Sermon January 30, 2005 : Luke 16:1

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda | Translator: Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Length: 52:39
  • Date: January 30, 2005
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

Let’s go to the Gospel according to Luke chapter 16, beginning with that first verse. I will read it only in Spanish and I hope that the most of you guys have a Bible available. If you can share with somebody just in the interest of economizing time. I hope you have a Bible in English and if you don’t just raise your hand and we’ll make one available to you.

Last time I preached, a couple of weeks ago, I initiated almost in an informal fashion a series of messages which I hope to continue the next few Sundays on the concepts of stewardship, and on the concept of management of our possession, not necessarily alone just material possessions. This preaching will be part of a kind of a financial campaign for the collection of funds for our sanctuary that we want to build, I think the Lord wants us to build right here in our parking lot. What we’re seeking is not just to sort of extract money from the congregation, from all its leaders, including myself of course, it’s not just to get money to build a building, it’s not only that. We hope to leave you enriched as you give with a better understanding of how to manage God’s possessions, the things that are entrusted to us, the possessions that are entrusted to us and how to see stewardship in a biblical fashion, so we really want to put this in its proper context, in it’s proper biblical context.

We don’t want to manipulate anyone. I really do not want to have recourse to anything that exploits people’s emotions or sense of guilt. We want to do this in a biblical fashion. The word of God is full of allusion and references to the concept of giving and of money.

You know it is said by people who know the Bible better than I do, that Jesus spoke more about money than about any other subject practically and He did it in all kinds of ways, in all kind of creative ways. Jesus wasn’t afraid of speaking about money. He always spoke about money, however, in relationship with the Kingdom of God. And He always spoke about our relationship, our identity as men and women who belong to another world, another dimension and how that impacted our relationship to riches and to life and to the world here in this present era. He always praised those who gave in a generous fashion to the Kingdom of God. You might remember for example just one illustration of that how Jesus praised the widow who gave all that she had for the Kingdom of God and maybe these days some people would actually accuse Jesus of being unjust and of allowing this woman to do that and praising such a foolish act and yet Jesus didn’t attack it but He praised it actually that she gave everything that she had to the Kingdom of God.

Every time that God wants to do something in this world he always uses a man, a woman, a group of people, always. God never works unilaterally and He always likes to work in concert with his people. There’s a teaching there, that God treats us as adults, as co laborers in his Kingdom and He allows that for a purpose. You know we have this great dream now which is not a dream, it’s a vision of raising a temple for the glory of God. A place where many souls will be saved hearing the word of God. We are seeking to have a place where we can worship the Lord even more freely, more comfortably and to have more people who can come as the Lord allows our church to grow more. And God is also allowing this church made up of immigrants, many of them recently arrived, many of them humble economically, to declare to the community that God blesses his people, and that God blesses a community that gives passion for the Kingdom of God.

Just a few weeks ago a reporter from the Associated Press and from the Boston Globe, came to our church, I had been in dialogue with him for several weeks and he wrote an article about the quiet revival, but used our church as his main illustration. You know people from across the nation have let us know that they saw this article that was written in a lot of different newspapers. This reporter, J. Lindsay, came on the Sunday that I announced that after lengthy process we had finally been allowed by the city of Boston to go ahead with our designs and all the other stuff to put our building in place there. And he writes about it in his article. And this man wrote not in this specific sort of way, but this is the specific thrust of his article, of how God is blessing congregations particularly in the ethnic community that are remaining faithful to the word and that are prospering despite the fact that many of the other churches in their own denominations are dieing because they have a adopted a different attitude towards the word of God. So right there the message was being preached through a congregation that God is prospering, that God is blessing. This man’s intention was not to laud the adherence to God’s word and that makes his message precisely even more valuable about the fact of how God is blessing and how congregations that are remaining faithful to the word of God are being prospered, even within denominations that are dieing out like our own denomination unfortunately.

And all I’m seeking to point out is that many times our actions in Kingdom of God have resonance not only in our own selves, and our own benefit but also we serve as an example and as a stimulus and as an inspiration for others that are watching and are interpreting what is happening within a community. The Bible says that we have a great cloud of witnesses around us and therefore what we do, we should always do it in that sense, how we act towards the Kingdom of God, the passion, the faithfulness that we demonstrate about the Kingdom of God, the integrity, the consistency because there’s a lot of people who are watching to see the power of our lives. People are watching to see if our rhetoric adjusts and has consonance with our life, and this is why we must be careful how we live the Christian life in all its different aspects. Let us see this financial campaign not as building bricks, but really as a furtherance of a vision, the advancement of something that is going to glorify God and allow major resource in this city for the Kingdom of God to be established.

I just want to take a moment even now, before we continue, just to pray that God will bless this funds’ campaign. Let’s just take a moment right now to formally place it before the Lord and to just ask his blessing upon this, that I will not be anything laborious or contorted but really that it will be a pleasure and an act of worship. Father, may this funds’ campaign be for your glory, may your name be glorified. May the values of your kingdom be exalted as we live them, Lord. Give us wisdom as a church to conduct this effort. Father may it be you, your Holy Spirit speaking to the heart of each man and woman in this congregation as to what it is that you expect of us and crown this effort with success. Father may at the end of this process we’d be able to say: God did it. May we celebrate the way that we celebrated this last journey that we undertook with the city of Boston. May also we be crowned with great joy at the end of this process. And we’ll give you all the honor, and all the glory, Father. We’ll give you all the credit for the success, Lord, we won’t take any of it. In the name of Jesus, amen. Amen.

