoyment. 2) outward oriented: we should take care of others, the poor and the environment, and in so doing God will provide our needs. 3) prosperity: God wants us to be very well off financially, he promises us that in his word, and we just need to act out in faith, name it and claim the blessings he has prepared for us in this life. 4) only the spiritual matters: since everything ultimately will be burned up in the fire, it doesn’t really matter that much how we deal with MPMCCL. 5) personal performance doesn’t matter, since Jesus is our ticket to salvation, so performance or works today have little value in eternity.
Every one of these various approaches has some truth in it; however, following just one of them is not the way Christ would have us go. There are two reasons we may believe in only one of these approaches. The first reason is that Westerners are accustomed to believing about things only one way. For example, when we approach a political solution, many of us feel the only way people can get out of poverty is through opportunity and pulling one’s self up by the boot straps. Some with this approach believe in a trickle down economy, so the only solution is through business and education, and absolutely not entitlement programs. In the opposite camp are those who believe the only way to help those in poverty is to take money from wealthy people and business and give it to those who need it. Some in this camp believe the rich and business are the enemies of the poor. In reality, the only way to help people out of poverty is ‘both and’ and not ‘either or.’ It is only through a ‘both and’ approach of balancing social programs and supporting business that we can truly help people out of poverty, and that both political parties can work together.
The second reason we take only one viewpoint about money, possessions, management, comfort, community and labor (MPMCCL) is that humans tend to do what makes them most comfortable. We may have inclinations to help the community, but at the end of the day, most of us mainly want what will make us personally happy. However, I think we should consider having a ‘both and’ approach to our beliefs about MPMCCL.
So what is God’s plan for MPMCCL? Looking at the verses from Luke 12:35-48, we will find some of the answers. The first obvious thing we see is that we need to be good managers all the time, throughout our lives, no matter how much or how little money we have. If we manage or steward well, it is not only good for our fellow servants, but Christ says he will put us in charge of many things in eternity. Here we see a ‘both and’ approach; what we do today matters today and for eternity, even though it is material and will be burned up. We also see that some may prosper more than others; in this we know from verse 48 that prosperity is in store for some people. Whether we become extremely rich or not, we all are called to be good managers and to look at ourselves as humble servants and temporary stewards. Servants caring for others’ resources are not so much self oriented, but are God and community oriented. These strongly worded verses about management and work remind me of both Proverbs 1:7 and Genesis 2:15.
In summary, a good ‘both and’ belief about money, possessions, management, comfort, community and labor should first start with an eternity Kingdom and stewardship perspective. It should also balance providing for oneself and others, a life that includes prosperity (verse 48), and work, not a life that ultimately results in endless leisure (v. 45); “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning.”
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the forty-third post in this series.