Stewardship

By Glenn Conjurske

A Sermon Preached on Sept. 25, 1994, Recorded, Transcribed, & Revised

Open your Bibles to the sixteenth chapter of the book of Luke. Luke, chapter 16, beginning at verse 1, “And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And 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. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do, for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, how much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”

Father, I pray that you will indeed enlighten our minds and stir our spirits this morning, that you will teach us, and move us to be what we ought to be in the stewardship that you’ve committed to us. Give me, Father, a warm heart and a clear mind, and enable me to preach the message of God this morning. Amen.

Now, the first thing I want to point out is that this parable is obviously about stewardship. “A certain rich man had a steward.” I think “stewardship” is a word that the modern evangelical church has so corrupted that it is very little understood. All the major so-called Christian organizations have a stewardship department, and what does that stewardship department consist of? Well, it’s a department which exists for the purpose of getting money for the organization. And, generally speaking, the thing that they concentrate the most upon is trying to persuade Christians to give something to them in their wills. Hold on to your money, use it as you please, use it for yourself, lay it up in a bank while you live, but of course, when you can’t hold on to it any more, when you’re going to die, then give it to the work of the Lord. This is the kind of idea that the modern church has made out of stewardship, which is directly the reverse of the true idea of it. Stewardship, of course, is using your goods for the Lord while you live—-not bequeathing them to him when you die. Actually, the real fact of the matter is, stewardship is using his goods for him while you live. Your goods are in fact not yours at all. They’re God’s. This is the root idea of stewardship. A steward is a treasurer. He’s a manager. He doesn’t own the goods. They’re only committed into his hands to take care of them, to use them for his Lord’s interests.

Now, we are all stewards. We have something committed to us. It is not ours. This comes out twice in this passage that we have read. At the end of this passage, in the 12th verse, “If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” What you have, then, is not your own.

One of the most common words we hear is “my.” Little children learn it early. One of the first words that they learn to speak with emotion and expression is “my”—-or “mine.” By the way, parents, when you hear your little child say, “my—-mine,” stop him, curb him. That’s a very bad habit, and we all learned it early. But what we have is not ours. What we have is God’s. We’re only stewards. We’re just treasurers, managers. That is the plain doctrine of the 12th verse, where it says, “If ye have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” That implies what you have now is not your own. It’s another’s. It belongs to your master. It doesn’t belong to you. You’re just managing it for him.

Again, in the first verse of this chapter it says, “There was a certain rich man which had a steward, and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.” You understand, “his” here refers to “his Lord’s” goods. The man was a steward. They weren’t his goods. They were his master’s goods. And he was accused to his master that he was wasting his master’s goods. You know, we all have a master, and we are all stewards. We all have an accuser, too. The accuser of the brethren accuses us day and night before God. We all have an accuser, and we all have an advocate, a defender to defend us when we’re accused before God. And you know, I wonder how our advocate manages it. When your accuser stands before God to accuse you of wasting your master’s goods, how do you think your advocate manages that? The devil stands before God and says, “See John Jones down here. He’s supposed to be a good Christian. Now look at how he wastes your goods.” And I have an idea that our advocate and high priest just might have to hang his head and say, “It’s true. He does waste our goods.”

Well now, how do you waste your master’s goods? I think the primary thing involved here is that you forget that they are your master’s goods, and begin to use them for yourself. You know, if there is one thing that has distinguished my message, my ministry, it has always been that I have preached all-out devotedness to the cause of Christ. That was the subject of the first sermon I ever preached. But before I ever preached a sermon, right after I was converted, I went up to upper Michigan with a couple of men to hear an evangelist preach. He preached in a football stadium. I don’t remember anything he said, except one thing. One thing impressed me, and stuck with me. He said, “God is not going to hold you responsible for ten per cent of your income. He is going to hold you responsible for every penny.” And that’s true. That’s strictly true. It isn’t yours. It’s his. A steward—-that’s all you are. A treasurer, a manager.

Now, this particular steward in the parable is accused to his lord that he wasted his goods. I understand that to mean he spent them for himself. He decided to use his lord’s goods for his own interests instead of for his lord’s interests. You know, every once in a while folks in this life do that. They’re called embezzlers, thieves. Ah, they go to prison for it, if they’re found out. They’re stewards, treasurers, but the company goods begin to come up short, and the Cadillacs and the boats begin to appear in the steward’s garage. And the books are audited and the accounts come up short, and the steward is accused as wasting the goods over which he was a steward. He was not the owner. They were not his goods to do as he pleased with them. He was just a steward of them. Now, this is where we all are. The goods that we possess are not ours. They’re God’s. He has entrusted them to us—-and for what? Obviously for his interests. To serve him with. To promote his interests. To serve his cause. That’s what the goods are given to us for. I’m not just talking about money, though that’s what this parable is primarily talking about—-material goods—-but time, energy, strength, intellect, personality, everything you’ve got. You’re a steward of it.

