FAITHFUL STEWARDSHIP (EXCERPT OF IT IS TIME FOR A REFORMATION OF CHRISTIAN THINKING)
From: It Is Time for a Reformation of Christian Thinking
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The Lord’s debtors, His followers, are holding us responsible (as indeed we should be held) to say to them precisely what God is saying to them. Yet they will pressure us to relax the demands of God.
The minister of God who yields to this pressure, who attempts to gain security by seeking favor with the people, who misrepresents their debt to God, is worthless in the Kingdom of God.
The following is a story about faithfulness in the administration of the riches of this present world, and also about the pressure that is on us to compromise the truth in order to provide security for ourselves.
And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said in himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. (Luke 16:1-8)
The unjust steward was the administrator of the material wealth of a rich man. But the steward was lazy and incompetent. Instead of working diligently to see that wise investments were made, that the business was conducted so the accounts of the owner were showing an increase in value, the steward was allowing the wealth to slip through his fingers. No profit was being made. Bills were not being paid. The merchandise was deteriorating.
When the owner discovered the waste and inefficiency that was destroying his capital he called the steward to him and asked for a report on the various accounts and the state of the business, notifying him that he was discharged from his position as chief administrator of the firm.
The steward was an important man in the city. He had spent so many years in luxurious living that he was in no physical condition to do manual labor. Also, he was too proud to consider begging money from those who always had been beneath him in social status.
He began to plan a means by which he would gain favor with the people with whom he had done business. He hoped by so doing to be welcomed into their homes when he was put out of his office and had no income and no place to go.
He summoned all those who owed gallons of olive oil or bushels of wheat to his employer. When they came he brought out their bills. Then he counseled them to change the amounts on their bills so they would owe only a fraction of the true amount.
When the owner heard about this he no doubt was outraged. But he commended the steward for being shrewd enough to provide for his future by making friends of the debtors.
After telling this story, this parable, the Lord Jesus said: “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of (or by means of) the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail (or it fails), they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”
Then the Lord spoke of our need to be faithful “in the unrighteous mammon,” saying that if we were not, the “true riches,” the spiritual treasures of the Kingdom of God, would not be entrusted to us.
Jesus remarked that we must be faithful with the possessions of another man before we can expect to receive our own inheritance.
After that, Jesus commented that no servant can serve two masters. We cannot serve both God and money.
Let us think about each of the applications the Lord made of this parable.
“Make to yourselves friends of (or by means of) the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail (or it fails), they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”
“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”
If we have not been “faithful in the unrighteous mammon,” no one will entrust to us the true riches.
If we have not been faithful in what belongs to someone else, no one will give us our own inheritance.
No servant can serve two masters. He will choose one over the other. We cannot serve both God and material wealth.
Perhaps the key to the understanding of this story, this parable, is what Jesus meant by the phrase “the mammon of unrighteousness,” or, “the unrighteous mammon.”
The term cannot mean material wealth because material wealth is not unrighteous of itself. “The unrighteous mammon” must refer to the entire world system, the merchandise and money of it and the people who live by and for money.
The Antichrist system fundamentally is a system of money, of buying and selling. “666” symbolizes man making himself God— three symbolizing God and six symbolizing man. The penalty for not accepting the “mark” of the Beast is that one cannot buy or sell (Revelation 13:17,18). Man makes himself God by means of money.
Of all the gods of the Greeks and the Romans, the only god Jesus mentioned was Mammon. Material wealth is the god of the Antichrist world system. To have the mark, or name, of the Beast is to be living by money instead of by faith in the God of Heaven.
One of the important choices people make is either to trust in God or to trust in money. It is impossible to serve both God and money.
As we have stated, material wealth is not unrighteous of itself. Abraham was righteous and also a wealthy man.
Therefore the term “the unrighteous mammon” is not referring to material wealth but to the world system that lives by material wealth instead of by faith in the Lord God. The righteous live by faith in the Lord. The unrighteous live by faith in money. The issue is, God or money!
In this instance the money was unrighteous because the manager invited the debtors to falsify their bill and they agreed to this.
As we have pointed out, the Lord Jesus made five applications of His parable. We might sum up these five applications as follows:
- If we are lazy and incompetent in our responsibilities we are wise if we make friends of the people of the world, so when we lose our position of power they will receive us as one of themselves.
- The faithful are faithful in small and great matters while the unrighteous are unrighteous in small and great matters.
- If we are not faithful in the business of the world system we will not be faithful in the business of the Kingdom of God.
- God watches our behavior in the world to see if we are faithful in worldly responsibilities. If we are, He will consider entrusting us with the eternal riches of the Kingdom.
- We will not be given our own inheritance if we have not been faithful in that which belongs to someone else.
It is impossible to serve both God and material wealth. We shall live by and depend on one or the other.
These five principles operate in the world. We do well to take heed to them because they are laws of profit and loss God has established.
Of course, Jesus is not advocating that if we are lazy and incompetent we should add the falsifying of accounts to our sins. He is pointing out that if we are not willing to apply the faithfulness and diligence necessary to maintain a position of responsibility, we are wise to think ahead to the consequences of our negligence; for we surely will not be able to keep our position in the world if we are slothful.
But there is another application of the parable of the unrighteous steward. It has to do with the Christian ministry.
God gives to each Christian, especially to those whom He calls to labor in the Word, the responsibility of holding forth the testimony of God’s Person, will, way, and eternal purpose. Each Christian supports some aspect of the Word of Life.
