AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH    January 14, 2007

A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST AND BASE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
OF
AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES 
  

THE EXCITING RELISH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN 

Luke 16

For long, righteousness has been made to appear a dull, bookish or derelict kind of thing, fit for women and children when they are in trouble, and for the odd man or two, here or there, who is extraordinary. In fact, it is more exciting than rapid-careering in a canoe, for it is found only in Christ, who changes the heart to enable its full residence and the mind to enable its full recognition.

In righteousness David fought the enemies of Israel and sought to be honourable to the children of Jonathan, in righteousness King Josiah removed the religious brothel constructions which in perversion had been associated with religion. This, it was the sort of religion that the State Government with ludicrous ignorance, refers to in its denigratory Circular to Principals, bound on High School Principals. For them, it is a social matter, a matter of the inward being apart from the testable realities of life, a sort of story, legend, poetry or pastime with a measure of some kind of awe.

In this dream, they direct Principals how to work with students, the relativistic religious premises and relate these to other fields. It is the same as in ancient Israel in its own forlorn days of delusion, when sex had to be allowed even in religious clothes, where comments to the negative from the word of God, to clean up could be undertaken by a King in full power, so that changes made required a vast reconstruction. So had they fallen as South Australia in much has fallen, in the camp of a relativity which ignores any absolute, but its own absolute power and right to say what it likes about religion, without stated or even defensible grounds, and to perform the tasks of an unelected political papacy.

It is not so uncommon, this kind of abuse, and many a nation has supped there before.

It is merely one of the enormous numbers of ways of fulfilling the old adage, Easy is the descent to hell! To ignore the nature of one's design, even of child-birth and the continuation of the race, and invent models without meaning or warrant, as if god, exhibits a blindness just like that in the day of King Ahaz, that trickster in Israel (cf. II Kings 7), who refused the relish of righteousness and the deliverance without limit offered by God, only to find himself attacked on many sides because of his spiritual blindness (II Chronicles 28), like walking in the heights of the Rockies.

On the other hand, to direct the heart, eyes and mind to the divine righteousness, and seek the face of God, this is an adventure not in the Sargasso, with its weedy mysteries, but in the cleanness of the fear of God and the beauty of holiness.

Let us look at the stress on righteousness in Christ's words, in the parable He told in Luke 16.

 

I CALLING TO ACCOUNT

An overseer of a rich man's affairs, was suddenly called to meet his employer. This man had heard distressing or at least disturbing reports about the manager, that he was not prudently conserving his property, but rather letting it waste away. "You can not longer be steward," said the employer.

He had asked first a question: "What is this that I hear about you ?" and added, "Give an account of your stewardship." It was only then that the words followed, terminating the post.

Thus the question implicitly allowed the man to take some action. Instead of arguing, he acted. Called to account, he decided to improve markedly what would have to be said.

This first of all gives us a lead. If you find ANYTHING amiss in your ways, look into it and ACT. Don't linger, for mental and moral, spiritual and personal cancers are just as serious as other cancers; and indeed, in potential more so. If you are being eaten up by error, sensing and suspecting you are not acting rightly in ANY regard, then to let it linger is like letting a spot on the lung linger. Do not put at peril your spiritual breathing. 

II MEETING THE DEMAND

Thus in this parable, the manager at once sets about putting things in order. He does not dilly-dallly, fiddle-faddle, become neurotic, or see a psychiatrist about inner fears. He acts. He sees various persons with whom he has done business on behalf of his employer, and here are found to be a number of debts not repaid. These outstanding would indeed seem to be clear evidence of a careless work, and a wasteful one, deserving termination of his work. He had failed. However, what else could he do ? To dig ? to old. To beg ? too undignified.

So with deft, swift strokes, according to each case, he allowed a discount of what was owing, presumably considering the circumstances of each case, and soon had a lot of funds restored, even
if at some loss in the process. Did this reduce his guilt ? of course not. Did it increase his effectiveness ? Undoubtedly.
 