Well, you say, “How ought this to work, then? I can’t spend all my money for the cause of Christ. I’d starve. My family would starve. We’d wear rags until they wore out, and then we’d go naked. You can’t do that.” That’s true. But you know, a steward would undoubtedly receive a personal allowance. He’s allowed to use some of his master’s goods for his own necessities, but there’s a line drawn somewhere. He gets a personal allowance or salary, and when he begins to use more than that for himself, then he’s wasting his master’s goods. Well, God gives us a personal allowance. He says, “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” He says, “Labour, working with your own hands that you may have need of nothing.” So, you are certainly allowed by God to use his goods for yourself in that measure which he has prescribed, so far as to supply the necessities of this life.

But understand, all necessity is relative. I’m not going to nit-pick. All necessity is relative. We undoubtedly all of us possess things that aren’t strictly necessary. I own about 50 or 60 folding chairs. They are not strictly necessary. You folks could stand up like I am. Forks and spoons aren’t strictly necessary. I doubt Adam and Eve had any. But I won’t nit-pick, and I don’t believe God will. God will allow you not only those things that are strictly necessary, but those things that are practically so. But still there’s a point at which necessity ceases, define it as liberally as you will. There’s a point at which necessity ceases, and when you’re still spending at that point, then you’re wasting your master’s goods.

All right, back to the parable, the 2nd verse, “he called him,” that is, the master called the steward, “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.” Now this also is going to happen to every one of us, whether we waste our master’s goods or not. There’s going to come a time when our stewardship is going to cease. God is going to come down to us some day and say, “Thou mayest no longer be steward.” All of the earthly goods that were committed into your hands are going to be taken out of your hands in a moment, and you’re going to enter into eternity as naked as you were born. You are not going to take any of it with you. You’re going to cease to be steward of those goods. Stewardship is going to cease. This steward then, in verse 3, says within himself, “What shall I do, for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.” The man has caught wind of the fact that he’s going to be fired, going to be turned out of his position, not going to have any of his master’s goods to waste any more, or to spend upon himself. He’s going to be turned out. So, he determines—-unrighteously now, dishonestly—-while he is still in his place of stewardship, he’s going to use his master’s goods to secure his own future, so that when his master fires him, and he’s turned out, he’ll have a place to go. So he begins to call together his master’s debtors. And he says to one, “How much do you owe my lord?” And he says, “A hundred measures of oil.” And he says, “Take your bill and write fifty. I’ll put my signature on it for you.” Cut the debt in half. Of course he didn’t pay the fifty. You understand what he was doing? He just gave him a receipt for fifty measures of oil which he never paid.

Now the reason that he did this is because he was expecting to be turned out of his place of stewardship, and then he would be able to go to one and another of these debtors and say, “Remember when you owed my lord a hundred measures of oil? And I just gave you a receipt for fifty of them which you never paid.” “Yes, I remember that.” “Well, now I need a little help. I helped you: now you help me.” This is what he was about. You say, “Well, it’s dishonest. It’s crooked.” To be sure, it was crooked, but what he was doing was using the goods that belonged to his master to secure his own future welfare. That is what this parable is all about. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing. That’s what God tells us to do.

Drop down in the parable to the ninth verse: “And I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” He says, I want you to do just the same thing that this unjust steward did. Now, back up, read what the steward said, verse 4: “I am resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses, so he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him”—-and made friends with them. That’s what he did. You know, normally debtors are not friends with those to whom they owe money. There’s an old Italian proverb that says, “Does your neighbor bore you? Lend him a sequin.” When he’s in debt to you—-even if it’s for a trifle—-he won’t show up any more. Well, normally debtors are not friends with their creditors, nor friends with their creditors’ stewards or bill collectors. This fellow was a steward of this rich man, and I have an idea that when this man that owed him a hundred measures of oil saw this steward come around, he would cross the street—-maybe sneak down the alley. He didn’t want to meet with him. But this steward just reversed that order of things, and made friends with these debtors. True, he did so by being crooked, by sacrificing his master’s interests, but he made friends with them so that when he was turned out of his stewardship, they might receive him into their houses—-so that he would have a place to go. Now then, that much is back in the fourth and following verses, but here in the ninth verse the Lord says, That’s what I want you to do—-“make to yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail [that is, when ye die], they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” You are a steward of your Lord’s goods. This is what you do with them. You take your Lord’s goods, and make yourself friends with them, so that when you die they may receive you into everlasting habitations. That is the plain doctrine of this parable.

