Recently in the news, we have been hearing about executives of some of the large corporations here in our country giving out reports to indicate that the company was in good financial condition when in reality it was on the verge of bankruptcy. And then, just before final failure they would enrich themselves with special bonuses and so forth as the company collapsed. You remember the Enron Case. And then there was World Com, where the chief financial officer hid about 3.9 billion dollars and as a result, 17,000 people lost their jobs. Share-holder lost pensions. Many of them on the verge of losing their homes. These executives were not very good stewards for their companies and for their shareholders that had entrusted them with their funds.
Now, interesting enough, when Christ was here on Earth, He told a story that sounds somewhat similar to some of these things we're hearing about today. I'd like for you to take your Bible and open to chapter 16 of the book of Luke. I'd like you to notice this story. Christ was talking to His disciples. Luke 16:1. And He said unto His disciples, "There was a certain rich man which had a steward. Well, today we would call him a manager or a chief executive officer, whatever. And the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. Now notice in verse 2, And [the owner of the company] 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." In other words, what He is saying in our language today, "What is this that I keep hearing about you? We're going to have to call the auditors in to check the account. If it's true that you have been defrauding the company, we'll have to let you go." Now, notice in verse 3: Then the steward said within himself; "What shall I do?" "When the auditors examine the books, I'm sure to be fired."
Now, this man was a worldly man. He had no interest in eternal things. He was only interested in this present world. And he had no regard for scruples. So, what did he do? He thought a minute and he hatched up a very devious plan. He said, "I know what I'll do. I'll obligate some people to me so that when I'm fired they'll support me." So, notice now in verses 5 and 7 what he did.
So he called everyone who owed the company money and said the first, "How much do you owe?" And he said, "I owe a hundred barrels of oil." And the executive said, "Give me your bill and I'll change it to fifty." And to another he said, "What do you owe?" And he said, "A thousand bushels of wheat." He said, "Give me your bill and I'll change it to eight hundred." And so on and on.
You see, the owner of the company had put in the hands of this man his goods. He had actually put his company in the hands of this man but he proved to be an unjust steward.
Now, notice verse 8. When the owner of the company heard about it he called that manager in and complimented him because he had done wisely. Now, that's a rather strange compliment isn't it? Here this man is called an unjust steward. Now you notice, it is Christ who complimented him. It was the owner of the company. Why did he compliment him? He certainly didn't compliment him because of his honesty, or his concerns for the good of the company, or for the stockholders. Actually he complimented him on his forethought and prudence in planning ahead, planning for his future. And then, of course, he fired him.
This man was making friends that would take care of him when his world collapsed. He was making sure that his future in this world was secure. Now notice in verse 9 what Jesus said.
[Jesus] said, "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." Now, who is it that's going to receive us into everlasting habitations? It's Christ and the angels, isn't it.
So, what is Christ saying? He's saying, "Now is the time to make yourselves friends." You know, dear friends, one day soon, this world and everything in is going to fail. It is going down. And the only thing that matters then is where your treasure is: how you have cared for that which your heavenly Father has placed in your hands. The lesson Christ is teaching here is that we need to be sure that we have our priorities straight. While we have the opportunity we need to be sure that our future in heaven is secure, that our friendship with Jesus and the angels is growing stronger every day. Then notice what Christ added in verse 8.
Luke 16:8. ...for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." Dear friends, we have the light. And how thankful we can be that we have the light. We know something, we know of God's great plan of salvation. We know something of the value of eternal life. We know that if we fail of receiving the gift of eternal life we've lost everything. We see the fulfillment of the signs all around us today that the stage is set for the second coming of Christ. We know that we are living in the last days. We know that Jesus is coming soon. But are we seeking the eternal treasure as earnestly as the children of this world are seeking the things of the world?
You know, the number one priority of the children of the world is worldly treasure, position, entertainment. The question is: What is the top priority in our lives today? Are we being faithful stewards of the blessings that God has placed in our hands?
You know, when we think of stewardship, we usually think of money. There's a lot more involved in stewardship than money. You see, stewardship is the management of that which belongs to another. Who does this world belong to? Who do you belong to? Who does your time belong to? Who do your talents belong to? Everything you have, Wo does it belong to? Stewardship has to do with the management of your life. God has given you life. He has given you so much time. He's given you health, so much health. He's given you talents. He has made us stewards also of His message for these last days. God has a special message to go to the world to prepare a people for His second coming in the clouds of heaven mad dear one, He has mad us stewards of that message. What are we doing with it?