III FINDING FAVOUR

So gracious was his employer, that he even commended him, presumably for his vigour, speed, directness and prudence in making some remedy.

Thus fear was translated into favour, and folly was stopped at its source, and account being acknowledged of fault, not only was the fault stopped, but the results of it were speedily reduced by care and address. So when you find yourself at fault, do not do a Nixon, a cover-up, or undertake a Watergate Wonder. Acknowledge your offence, minimise by RESTORATIVE ACTION, the fault of which you stand guilty, and with vigour and initiative, PUT IT RIGHT. Do not reduce it by special pleading of your own weakness; for do you so regard others! Act objectively and with respect to others as to yourself, and to truth beyond yourself. 

 

IV THE MEANING OF THE PARABLE 

The meaning of this parable is to be found by considering both what happened in the story outline, and what was the comment which Jesus made concerning it.

A. Christ noted that the children of darkness are wiser in their day and generation, than the children of light. Naturally! When your pastor saw some years ago, that there was a large and obvious disparity between the price of Adelaide houses and those in several other States, making due allowance for the comparative smallness of Adelaide, and other matters, it was felt that there must be a considerable rise here, since businesses would become interested in lower house prices, land prices for maximal efficiency, and the place is large enough for some specialisation. Moreover, employes would find the conditions attractive.

A man well-known to us bought many properties and profited greatly. Your pastor bought nothing, being too occupied with writing books for the Lord, to take advantage of this, or to become involved. Hence one man made vast amounts, and your pastor made nothing. It did not seem fitting to be flitting about looking for this and that, even for personal use, and so the matter was dropped in the interests of faithfulness to the Lord and to His work. There are ways in which it is good NOT to be as wise in their worldliness as this world's citizens are; for then your mind readily becomes immersed in muck, and your one and only advent into this world becomes readily submerged, like a lawn covered with high weeds. That is the first point. 

B. "Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fall, they may receive you into an everlasting home." That, Luke 16:9, is a profoundly challenging statement. Its point and pith
is resolved more simply by referring to the context in the parable. Who received the unfaithful manager ? Firstly, it was those who were happy to have his discount for immediate cash payment. Second, it was the employer, since he was glad to have a rescue operation which, though it meant less profits or payment, prevented unlimited loss.

Both were pleased, because the man faced the problem, minimised the loss, rectified the negligence and brought a clear-cut and unconfused result, without the cost of legal operations. After all, those who had not paid what they owed were at fault also, just as was the steward for not pursuing the matters with them.

Taking the parable out of its earthly setting, into the everlasting home application, we see that if you have been just, and honest, or if not, at least faced your errors and diligently corrected them, acting swiftly where wrong, judging the matters aptly and putting wrong right, then your name will still be good. Imperfect ? yes, but not that of a waster. Slack ? yes at one stage, but not ruinously, and then giving a testimony of diligence, and frank meeting of the results of negligence. Conscience prevailed, and righteousness availed.

In heaven, what might be conceived as meeting him as a testimony then ? Is it horror that such a hypocrite could ever enter in ? I think not, since we are USING a worldly example to APPLY it to a different and a spiritual realm. The meaning, when you take this step for interpretation, is quite simple.

So act with the relish of righteousness, so conduct your affairs with honesty, integrity and realism, correcting with vigour what is wrong - even if error came by negligence, keeping standards crisp and clear, and when failing, overturning error with due action and real address, that shining through all is the principle of integrity, and the practice of virtue. In this way,  you will find in heaven a company who receive you as one of their own, being adjusted to the same light which shone in you, fellows in arms, members of the same body.

Who and what are these ? They are not covered in self-righteousness like the unfortunate Pharisee shown in the parable of Luke 18:9ff, for that gains only contempt; but they are clothed in the divine righteousness, which being perfect allows no condemnation (Romans 5:1-11), and have emitted that inescapable transmission of light which, once in a man, cannot be hidden, as in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14. Some may have been clouded for a time, and squandered the good opportunities which beckoned; but even then, even if as smoking flax or a bruised reed, indeed as David after the Bath-Sheba incident, they are strengthened with might in the inner person, and become knowable by their fruits. Not least of these are the spiritual fruits which the Spirit of God brings out of those who abide.