Now he says in verse 8, “And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Now let’s get some things straight here. He commended the unjust steward, not because he had done righteously. Oh no. He hadn’t done righteously. He commended him because he had done wisely. When his lord found out what this unjust steward was doing, he said, “Fellow, you are pretty shrewd. You’ve got a head on your shoulders.” He was crooked as a snake, but he commended him because he had done wisely, not because he had done justly. Now what did he do, in that he did wisely? Well, he used what he had in the present to secure something for the future. This is wisdom, and that is what Christ advises you to do. You take the mammon of unrighteousness—-the things that God has committed into your hands—-and you use it to secure your future. Understand, of course, he’s not recommending that you do it unrighteously, but there is no need to do it unrighteously. He has committed his goods to you with the purpose that you should use them to secure your future—-your eternal future, of course. To squander those goods in the pleasures of this life is to waste them.

But he says, “The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” The word “generation” you can translate “kind” or “sphere.” The children of this world are wiser in their own kind than the children of light. What does it mean, wiser? It means they better know how to secure their ends than the children of light know how to secure their ends. That’s what wisdom is. Wisdom is knowing how, and in the Bible wisdom is constantly associated with self-interest. Isn’t that what we have here? The children of this world are wiser in their own kind than the children of light. They know how to secure their own ends. They know how to secure their own welfare. What does it mean that the unjust steward did wisely? It doesn’t mean he did righteously, or that he did well. It means he acted in such a way as to secure his own welfare. That is wisdom.

Now, the moral of the parable is: you do what he did. You are a steward. You have your hands full of your Lord’s goods. What should you do with them? Well, you have two choices. You can spend them for the fleeting pleasures of this life. You can spend them for the passing, perishable goods of this life, or you can use them to secure your eternal future. “Everlasting habitations”—-that’s eternal. Use your goods to secure your everlasting future. Make to yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness. How do you do that? Well, there are lots of ways you can do that. Give to the poor. Give to somebody that is preaching the gospel. Make to yourselves friends. By the way, this verse long ago determined me that there is no necessity to give anonymously. Some people suppose they ought always to give anonymously. They think it is wrong to give somebody a gift, and let him know where it came from. I don’t believe so. The Lord says, “Make to yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness.” The mammon of unrighteousness is just earthly goods—-money. Make yourselves friends with it—-here, obviously, spiritual friends. You can make yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness as the unjust steward did—-unrighteously—-and those friends aren’t going to receive you into everlasting habitations. It’s talking about making yourselves friends in a spiritual sense, contributing to save their souls, or if they are already saved, to help them on their way.

But you know this parable gives modern Fundamentalism as much trouble as almost anything in the Bible. Not because the parable isn’t perfectly clear in its meaning. You know why it gives them trouble? Precisely because it is clear, and they don’t like what it says. It cuts right across the grain of their theology. They don’t want to believe what it says. But the parable itself is perfectly clear. Their theology secures their eternal future by a glib and easy act of a dead and worthless faith, with no denial of self and no commitment to the cause of Christ. This parable cuts right across the grain of that. What this parable actually requires of us is present self-denial, in order to secure our future welfare—-and this is exactly the doctrine of the whole New Testament.

Now after the conclusion of the parable itself, he adds a few other admonitions in the application of it. Verse 10, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” Here is a statement concerning character. A person that is unrighteous in that which is least is naturally going to be unrighteous in the greatest things also. A person that will lie about little things will lie about big things. A person that will cheat in a little thing will cheat in a big thing—-understanding now that he thinks he can get away with it, all other circumstances being equal. The fellow that will steal a quarter will embezzle a thousand dollars, or a million, if he thinks he can get away with it. But “that which is least” here is money. What he is talking about is money, and he calls it “that which is least.” Oh, it’s a strange thing that that which is least in God’s eye is such a big thing in men’s eyes. God calls it “that which is least.” And he has committed some of it to us, along with some other things. He has put it into our hands. The more we have of it, the more responsibility we have in it.

