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Make No Mistake

Luke 16:1-13

The Rev. Jon Roberts

18 September


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

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.”


Parable of the Unjust Steward, Andreĭ Mironov 2012

When Jesus makes a promise
Make no mistake.
There is only give
Or there is only take.[1]

An office worker opened his pay envelope when it came in the mail only to find his check was short $100. He called the accounting department to voice his complaint. "You're right, we made a mistake," said the clerk, "but last week we overpaid you $100 and we didn't hear you complaining then." "Look," said the man, "I can overlook one mistake. But two weeks in a row?"

When our Lord Jesus makes us a promise to fulfill our needs, does he make a mistake. Does he only give, or does he only take? At the heart of God’s plan for mankind lies our struggle. It is our wanting to know who He is, by what He does; what He promises. It will take a lifetime to understand God when there is so much that seems disproportional, unfair, unjust, and just plain wrongdoing in the world for those of who believe in Him. As much as we struggle, we must conclude that this master in whom we serve, does things that we don’t always understand nor agree. What is that saying in the Bible about this, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”

In 1968, a book was published, titled, “The Economy of God,” by Witness Lee, a Chinese Baptist preacher from Yantai, China. You could say, Mr. Lee is an expert witness on how the Lord taketh and the Lord giveth. He reflects over the mistreatment he received over the preceding years. As a believer in Christ, he concluded his sufferings must have been for the sake of the Gospel, giving the Good News of Jesus to many others. From 1943-45 he was imprisoned and tortured by the Imperial Japanese Army. After the war, and not long after, he was again imprisoned and tortured, for twenty years by the Chinese Communist Party. In both accounts, as a Christian he was considered a threat to radically different ideologies such as Monarchy and Communism. Make no mistake, dictating governments know little of how to give, only how to take.

It was right after his release, he moved to America (Los Angelos) and continued to preach and to publish about God’s Economy. He used this one word “Οικονομια” most often. It is a Greek word means, “A manager of a house” and has specific reference to being a good “steward.” What are we as Christians called into, to be good managers of God’s house, to be a good steward? It means we, as Christians, as a Church are called to keep things in order. From a quote from the letter of Paul to his assistant, Timothy, he writes, “Do not let yourself be occupied by false doctrines.” There is a lot of taking when you, as God’s manager, allows yourself to be taken, and to be occupied by false doctrines[3]. Anything that is contrary to who God is, who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is, who Man is, and anything contrary to what Jesus promises about Salvation, the Church, God’s Word, the presence of Angels; anything that aligns itself with the Devil, is false doctrine.[4] Everything you need to know about the promises Jesus makes can be discovered in our Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, which comes from two thousand years of Church, orthodox teaching, which comes from the Bible, which comes from God. Make no mistake about it.

But being a good steward means we are also to understand God’s economy of when to give and when to take. There is a standard that the world (secular) uses and the one that God has given us (sacred). The world also makes promises, most of which it will never keep. It will act shrewdly, unjustly and mean. There were people like that in Jesus’ day, important, wealthy managers of God’s house, the temple and Jesus fleshes this out. He uses the parable of the rich owner who had a slave, who managed his property. [5] But the manager “squandered” the property, meaning he did not collect payments or find ways to accommodate as the rich owner expected. The slave was not shrewd in the beginning. He only showed up to work, expecting people to pay their fees. He was not personable nor understanding in any way. He lacked people skills.
Because of this lack of attention to detail and unwillingness to work with the tenants of the property, the rich master told him he was going to be fired the next day and to pack his bags. Knowing his authority was coming to an end, with what little power he had left, to collect or forgive the tenants of the land, he was faced with the decision to give or to take. The parable continues where we see he met with two of the debtors. One was to pay with olive oil and the other with wheat; both with great value, but instead of paying 100 jugs or 100 containers, he said, “Give me 50, or give me 80 and we’ll call it even.” They didn’t complain. They did all they could to come up with those remaining, lesser amounts knowing their debts would be absolved then and there. The rich man saw these actions and the steward was commended. What does this say about how God does his own accounting? How does this relate to our own lives today?

The clue is the last sentence where Jesus says, “You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and money. Do not make the mistake in only being a taker in life. Also be a giver. In the multiple transactions of our lives where we build and tear down, where we offer and where we expect, God is our master. He wants us to be shrewd when the Gospel and the doctrines of our faith are in question, and he wants us to be forgiving when we hold the upper hand. Christians today are squandering this opportunity to lay witness. Who do you serve? Do you simply punch the clock and just do what you are told? What type of manager does that make you? A good steward works with wisdom and to act with kindness when God’s people are poor and weak. That is when they give. A good steward works with wisdom and be direct when God’s people are confused and misled. That is when they take.

Always remember this.
When Jesus makes a promise
Make no mistake.
There is only give
Or there is only take.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Job 1:21
[3] 1 Tim. 1:4 “nor to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith”
[4] William Evans, The Great Doctrines of the Bible, 2010.
[5] Luke 16:1-13

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