Luke 16:1-13 (Also,
Pentecost 16 C)
Jesus said, “Turn
in an account of your stewardship.
Give me a record of how you are handling the responsibilities
that I have entrusted to you.” Jesus continued, “I have discovered that people who are
faithful in the little
things are faithful in the big
things. The person who
is not faithful in the little things is not faithful in the big things.
The person who is faithful in
both the little responsibilities and the big responsibilities, I
will give even more to
that person. The person
who is not faithful in the little things and not faithful in the big
things, I will relieve that person of all responsibilities.
To whom much is given, much is required.
If you are not faithful with the little things of life like
money, who will entrust you with true riches? When the Pharisees
heard this, they scoffed at Jesus because they were lovers of money.
A steward is a person who takes care of precious property
which is not his own. The
following are four stories about stewardship.
Some years ago, my
wife and I were going to take a trip to the Holy Land with several
members of our congregation. We were not going to be gone for merely
two or three days but two or three weeks.
We faced the inevitable questions: who is going to take care
of the kids, the house, the pets, the plants, the mail?
Who is trustworthy enough to take care of our most valuable
possessions? It was a
tough question, but we finally asked my parents. You don’t ask just
anyone to care for your children for a few weeks.
You trust them with someone who is very
reliable...in all the small day-to-day details and all the large
important details. Stewards are people who take care of precious property that is
not their own.
Sharon Colello is here today.
She is the director of our day care, our child-care center.
Every morning between 6:00 and 8:00 AM, 60 parents drive into
the parking lot to drop of a precious cargo, their child.
During those long days at the daycare, the parents want and
pray for that their children will be well cared for...especially
with all the little unseen
details. The bruised
knee. The hurt finger.
The book carefully read. The loving tone of voice.
All the little crucially important details that will never
appear on a formal report. When
that parent unexpectedly arrives early from work, that parent hopes
that he/she will see their child being
well cared for. Stewards are people who take care of precious property that is not their
Shirley and Dale
Beasely are old friends of mine.
They were caretakers of a large mansion down there on Marine
View Drive overlooking Puget Sound. The mansion belonged to a congressman who often traveled to
and lived in Washington D. C. This
congressman hired the Beaselys to manage his mansion for him.
The Beaselys thought that this was a grand idea; alot of fun;
a lark living in a beautiful mansion in Puget Sound.
Until they mowed the lawn.
That lawn is so huge, so spacious, so much grass. Until
they started to take care of the rose garden.
Do you realize how much work roses are?
Pruning, weeding, fertilizing, watering.
Until they started to care for all the china and silver.
Do you realize all the hours it takes to polish all that
silver? And the pets. The dogs, the cats, the rare bird collection.
They thought living in the mansion was going to be a picnic,
but they discovered what an enormous amount of work it was.
If they didn’t do that work, it all fell apart so quickly.
And there were numerous times when the congressman came home
unexpectedly, and he expected to see his estate well cared for.
Stewards are people who
take care of precious property that is not their own.
A World War II
story. There was wine
steward who was responsible for caring for the finest collection of
wine in all of Europe, the wine cellar at the Chateau of Monaco.
At that time in history, the chateau was well known for its
vintage, rare wines. But the Nazis had overrun the city and now lived and dined in
the chateau, expecting and wanting to drink the world’s finest
vintage wines. The wine
steward resented those “slime Nazis” and cleverly and carefully
hid all the most rare wines deep in the cellar, serving his enemy
only the cheapest and youngest wines, pretending that those wines
were the best. Stewards
are people who care for precious property that is not their own,
often preserving it from disaster.
It is with these
stories that we approach one of Jesus’ stories about a steward.
There are several such stories in the Bible.
“Once upon a time, there was a rich man who owned a villa.
He was going on a long trip and so he appointed a steward to
take care of his property while he was gone.
He gave the steward some specific instructions.
