Wang's Site: Wrong Beginning of the New Year?
by Johnny Wang
In Luke 16:1-12, Jesus told His disciples the parable of the shrewd manager. Here Jesus seems to make a hero out of a villain. There are a lot of bad people around us, from the hills in Afghanistan to the halls of the stock exchange on Wall Street! Are we going to make them our examples? Can actions executed for selfish and unworthy motives still glorify desirable virtues? Before the ominous word comes to us, saying, "You can no longer be steward," let's note how this parable may be a bitter but necessary word for us to begin our new year. Let us be challenged by this shrewd steward.
One thing we can learn from the steward in this parable is that he is smart enough to look ahead. Recount what has happened to highly educated professionals, caught by the pink slips at their "secure" jobs. On the other hand, I asked some busy men why they train for real estate licensing or take MBA night classes. Their reply? They are preparing for the bad times ahead. When crisis comes, they want to be able to maintain their household obligations and decent life style. A good man of business is marked by an ability to think far ahead and be ready for sudden turns.
Jesus also points out in this parable that the spiritual world is governed by the same laws as the material world. Choose that which will stand the test of time and you will not be disappointed later. How tragic to see a person so wise in the material realm and so foolish in the spiritual. Christians had better begun to examine their spiritual policies with an eye to the future. My son resigned from his job without a replacement. In the year of his unemployment, he and his wife reflected, "It has been hard in the past year. But we have seen good things come out of this experience in that our relationship and that with our children has been enriched and deepened." The unjust steward worked on a relationship that would outlast his job!
Don't you see that this wise guy is making the most of his opportunities? This servant in the parable knows about the shortness of time to remain on the job; he is very resourceful to revise his thinking and behavior. With each passing year, new changes barge their way into our lives. We all need to grow wiser. Something considered standard practice at one time might be taken as obsolete today. Take church services for example. They have all taken on some new packaging in order to attract bystanders. The "Four Spiritual Laws" has since assumed many other titles and forms as a tool for witness. The lay movement has been resurrected from the earlier century so lay people may come along side clergy professionals for faster reproduction of converts. All these are good. The steward's quick action has a Christian endorsement to it. Check it out in Colossians 4:5: "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity." Let me paraphrase it for you: "Never allow a chance to slip through you fingers when you are able to do it for a fast and maximum result among the non-believers around you." Yet with so many resources at our fingertips, Christians perform poorly. When Christians care less about the salvation of lost souls, Christian service becomes sloppy and unprepared; the sermon shows neither thought nor organization; the congregation is willing to accept second best. Do we expect to command the attention of the high tech age? The world makes no such blunder, and as a result it commands the serious attention of people, while the Christian world gets only what is left over!
Yes, the foresight and resourcefulness of this servant are commendable. But his unfaithfulness and dishonesty are something to be without. This servant is robbing his master! Jesus makes that message very clear at the close of this parable. Jesus teaches us that there is demanded of all men faithfulness in all things. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Will the master trust his servant when he discovers that he has been cheated? Will God trust you when He discovers that you have tried to rob Him? This is a serious, serious matter of concern in the mind of Jesus. God deals with us in terms of life as a whole. His laws operate in the same inexorable manner in all of life. We want some quick and easy recognition, but He takes us through a long apprenticeship. We want to cut corners in order to reach the top in a hurry, but He holds us to the day-by-day practice of the moral law. We would like to wield the spiritual power of the saint, but we will remain powerless until we have practiced the discipline of the saint. Just as in the world, the citizen of the kingdom of God must prove he is faithful over relatively small affairs if he is to be entrusted with large ones. To veer even slightly from the path of righteousness is to endanger our whole future. For such instability is suspicious: "And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?"
Begin with the obvious lessons of the world itself, and you will start on the right path toward God in this new year.