The Word of Life places a debt, an obligation on everyone in the world. All men owe God their love, their worship, their loyal service. All men have the obligation to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
The wise, industrious steward of the Kingdom of God keeps all the accounts in order. He administers his responsibilities faithfully and God stands with him and provides for all his needs.
If God’s servant grows lazy and slack in his ministry, God will remind him of his responsibility to God and man. If he does not repent and begin to serve God faithfully, the authority and power of God will begin to leave him.
What will he do? He has been a prominent figure in the Christian realm but now he is in danger of losing his position. He doesn’t feel competent to make a living in the world and he is ashamed to sink to a lowly place in the sight of people.
He begins to compromise.
He makes friends of his congregation, his listeners. He tells them God is love, God does not want them to suffer, God desires they be rich and enjoy every pleasure and luxury in this present world.
What is his intention and motive? He is suing for peace. He is currying favor. He hopes to obtain security by making friends with the people. He does so by telling them God is not as demanding as they think.
This is what is taking place in Christianity today. In many instances the Christian leaders are currying favor with the people. They hold back what they feel will displease the people and tell them what they wish to hear. By so doing they gain support and thus are able to find a measure of economic security.
It has become fashionable, in Christian circles, to poll the people: “What kind of service would you like? What kind of music do you enjoy? Would you like a short or long service? How do you want the youth program to be conducted?”
This reminds us of, “Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.” You tell us how much you owe God; how we should minister the Gospel to you.
According to the Lord Jesus, such “pastors” are behaving wisely. God has discharged them from His service because they have not been faithful to him. By making friends of the people they are providing a home for themselves.
The spirit of compromise abounds among us.
How many ministers of the Gospel are willing to take the time to find what God wants said, and then to say it exactly as God gave it to them without regard to the opinions and desires of their listeners?
How many, on the other hand, are careful to neither say or do anything that could jeopardize the institution they represent, whether a church or a denomination?
We are not advocating foolish, insensitive speech or actions. We are pointing out that the pressure on the Christian leader to gain his income and status by organizing a large number of people is causing the Christian ministry to compromise the Word of God.
“Take your bill and write fifty.”
Tell them what they want to hear. Don’t rock the boat. Be positive. Avoid the negative. Keep everyone smiling.
Don’t offend anyone. Make a good impression in the community. Use celebrities to bring in the crowds.
All of this, whether in a local church or an organizational headquarters, is an abomination to God.
Here is God’s response: “Go ahead. Put your trust in unrighteous riches, in the worldly people who are obligated morally to Me. Tell them their debt is only half of what it is. You are wise to become friends with them because you will live with them for eternity.
“You will not serve Me faithfully and so you no longer have a place with Me. You need to gain the friendship of someone so you will have a place to go when the results of your lack of faithfulness leave you impoverished.”
Every man who is called by the Lord into His service must make up his mind whether he is on the Lord’s side or on man’s side. He must decide whether he will trust in the Lord to support him, to give him all the security, pleasure, and achievement he needs and desires, or whether he will trust in his fellow man to provide these things.
There is no middle ground here. In this parable the Lord Jesus was pointing out the weakness of the middle ground. Either be faithful to your master or else gain favor with your master’s debtors. You are foolish if you do not choose one course or the other.
It is time for men and women of God to come forth—men and women who are on the Lord’s side. There always is an adversary relationship in the Christian ministry. The people whom we serve are debtors to God. They will, without realizing it perhaps, bring pressure to bear on us, hoping we will minimize God’s demands on them.
They believe that if they can get us to say they are acceptable to God as they are, somehow it will prove to be true; if we change their account they actually will “owe less money.”
The Lord’s debtors are holding us responsible (as indeed we should be held) to say to them precisely what God is saying to them. Yet they will pressure us to relax the demands of God.
The minister of God who yields to this pressure, who attempts to gain security by seeking favor with the people, who misrepresents their debt to God, is worthless in the Kingdom of God. His life is meaningless. He is serving no function. He does well to ingratiate himself with the people because they alone will be his comfort throughout eternity.
Blessed is the man or woman who stands in the world as the oracle of God. He goes up to the mountain of prayer and hears what God is proclaiming. Then he comes down from the mountain and announces the Word of the Lord—every tiny bit of it.
The prophet does not depend on people for his security. He looks to God alone for all his needs. He is consumed with the desire to please the Lord, to be a faithful servant.
He is a faithful steward. His eye is single. His whole body is full of light. He will be fed in the days of famine. His waters are sure. He will be defended against his enemies. He will be lifted up on high in the day of trouble because he has set his love on the Lord.
Those who trust in man, who make flesh their arm, are cursed of the Lord. Those who put their trust in the Lord are blessed of Him.
When this world is rocked by calamity, those who trust in the Lord will stand. Love, joy, and peace will be their portion. They will lack no good thing. Their seed will inherit the earth. They will dance and sing in their joy. They are as Mount Zion that cannot be moved but abides forever.
Let us, brothers and sisters, serve the Lord in total faithfulness. He never will discharge us from His service but will provide for us throughout our lifetime on the earth, and then receive us to glory.
Those who are lazy and careless in serving the Lord should make friends with the people of this unrighteous world system so when their strength fails they may be received into the eternal homes.
There is no middle ground!
(“Faithful Stewardship”, 3285-1)