There was nothing in his instructions about taking care of
the house or stables or animals. The owner, instead, told the steward to make sure that the
servants were paid their food
allowance for their work. That was important to the owner:
make sure you pay the
servants their food allowance
while I am gone!!! Don’t
cheat the servants!!! Well,
the owner was gone a long time, and then one day, unexpectedly, he
showed up. He was
pleased to find that the steward had taken care of his entire
estate, and especially that he had paid the servants their food
allowance. Now if that
owner had come back unexpectedly and found the steward had not paid
the allowance, and if instead the steward was “eating, drinking
and making merry,” he would have taken a switch to that steward
and given him and paddling. He would have fired him and gotten a new
steward, so the Bible says.
I have found that people who are faithful in the little things are faithful in the big things; and people who are not
faithful with the little details are not
faithful with the big details.
People who are faithful with
both the little and big details, they will be rewarded and given
even more. Those who aren’t, they will suffer the consequences.
To whom much is given, much is required.
Stewardship Sunday. When
we think of Stewardship Sunday, we normally think of the Sunday
where the preacher gives a “fundraising” sermon to raise funds
for the church. The preacher, if he or she is good at it, is supposed to do
it like a dentist, first gently putting in the right amount of
Novocain in to numb the pain and then doing the tough stuff about
raising money but in a painless way so the patients won’t feel it.
Or it is “time, talent and treasure” Sunday and so we
talk about the time, talents and treasures we are going to pledge to
Christ and the church. Or,
we may think of a steward and stewardess on an airplane.
A steward and stewardess are people we can easily visualize
as they bring the food and beverages on an airplane, the pillows and
blankets, answer questions and provide for the safety of those
stewardship is not about that narrow slice of life we call offerings
to the church or that
narrow slice of our time, talents and treasures that we give to
church. Stewardship is
taking care of the precious property/people that God has entrusted
to us and that is what I would like to talk about today.
Steward comes from
the Greek word, “oikos”, which means house.
Stewardship is taking care of household matters. A related
word is “oikonomics”
from which we get the word, “economics:” Stewardship is taking
care of money matters that God has entrusted to us. Still another
related word is “oicology”
from which we get the word “ecology”.
Stewardship is taking care of the earth that God has
entrusted to us.
said, “Give me an account of your stewardship.
Give me a record of how you are taking
care of your household affairs.”
How are you taking care of things around the house?
Your clothing? Your
car? Your furniture? Your plants?. Your
animals? All the
property that has been entrusted to your care.
In the children’s
sermon for today, I asked the children how many of them had toys.
Yes, of course, they all had toys.
And what was the purpose of toys?
Of course, to play with them.
But also to learn to take care of them.
One of the most important purposes of having toys is caring
for them, putting them away, not playing with them so roughly that
they break. When you
grow up, it is important that you have learned how to care for
things. If toys are not
taken care of, they break real quickly.
I asked the kids, “How many of you have plants
that you care for?” So
many children do. How
very imprint this is, to care for plants, to water them, feed them,
give them sunlight. If you don’t, It is
disastrous to the plants. When you grow up, it is important that you have learned how
to care for plants and flowers.
Human beings have always loved plants and flowers that enrich
and beautify our lives but we must learn how to do this.
I then asked the children, “How many of you have pets and what are the kinds of pets you have?”
What fun! What
stories! But children
need to know how to care for living things, for living things that
love them back. If the
children don’t learn how to care for their pets, they will have
not learned a valuable lesson in life...to care for living things.
Then I asked them, “How many of you have mothers,
fathers, grandmas, grandpa, brothers, sisters, friends, cousins?”
and all their hands shot up as they squealed with delight.
What more important lesson is there to learn than to care for
people with gentleness. Jesus said, “Give me a record of your stewardship.
Tell me how you are caring for that precious property and
people that have been entrusted to you?”
none of this belongs to you.
Your clothes, your house, your furniture, your pets, your
toys, your plants, your family.
None of it belongs to you.
Can you take it with you when you die?
Of course not. It’s not yours. Everything
in life belongs to God who entrusts you and me to care for these
“Oiconomics.” Jesus said, “Give me an account of your household finances.