You see, in the beginning, we are told in Genesis 1:26, God created the Earth and all that is in it, and then He gave man dominion over it. This denotes authority, dominion, authority, control, management. Man was given management over everything on the Earth which God created. God created a beautiful Earth. But instead of being good managers, what is the human race doing? What is man doing to the Earth?
Everywhere we turn, building weapons of mass destruction of human life and property. Man has enough atomic and hydrogen bombs to destroy the Earth and much more. They have created so much radioactive material they don't know what to do with it. Ma, in his greed has filed the Earth with pollution and chemical contamination. The rivers of the world are polluted. The Earth waxes old like a garment. Isaiah 51:6.
You know, there's an interesting verse over there in Revelation 11:18 that describes the times in which we live today. Notice what it says: And the nations were angry, That's certainly true today, isn't it. Anger everywhere we see. On the news we see people shaking their fists and crying out in their anger against one another, against other nations. and the time of the dead, that they should be judged. We're living in the time of the judgment today, aren't we. That thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets and to the saints. And that time is drawing very close that God is going to give His reward.
And then notice the last part of Revelation 11:18: and shouldest destroy them which destroy the Earth. Man is literally destroying the Earth today. And God is going to come very soon to put an end to it. And the we will have a beautiful new Earth.
Stewardship involves every phase of our lives, family life. You know, we're told by God's servant that parents should look upon their children as entrusted to them of God to be educated for the family above. Our children are entrusted to us. We're also told the education of our children from their earliest years is committed to us as a sacred trust. There is not work on Earth more important. You know what a different place this world would be if the children were taught from the time they come into the world to hear God and to respect their fellow man. What a different place this world would be.
You see, too many people today don't have their priorities straight. I read about a man who came upon an interesting to remind him of his priorities. He was thinking about his life and wasn't too happy with it. So he got a rather unique idea. He got to thinking that the average person lives about seventy-five years, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. So he took that seventy-five and he multiplied it by fifty-two and he came up with thirty-nine hundred. Well, that's the approximate number of Sabbaths that a person has in a lifetime. Well, he was now fifty-five years old so he'd already lived through about twenty- eight hundred Sabbaths, so he had about eleven hundred left. So he went out and he bought eleven hundred marbles and he put them in a jar where everyone could see them. Each Sabbath he would take out one of those marbles and he would throw it away. To him, that represented a day that he could choose to be a blessing to his family and to those around him, to be more kind and to be a better friend of Jesus, his fellow men, to be a better steward of the blessings of God. And as he watched the marbles diminish, he was able to focus on the more important things of life. He was able to keep his priorities straight.
You know, there's nothing like watching your time and this old world fade away to help you keep your priorities straight. Well, one day the last marble was taken out of the container, and he thought, "Well, if God gives us a little more time it would be grace time to seek the really important things of life. You know, many people would say, "I wish I had when I had the opportunity." You know, the moral of this story of the marbles is that you'd better get your priorities straight while you still have all your marbles.
You know, stewardship also involves our time. Each of us is given so much and God says, "Don't waste it." You know, God's servant says that our time belongs to God. Every moment is His. We're under the most solemn obligation prove it to His glory. No talent that He has given us will He require more strict account than that of our time. You know, I read recently about a man over in Europe who died at the age of seventy-three. When he was eighteen years old he started keeping a diary. He kept that diary for fifty-two years and strangely enough, someone found it and it was published in the newspaper. It was quite a commentary on a life that had no direction, no purpose. He wrote in his diary that in fifty-two years, he had smoked six hundred and twenty-eight thousand cigars. He had received forty-three thousand of them as presents. The remaining five hundred and eighty-five thousand he paid about ten thousand dollar for. In fifty-two years, according to his bookkeeping, he had drunk twenty-eight thousand glasses of beer, twenty-six thousand glasses of spirits, for which he spent five thousand dollars and his diary closes like this: I've tried all things, I've seen many. I've accomplished nothing. Not a very good manager of the life that God had given him, was it.
Stewardship also involves caring for our health. You know, God says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in your, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? You are not your own. You belong to God. And God says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, So whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. But you know, too many today are not good managers of their lifestyle, ignoring the counsel God has given, how that we might keep our bodies healthy, to have clear minds to understand the messages that He has for us.
