Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (September 18): "Who will entrust to you the true riches?"

Scripture: Luke 16:1-13

1 He also said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 And he called him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.' 3 And the steward said to himself, `What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.' 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, `How much do you owe my master?' 6 He said, `A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, `Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' 7 Then he said to another, `And how much do you owe?' He said, `A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, `Take your bill, and write eighty.' 8 The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light."

9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations. 10 "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for 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 God and mammon."

Meditation: What does wealth and riches have to do with the kingdom of God? Jesus seemed to praise a steward (a manager entrusted with his master's goods) who misused his wealthy employer's money. What did the steward do that made Jesus praise him? The steward was responsible for managing his wealthy landowner's property. The steward very likely overcharged his master's tenants for their use of the land and kept more than his fair share of the profit. When the landowner discovered the steward's dishonest practice he immediately removed him from his job, leaving him penniless and ashamed to beg or do manual work.

The necessity of prudent foresight to avert disaster
Before news of his dismissal became public knowledge, the shrewd steward struck a deal with his master's debtors. In discounting their debts he probably was giving up his generous commission. Such a deal won him great favor with the debtors. Since the steward acted as the landowner's agent, such a deal made his master look very generous and forgiving towards those who owned him money. Surely everyone would praise such a generous landowner as the town hero! Since the master could not undo the steward's cancellation of the debts without losing face and making his debtors resent him, he praised the steward for outwitting him and making him appear as a generous and merciful landowner.

Generous giving is rewarded with treasure that lasts forever
What's the point of Jesus' parable? Jesus did not praise the steward for his dishonest behavior but for his shrewd foresight in relieving the debts of others who he believed would, in turn, treat him as a friend and show him mercy, kindness, and generosity in his time of need and great want. Jesus immediately followed this parable with an exhortation to his followers to make use of the world's material goods, including "tainted money" ( which in Hebrew means "unrighteous mammon"), to relieve those who are endebted to us for the material and physical help we give them in their time of need and want. In the Scriptures generous giving is connected with alms giving - the sharing of our financial and material resources with those in need (Luke 12:33). Those who receive alms become your friends because you are merciful to them in their time of need. And God who sees all, rewards those who are generous in helping others.

Generous giving will be repaid in kind. Augustine of Hippo reminds us that we are all beggars of God.

"Even though you possess plenty, you are still poor. You abound in temporal possessions, but you need things eternal. You listen to the needs of a human beggar, you yourself are a beggar of God. What you do with those who beg from you is what God will do with his beggar. You are filled and you are empty. Fill your neighbor from your fullness, so that your emptiness may be filled from God's fullness" (Sermon 56, 9).

Paul the Apostle reminds us, "We brought nothing into this world and we cannot take anything out of this world" (1 Timothy 6:7). The Lord Jesus wants us to make good use of all the resources that he gives us and that come into our possession. Our life is short - but how we invest in this present life will determine our future in the age to come when the Lord Jesus will raise our mortal bodies to immortality and give to each what he or she has sown in this present life.

The rabbis had a saying, "The rich help the poor in this world, but the poor help the rich in the world to come." Ambrose, a 4th century bishop commenting on the parable of the rich fool who tore down his barns to build bigger ones to store his goods. said: The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever. The true treasure which lasts is the treasure stored up for us in heaven. God richly rewards those who give generously from the heart to help those in need.

True generosity does not impoverish - but enriches the giver
What is the enemy of generosity? It's greed, the excessive desire for personal gain and security. However, we do not need to be afraid for true generosity does not impoverish the giver, but enriches that person a hundredfold! Generosity expands the soul - but greed contracts it. God is generous and superabundant in lavishing his gifts upon us. We can never outmatch God in generosity. He has given us the best of gifts in sending us his only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who offered up his life for us on the cross. The Father also offers us the gift of the Holy Spirit who fills us with the fruit of peace, joy, patience, kindness, love, and self-control (Galatians 5:22) - and many other blessings as well. Everything we have is an outright gift of God. Do you know the joy and freedom of blessing others with the gifts and resources God has given to you?

What controls or rules your life?
Jesus concludes his parable with a lesson on what controls or rules our lives. Who is the master (or ruler) in charge of your life? Our "master" is that which governs our thought-life, shapes our ideals, and controls the desires of the heart and the values we choose to live by. We can be ruled by many different things - the love of money or possessions, the power of position, the glamor of wealth and prestige, the driving force of unruly passions and addictions. Ultimately the choice boils down to two: God and "mammon". What is mammon? "Mammon" stands for "material wealth or possessions" or whatever tends to "control our appetites and desires."

When a number of the religious leaders heard Jesus' parable they reacted with scorn (Luke 16:14). Jesus spoke to the condition of their hearts - they were lovers of money (Luke 16:14). Love of money and wealth crowd out love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus makes clear that our heart must either be possessed by God's love or our heart will be possessed by the love of something else.

The Lord alone can satisfy our desires and give us generous hearts
There is one Master alone who has the power to set us free from greed and possessiveness. That Master is the Lord Jesus Christ who died to set us free and who rose to give us new abundant life. The Lord Jesus invites us to make him the Master and Lord of our lives. He alone can satisfy the desires of our heart and transform us in his love through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our money, time, and possessions are precious resources and gifts from God. We can guard them jealously for ourselves alone or allow the love of the Lord to guide us in making good use of them for the benefit of others - especially those in need - and for the work of the Lord in advancing his kingdom. Ask the Lord to fill your heart with a spirit of generosity and joy in sharing what you have with others.

"Lord Jesus, all that I have is a gift from you. May I love you freely and generously with all that I possess. Help me to be a wise and faithful steward of the resources you put at my disposal, including the use of my time, money, and possessions."

Psalm 1138:1-8

1 Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!
2 Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore!
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised!
4 The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!
5 Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Jesus recommends the foresight, prudence, and ingenuity of the steward, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

"Why did the Lord Jesus Christ present this parable to us? He surely did not approve of that cheat of a servant who cheated his master, stole from him and did not make it up from his own pocket. On top of that, he also did some extra pilfering. He caused his master further loss, in order to prepare a little nest of quiet and security for himself after he lost his job. Why did the Lord set this before us? It is not because that servant cheated but because he exercised foresight for the future. When even a cheat is praised for his ingenuity, Christians who make no such provision blush. I mean, this is what he added, 'Behold, the children of this age are more prudent than the children of light.' They perpetrate frauds in order to secure their future. In what life, after all, did that steward insure himself like that? What one was he going to quit when he bowed to his master's decision? He was insuring himself for a life that was going to end. Would you not insure yourself for eternal life?" (excerpt from 359A.10.)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use - please cite: 
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.


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