Give me a record of
how you are managing money.”
It is so important that we learn to manage money rather than
having money manage and dominate our lives. We need to learn to
manage money wisely. Of
course, we teach our children these values also, often giving them
an allowance or work for an allowance, so they have money, not
merely to buy things, but to learn to manage money effectively.
In the Biblical
texts for today, Jesus wisely said, “If you can’t manage the
little stuff, like money, who will entrust you with true riches.
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, laughed and scoffed
at him.” Now, we
would have said just the opposite, “If you can’t handle
important stuff like money, who would trust you with real
responsibilities? Our culture thinks that money is so important.
If you can’t handle money, you are in big trouble. Jesus
had the opposite point of view. To Jesus, money was part of the
Now, the Pharisees
were people who couldn’t handle money.
That is, they were tithers; they were the ones who could give
the full ten percent to God. Give
me a few more Pharisees in our parish, I often think to myself, so
we can pay the bills. The Pharisees were tithers, giving ten percent, but they
weren’t good stewards. Not
good stewards. Of
course not. You see, they
“loved” money and used
God. They also used people.
God’s plan is just the opposite:
we are to love God and love people
but use money.
People who love money will never know true riches, the true
riches of loving God and loving others.
What greater wealth is there than that?
Any anyone who loves
money and what it can buy will never know true love and true riches.
That’s just the way it is in God’s world.
The Pharisees, the poor souls, gave their ten percent
faithfully, but never discovered the true riches of love for God and
“Give me an account of your money.
Are you managing your money?
Is it managing you? Do
you love money too much?
Do you? Could it
be that you love money more than me?”
don’t own it anyhow. Your checking account. Your
savings account. Your IRA. Your
investment program. Your
retirement funds at work. Yes,
your name and social security number may be on those accounts, but
they aren’t yours. You
just may die tonight or tomorrow.
I guarantee you, you can’t take it with you when you die.
Nobody has and nobody ever will, although the Egyptians
Pharaohs tried very hard to take it with them.
Nope, like everything else, your money belongs to God.
It is one more of the pieces of property that God has
entrusted to you.
is the last word we want to look at.
care of God’s good earth.
Living here in Seattle, we have come to appreciate the
namesake of Seattle, Chief Seattle himself.
It is always a pleasure to visit his grave on the other side
of the Peninsula. Chief
Seattle was a wise, wise chief, a wise, wise human being, who
understood and appreciated the intimate interplay between human
beings and the earth. I
quote from his profound words of one hundred and forty years ago.
He said: “The
earth is not the white man’s brother, but his enemy.
When the white man has conquered the earth, he moves on.
He leaves his father’s grave, and his children’s
birthright is forgotten. The
air is precious to the red man, for all things breathe the same air:
the beasts, the trees, the man.
But the white man does not seem to notice the air he
breathes. Like a man
dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.
All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth.”
Those are powerful words.
Chief Seattle was
right: what happens to
the earth, happens to the children of the earth.
What happens to the water will soon affect the human race.
What happens to the air, will soon affect us.
What happens to the soil, will soon touch our lives.
For as Chief Seattle said, all things are connected.
So we Christians
are concerned about our earth and ecology.
We are concerned when massive forest fires cover large
regions of Asia. We are
concerned when toxic waste is reground into fertilizer and put into
our soil. We are
concerned about the pesticides that are sprayed on our plants.
We are concerned about the contaminants that flow down the
Mississippi River and into New Orleans that has one of the highest
cancer rates in the USA. We
are concerned about fluorocarbons and the melting of the polar caps. We’re all connected.
Stewardship Sunday, and we hear Jesus as he asks us that persisted
question: “Give me an
account of your stewardship. Tell
me, give me a record of how you are caring for your household...the
finances...the earth…those precious properties and peoples that I
have entrusted to your care. Come
on now, I want to know, I want to hear from you:
Tell me how you care caring for all I have entrusted to you.