And of course, stewardship involves our wealth. You know, God say in Deuteronomy 8:18, But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. Some years ago there was a young man that knelt down with his pastor and prayed and committed to God his tithe. He said, "I'm going to be a faithful tithe-payer." The first week's pay was ten dollars. So he paid his tithe: one dollar. He grew older, became more prosperous and his tithe increased to seven dollars each week. Then it grew to ten dollars each week. He moved to a western city. He had a business all established and his income grew and his tithe became a hundred dollars a week. And then five hundred dollars a week. Years later, after he had become a very wealthy man, he sent this pastor that he had known in his youth an invitation to visit him in his vacation home in Hawaii. While they were talking, the matter of the tithe came up again and the man said to the pastor, "Do you remember the promise I made so many years ago to pay an honest tithe? How can I get release from that promise?" "Well," the pastor said, "Why would you like to get released?" "Well, it's like this:" the man said, "When I made the promise, I had to give only a dollar a week, and now I have to give five hundred dollars a week and I can't afford to give money like that away." The pastor said, "Well, I'm just afraid that we cannot get you released from that promise, but there's one thing we can do. We can pray that God will decrease your income so you'll only have to give a dollar a week." How wonderful it is to be faithful in the blessings that God has given us.
You know, to a lot of people, money is a problem. Too much or too little. Too much? Well, I don't know about that. But anyway, it can be a problem because some people go to any length to make it. They will over-reach, they will steal, they will murder. Some people have trouble in spending it. They are like the prodigal. They are debt-ridden. Some people don't say they failed to recognize the need to put money away, that they will have it in time for an emergency.
You know, money is listed as one of the top reason folks are divorced. Actually, money possesses element which will destroy us. We're told by inspiration that many have not so educated themselves that they can keep their expenditures within the limits of their income. They borrow and borrow again and again and become overwhelmed in debt. As a consequence they become discouraged and disheartened. But, you know, money should not really be a problem to the Christian. It only become a problem when it's corroded with selfishness. You know, the Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:10, For the love of money is the root of all evil
The Christian will recognize God's supreme ownership. It belongs to God. We're only stewards. The Christian will regard money as a valuable instrument, first of all to provide for personal and family needs, bring relief to those around him who are in need, and as an opportunity to spread the gospel. In other words, the Christian will earn all he can, he will save all he can, and he will give to the limit of his capacity as a faithful steward.
You know, God's servant tells us that money has great value because it can do great good. But money is of no more value than sand, only as it is put to use in providing the necessities of life, blessing others, and advancing the cause of Christ.
I read one time where the secretary of the British Missionary Society over in Calcutta, India visited a merchant over there and asked for a gift to do missionary work. The man wrote out a check for what would be two hundred and fifty dollars in our money and just as he was giving it, he received a message. He opened the message and it was a message that one of his ships with a valuable cargo had gone down at sea and he told the missionary, "I'm going to have to rewrite that check. So he wrote it and handed it to the missionary. The missionary looked at it and said, "You made a mistake here." The check was six times what he had originally written. The merchant said, "No, I didn't make a mistake. That was a message from God. He said, 'Don't lay up your treasure on earth. Lay up your treasure in heaven.'"
And then, of course, there is the proper use of our talents. You know, God has given us talents. He told a story about the man who was going to make a long trip. He called his servants in and gave them one five, one two, and one one talent. And he told them, "Now I want you to use these talents wisely and then he left expecting that when he returned he would get a fair return on his investment. You know, the question that should concern us today is not how much we have, how much we have received of what we are doing or what we have. You know, we are told the development of all our powers is the first duty we owe to God and to man. To be a good steward, we must keep our priorities straight. You know, God has given us our number-one priority. The Bible tells us what our number-one priority should be. It's found in Matthew 6:33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:20, Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.
How do we lay up our treasure in heaven? Well, dear friends, it involves being a faithful steward in every area of life, using our time wisely, using our talents, taking care of our health so we'll be able to use that to blessings that God has given. You know, we're told by God's servant, "Every opportunity to help a brother in need or to aid the cause of God in the spread of the truth is a pearl you can send beforehand and deposit in the bank of heaven for safe-keeping." So, there it is, isn't it. Doing everything we can to help our fellowmen, to give them the good new of salvation. In doing this, we will be laying up our treasures in heaven. And in that day, when the Lord returns from His journey, and I know that is not very far away. The heavens are going to soon part as a scroll, and Jesus is going to come in the clouds of heaven. And you know, as the man in the parable in Matthew 25:21,23 said to those servants who had improved their talents, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things. I will make you ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
Won't it be wonderful to hear our heavenly Father say that to us? "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." I pray that will be the privilege of all of us who are here today.
Hymn of Praise: #8, We Gather Together Scripture: Matthew 16:19-21 Hymn of Response: #206, Face To Face
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last updated 11/24/2002 by Bob Beckett.