AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH February 12, 2012
A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
THE PARABLE OF THE UNJUST STEWARD
In pursuing the teaching of this parable, last Sunday, we came to the concept of Christian life as including the element of adventure, that it is a glory, a challenge, a fight as well as a thrust of light into darkness.
From this parable, also, we ask for elucidation again, is the parable suggesting that you should give your boss short shrift in indulging his customers; for it is a case of a fortiori, that is, where the thing in view is surpassed and outclassed by what it signifies. Thus, if the steward gave joy to the customers, making the best of it, how much more would you give warmth of heart to comrades, those who have known you in this world in your spiritually enlightened dealings, as they find your deeds salty, your words gracious, your bearing congenial and your ways appealing!
How happy a thought to see you all, believers, later in heaven together, when some say, LOOK there is John Smith, how good to see old John, a brick, and such a man of foresight and so humble with it! How fitting it will all be, and how comradely, and how pleasant the discourse and the relationships when, tests past, the testimony having spoken on earth, the spirit of relationship is happy in heaven.
As to the 'wasting his goods', the fault of the unjust steward in failing to give proper attention to the estate of his employer, that is, squandering his resources as supervisor, while in charge as a service to be performed (as some real estate firms supervise properties for the owners), the case was bad indeed. There has been inefficiency, probably dishonesty, perhaps there had even been illegal cuts taken, or gifts for deals favourable to customers, to induce him to give goods at lower prices. We do not know the exact elements of his mismanagement: only that it involved needless and improper loss to his master.
Perhaps he even winked at overdue accounts (and there seemed to be money owing enough) in order to retain the goodwill of some, or to exact favours in return. The point however is one: EVEN when the unjust steward, belatedly, with some loss, made some intelligent effort to rectify or reduce the losses, he was commended. HOW MUCH MORE will you be commendable and favoured - not on earth necessarily, but in heaven, in companionship and spirit - if you do not in the first place make a stink, a sickness, a false facade, a twisty course all too apparent, but give a clean and upright testimony, for long, one that cannot be condemned.
Hence, with penetrating power, use reliability in little things to secure the privilege to serve at spiritual levels, as in Luke 16:12.
Therefore, do NOT serve Mammon: its sound USE is anything but dominance. You use it, but never let it use you! Either God or Mammon has the mastery. There is no mystery about that. It is like an axe: letting it cut off your head - your principles, your priorities. That is one thing; but using it to establish what God gives man to do, as an instrument for the pursuit of righteousness, in the spirit of truth, that is another. You can have one or the other, the operational medium of this world as gauge and guide, consideration and constraint, mammon, or the mastery of Jesus Christ, God Himself as your criterion, constraint and light.
Never confuse these two, nor make the instrument the master, the means the character of your operation. Instead, in the body of Christ, be under complete direction from the Head. Avoid all headless monsters and false heads, but live under the heading of Christ Jesus the Lord! (Luke 16:13).
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF THE PARABLE
THEREFORE, be upright, be discerning, be diligent, be enterprising - oh yes, entrepreneurial wisdom is not missing in the applications of this parable - and let your reliability be so consistent that it speaks as by megaphone in a sports meeting. When the day of finality comes, when everlasting mansions are in view, for the purposes of divine grace without any question of justifying yourselves before men, but in its own free terms (Isaiah 54-55, Romans 3:23ff.), then what neighbourly kinship will be felt and what a savoury grace will surround the memories!
As to the negative aspect, that it is by no means teaching that you GET to heaven BECAUSE of this consistent testimony under test, we find immediately after the record of this parable of Jesus, a pellucid word. When He spoke to Pharisees, notable for their love of money (they all lost all their treasures in A.D. 70, as the wheel turned and those who crucified were tragically ground down to earth), His words pierced. YOU, said the Christ, are those who justify yourselves before men. That is a detestable thing. Whatever might be their actual wealth, and their greed for gain, at least they wanted to APPEAR tops in moral regions. How ludicrous!
It is not at all to do, duty and reality, with what people think of you in terms of appearance, but what is the very spirit of your actions, the honesty and integrity of heart, the purity of motive. In fact, if it were just a question of what men TAKE as honourable, in the run of relationships and the deceived and deceitful dealings of this pagan and wicked world, then the opposite would apply. In fact, what men esteem highly, as a rule, is an abominable thing before God since man as such is so astray that he is deluded into praising the evil and hunting the good! (Luke 16:15). In our government, dishonesty has become such an active weapon, that it is found actively surveyed, so that it is simply written that it is weighed against receiving votes!
RESOLUTION OF A PUZZLE THAT MAY ARISE FOR SOME
How then can the wise man make friends with unfaithful mammon and yet, if in spirit doing right, find this world is inclined to favour something very different! That is not the least of the point. Just as, given eternal perspectives, the pure and innocent purposes of the godly in heart, are to speak on when their day of comfort is past, an unyielding SPIRITUAL testimony to all, so that they may take it or leave it, so there is more. They may even hate it, so that in this world, how many may be the misconstructions, and how great the perverted dislike on the part of those who want you to share in their evil deals, annoyed because you will not do so!
Despite this, your action is to be spiritual, EVEN IF, as with the Pharisees, they generality are unimpressed because you do not share their evil, and like Daniel, stand out to their detriment. That may occur, and the trend IS such; but it is the spiritual who later in heaven, in their everlasting mansions (cf. John 14:1-2, II Cor. 5), are in view, who understand, and in sharp contrast to the hypocrites of this world, they at length realise the godliness, the goodness, the sheer fragrance of your dealings (II Cor. 2:14). How congenial WITH THEM will be the reunion, how fitting the meeting. Even where as with Noah, the flood of folly of the times makes it hard to be understood, there are some who know, and for those who endured, "their works follow them," (Rev. 14:13), like an attesting spiritual wake, and their spirits declare His.