Oh, if people could only get a hold of this idea of stewardship! This money is not mine. It’s God’s. I’m his treasurer. I’m his steward. I’m here to support his interests, to do his things with this money. Yet people have the idea that the more money I have in my hands, or in my pocket, or in my bank, the more I have, the better off I am, and the more pleasures I can have, and the more goods I can have, and the easier life I can have—-as the old proverb says, “He that hath money hath what he listeth”—-whereas the real truth is, the more I have of this world’s goods, the greater is my responsibility to God. He gave this man only a thousand dollars, and he gave you a million. That means you have a thousand times more responsibility. It’s not too hard to figure out what to do with a thousand dollars. You just stretch it every direction, and it still doesn’t go very far, or last very long, but if you’ve got a million, oh, then you’ve got some responsibility to God, who is the owner of that million. Now he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much. “That which is least” is just your earthly goods. You prove yourself faithful in that which is least, and God will commit something more to you.

Now he says in verse 11, “If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” Now what does it mean to be faithful in the unrighteous mammon? You say it means to be honest—-pay my bills, don’t embezzle, don’t cheat. Oh, it means a lot more than that. To be faithful in the unrighteous mammon means to use it for God. It belongs to him, and to be faithful means to use it for him. That’s the point of this parable.

You know, it just occurs to me that whenever Christians are in need, they like to encourage themselves with the fact that the Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills. They even sing about it, and throw in “the wealth in every mine,” along with the cattle on a thousand hills. All the cattle grazing on the hills of the millionaire ranchers, all the millions in the bank accounts of tycoon Jones—-these are all the Lord’s, and he therefore has plenty with which to take care of my needs. Yes, that’s true enough, but did it ever occur to you that it’s equally true that he owns all of your cattle, and all the money in your bank accounts, and all the goods in your hands? You are only a steward of those goods, and if you don’t use those goods for his interests, he will take them from you, and put you out of the stewardship.

Now he says if you are not faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who is going to commit to you the true riches? Where are you going to get true riches? From God—-but he says he’s not going to commit them to you, if you’re not faithful in the unrighteous mammon. Interesting, by the way, that money should be called “unrighteous mammon.” Of all the things that exist, which might be thought of as being indifferent, God singles out money to call it unrighteous. You say “Well, there isn’t anything wrong with money as such, only with what men do with it.” Yet God calls it unrighteous—-so closely is it allied to man’s sinfulness. Not that it’s sinful to possess it or use it. You can’t come to that conclusion, because while calling it unrighteous mammon, the Lord tells you to use it. But God does call it unrighteous. It all needs to be laundered, and God here puts us all in the money-laundering business. Apply it to the cause of Christ. Use it to make yourselves friends, who will receive you into everlasting habitations.

“If ye therefore have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” These are the spiritual and eternal things, the true riches. Money is just a fleeting shadow. True riches are the enduring and eternal and spiritual things. The only way to secure the true riches is to be faithful in the unrighteous mammon.

Now then, “If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” In our present state we don’t own anything. We’re stewards. There’s a time coming when we can have something which is our own. We’re going to get to heaven and the Lord is going to say, “Here’s a mansion, and it’s yours.” “Mine?” “Yes it is. Yours to keep for ever.” “Can I do whatever I want with it?” “You can do whatever you want. It’s yours.” What you have down here is not yours. It’s God’s. You’re just the manager. He’s just committed it to you, and committed it to you for a purpose. And that purpose is to use it for his interest. But you know, the marvelous thing that we come to in the end is: I can use it for his interest, and for my own at the same time. The fact of the matter is, the more thoroughly and consistently I use it for his interests, the more thoroughly I promote my own. That’s the way God has arranged things. “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24). If I just use it for my own interests, I just lose it, and don’t promote my own interests at all. That’s being unfaithful with the mammon of unrighteousness, and nobody is going to commit to me the true riches. But if I use it for his interests, that is the way to secure my own—-true riches, given to me to be my own for ever and ever. What I have while I walk on this globe is not mine. It’s God’s, and I’m his steward. This is the true meaning of stewardship. We’re all stewards, and the time is coming shortly when we’re going to be put out of the stewardship, every one of us. And then the question will be, What have we done with the things that were committed to us? Christ says this is what you do—-use them to make yourselves friends, eternal friends, that will receive you into everlasting habitations when you fail.

Glenn Conjurske