Galatians 5:22-28 lists these and they are beautiful from His beauty (cf. Hosea 14), who says: "From ME, is your fruit found!" Heaven is not a chance operation, but the result of Christ's ransom, and this too is not a chance action, but a life-changing innovation which restores to the reality of our design, allowing friendship with God in liberty and love, in mercy and in a peaceful joy mingled with patience (cf. Colossians 1).

C. Christ then makes three further points.

1) Faithfulness, reliability, responsibility in life is not an incident, but a product. If your heart is changed and the Spirit of Christ is in you, if pardon is your non-predicament and peace is your non-agitation, if in short you are a child of light, then you will not bundle off what is 'little' as if it does not matter. Scrupulous honesty and basic integrity will shine through as light into every corner of a well-lit room. Thus small things do not reveal a litany of loss, but a life of love. They do this because of the right of light; and where they do this for that reason, then the large things will be found reliable also.

This is in no way to remove the awful fact of false prophets, foxes and wolves in sheep's clothing; for if you watch these, you see beyond their fur to their heart. In little things, as in great, they show their ways, and unless you are charmed into being disarmed by their palaver, instead of waiting on the Lord and watching with prayer, then you may be caught. However, a due regard for apparently minor things is a work of grace which does not make a show, a parade, but from the honest work of Christ in the heart, is concerned at all personal dealings, be their financial, or in equity, or in kindness or in grace.

2) As an example, Christ then proceeds to make this point. If you cannot be honest and equitable at the financial level, because of greed, carelessness or any other variant of carelessness in spirit, who can trust you with vastly more important spiritual things! Therefore  watch your way and do not consider it 'unspiritual' to be just and equitable, honest and reliable, IN FINANCIAL DEALINGS in particular. This in the parable before us, is an emphasis on one region. If indeed, you have failed to handle mundane affairs with righteous relish, who could trust you with the freedom of being an entrepreneur, moving in your own affairs with reliability. People will tend to look for another rather than use you.

3) In fact, says Christ, there is a matter of two masters here. If you love money and the power and pleasure it brings, the relief and the joy which passing as it is, comes for a moment: then so be it. That is your GOD and face it! If you are willing to forsake this desire, lust or false priority in the interests of equity and honesty, integrity and grace, kindness and thoughtfulness, AS IN ANY OTHER DIMENSION OF LIFE, then that is a result of being so absorbed in Christ, that you are walking, working and functioning by Him.

You must awaken to the fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE to have a bet both ways. You cannot have Christ for first or merely for a place;  nor can you have money for first, and then let the things of Christ appear. It is ONE OR the other. Playing the fool in this area is a waste of time. Spiritually, this is not the fruit but the rind.

 Christ sums up in two approaches. Either, He says, you will love the one boss, mammon or Christ, and hate the other, or you will be loyal to one, and not to the other. The impossibility of both is double; and this is one double negative which does not make a positive, since there are two different dimensions. Disloyalty and the 'hatred' which Christ affirms when contrasting the love that is required for realism towards the God who IS love, these are two negatives, supplements. One speaks of the heart, and the other of action.

Christians then are challenged here to conformity to Christ, who did not seek to minimise the action of the Cross, but looking at it with horror, did its work with that conscientious disregard of alternatives which is the path of spiritual discipleship. With Him, it was the work of the Lord Himself, for that is who He is; with us, it is the following of an example at once noble and conscientious, total and glorious, where truth comes in clothes of mercy, and loyalty in the garments on which love insists. We see the beauty of this 'dressing' in Isaiah 61:10, where it is the bridegroom who puts on the garments of choiceness. Righteousness imputed is one; and with this garment, given BY God, there comes the power of His Spirit, the Spirit of God, which imbues the heart so dressed.

Let us then follow Christ in all things, seeking to be pleasing to Him first and foremost in every situation, as in heart itself.