Thus the point in view here is not in the least, HOW to get to the everlasting mansions. This is taken, as in a play, a drama shown, as a backdrop, prepared and set up before the action. It is crucial, but it is not the point here. It is HOW one relates to the inhabitants in their own godliness, chosen by grace in fact as is always God's method (cf. Luke 15), when you get there. It is the sheer congeniality of such a meeting where truth has no shadow. Death, the fall of the race, will not lead to the exposure of deceit, but the composure with those who with you have loved the Lord, and SO sought to please Him in all things (Colossians 1:10). It is not the 'new creation' of II Cor. 5:17ff. here, but the shining of the light it emits that is in view.
Nor is it that they are those who receive you so happily at that time, are Governors of the place; but that where there is spirituality, there is recognition and where there is sincerity, there is joy in seeing reality, not mere appearance, as in this world. The very surrounds of the mansions are set in spirituality, and the Governor is Christ (Isaiah 55:4, Revelation 22:3) in the presence of the Father, as the Trinity is manifest and the truth is written not in mere paper, but in hearts, as visible on the very foreheads of the people (Revelation 22:4).
That is the unending terminus of life in life eternal, but on the way there are those trials and disjunctions from favour amid the sometimes incandescent follies of man; for after all, if that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination before God, the disparity cannot HELP but lead to collisions, a test of character, and an opportunity for testimony! Take the case of Daniel.
This prophet passed through much with much disapproval and several severe dangers of death in his consistent witness when exiled; yet for all that, he was invulnerable, not to suffering, but to derangement of the fact of his godliness. If he was to suffer, it was for that; for he did not yield to his environment or imbibe his culture to condition his heart. In fact, God brought him through much to attest the power and reality of God, to many, and in many cases.
So does God choose, but this is conspicuous in the method and the point. The cry of Nebuchadnezzar to whom had been given the amazing gift of seeing the miracles and deliverances in person, of Daniel, the honest imperial cadet, was again and again in due course, to acknowledge the God of Daniel. Thus, contrary to the warp of this world, the light shone in the darkness, and though the darkness knew it not, it yet felt the impact; and in this case, great was that! (Daniel 2:46-49, 4:28-36).
How impactive was the voice of Daniel, how grizzly was the graceless assault, whether from godless law or godless envious schemers! How confirmed was the testimony in how many ways! There was a saltiness in his ways, versus savourless taste, a grace versus rotten malodour for his witness, an integrity in the only One where this is to be found. As one designed and freely loving His Designer, this man of God was rich in his accord with Him, the Lord Himself,
both in depth as well as breadth, and appeal despite the revulsion of the worldly. It
spoke when they were left speechless.
THE JOY OF THE LORD
There are some overtones in this parable. Thus how PLEASANT it is for this grimy individual, the steward to find that despite all his misdealings, now that he has put his mind to the thing, he is not only apparently still in his job, but he is even congratulated on having put things if not right, then at least into some kind of order, spring-cleaning the mess.
Now this is not to say that if you are shrewd, you will be an applicant for heaven with good odour. It IS to say that if EVEN when the steward was merely self-interested in seeking to get out of trouble, in cleaning things up, he were congratulated, HOW MUCH MORE is the true citizen of the kingdom of heaven to be received with joy that is fitting, that is comradely, that has kinship with his spiritual colleagues (whether or not he even knew them personally on earth). How happy is the thought, how appealing the savour, and how it draws the spirit into grace!
Further, though the master in this parable case may be himself merely a worldling, if EVEN HE could congratulate for so little, a deft hand at last, how much MORE does the Lord bless, He who sees and knows all, and treasure what is done, despite sin, in spiritual grace and love, as His servants turn evil to good, and mess into order.
How pleasant are the ways of the good Lord, how compassionate is He, how merciful, how appealing, how good are His principles and how eminent is His kindness, that we should seek Him and finding Him, in repentance serve Him (also mirrored a little in this parable, in the case of the steward, though here of course in terms of the nature of the parable and its actors). This, it is not action with mere order, but with relish, rejoicing of heart, He the eminent desire of it. Let therefore none who reads these things, fail to find Him, and repenting of sin, to rest in His grace, make employment for His mercy, and seeking Him with all the heart, find by HIS GRACE a place by His side! He bought the privilege (Matthew 20:28); we consort by gladly given grace.
Hard ? Not at all, but seek Him with zest, as the steward acted with acumen and attention. Therefore let no one half-repent, be half-hearted, give some attention to the matter. It is with the whole heart and the whole mind that one must seek God, as one seeks to breathe when drowning; and if this is not the way in view, there is no point. ASK, SEEK and then KNOCK.
Be aware of your heavenly accounts and of the answer to the question whether you have the merits of Christ to set against your sins, those of spirit and mind and heart, of body and of purpose, instead of neglect of God altogether except at most, formally! Then if not, now act, and receiving His good righteousness as a gift, rely on Him only and absolutely (Romans 5:1, 5:17, 5:9-12); for great is His love to man and His desire to forgive, purchasing the justice to show mercy by His own personal sacrifice for sin (II Corinthians 5:17ff.), then imparting the light of His grace to His people, that they be fearless, fragrant in truth, eminent in peace though active in overcoming evil with good.