You know we thought about bringing one of this consulting companies that a lot of churches use to lead us through this financial funds campaign. These campaigns cost tens of thousands of dollars, up to a hundred thousand dollars and sometimes more, and none of them are really adjusted to the Hispanic context. You know I really don’t think that we need it even. I really believe that we have a committed congregation. With 75.000 dollars we can put an elevator into that building, my Lord. We can do it. You know sometimes people have to spend so much money because sometimes Christians are hard hearted so we need these elaborate mechanisms to crank this huge machine into moving. And we can do things without so much pain, so much suffering, so much just effort and anxiety and really believe that we can do this for the glory of God.

And there is a very simple plan that God gave that I want that just throw out here, because we won’t do anything about it for a good while, but I want just kind of throw it out as a seed for people to start thinking in the spirit whether the Lord is calling you to be a part of this. You know, God has put in our heart, if our goal is to raise a million dollar at least, because this is a 4 million dollar project, by the way. The idea is if 200 people in a church that is over 1000 people identified themselves with our congregation we can find 200 people who would commit over the course of the next two years, 24 months, to give 5000 dollars, that is 2.500 each year, for two years we can have already a million dollars.

I’m the first one to commit to that because I think the leadership is the first one to give the example. You know I have learned that when we give to the Lord generously, God blesses my Lord and I don’t give that God might bless me, I give because He has blessed me so much already and because He is faithful. I just want to deposit in your heart that vision right now. This is beyond our tithe and offerings, of course.

I think that is an exceptional opportunity for each one of us to be part of a glorious vision, that we will be proud, that we were part of it. I thank the Lord that I was a part of this building and many of you as I run my face around I see many of you who worked in this building, who gave for this building, who contributed talents to this building. Women who came when the windows were all opened up and wind and snow was coming in and they came in to bring food so that the men here were able to eat during the day and others who worked so hard. And this building has been such a blessing to the city of Boston and such a source of glory to God and we have been proud that we were a part of putting this building together, and every time people come to visit and they say: Whow, what a nice looking sanctuary, what a great building you have, I give God all the glory because He allowed us to be part of that vision.

It is so good to dispel peoples' stereotypes about broken community like the Latino community or the African American community and to let them see that God uses the lowly, God uses de weak to do great and wonderful things. It’s a great message. You know all we’re asking really is for to go a little bit beyond the comfortable because I know that there’s a lot of congregation that have given more than we have and there’re individuals that give a lot more than I give, and a lot more than you give. So all that is being asked for is really for a stretch there, for us to go beyond the comfort zone and to enter into an area of effort for the glory of God and to go to a little bit of a psychological discomfort zone so that we can give for something marvelous. I can already see us celebrating that day. So I put that in your heart and we’ll be talking it about it.

Let’s just take a moment now to unpack this through the word of God and this is what I say, we’re going to go through texts in scripture that help us to see this correctly. It says here that there was rich man who had an administrator, or a manager that is the word. Oiconomos that means a manager, a steward, an administrator of his riches, of his wealth. And this idea of an administrator, a manager, is really in a sense is alluding to very strong concept in scripture, which is the concept that use the word stewardship but is really management. The management of God’s riches, God’s wealth. You know this man manages the wealth that belongs to somebody else. He’s simple the steward, a manager and already there a powerful teaching that is prevalent is all of scripture. In scripture we see that in the book of Genesis God created the earth and placed Adam and Eve on the Garden of Eden, symbolically all the earth, to manage the earth, and He gave lordship over the earth, He delegated the stewardship of the earth to mankind. From then on the teaching through our scripture is God is the owner of all the land and we simply manage that land for him.

Look at psalm 24, verse 1. it says the earth is the lord’s in all its fullness, both the world and those who inhabit it, because He founded the earth upon the seas or upon the foundations of the earth and he affirmed the earth over the rivers. Even what you earn with your body and with your brain belongs to God , why? Because your body and your brain were created by God, the atoms that make up your body and your brain belong to God. The ground upon which you walk belongs to God, the health that you have is a gift of God. Everything you do is the result of the creative action of God, you can never step out of the ownership of God because even the thoughts of whether the world belongs to God or nor, even that thought, even the capacity to reason in that way is a product of God’s creative, sustaining action on the universe. You see? Everything that you do by virtue of the fact that you are doing it inherently points to God. Therefore you never escape from God, whatever you do, whatever you have, whatever you think, whatever you create, whatever you aspire to is all God’s. That is the central teaching of stewardship of our goods, that everything belongs to God. You know we don’t have time to develop that completely but that is everywhere. So when this rich man calls his steward in already we are being told, you are stewards of something that does not belong to you. That’s a very important principle.

You know there is the second scene in this text which points to the owner of the wealth coming to the steward and saying; now you give an accounting of what you have done with my wealth. There’s a second principle here which is that one day every human being will be called to task, will be called to give an accounting of what he or she did with the wealth, whatever that form it took: talent, time, physical force, relationships, whatever, what that person did with that which was entrusted to him or her. There will be an accounting, there will come a time. There’s the parable of the unfaithful servant, the other one where the owner goes and comes back and says to each one of them: what did you do with the talent that I gave you? Each one I gave you something, what did you do with it? You know there is this idea, this implication in every time it speaks about accounting, you know God doesn’t say king of optionally: well, would you like to tell what you did with what I gave you? No, it’s more like: hey, give an accounting of what you did with what you had. It is expected that you will have done something worthy, that you will have advanced the Kingdom of God, that you will have invested what you got and that you’d have used energy, and vision, and creativity to multiply what God gave you for his kingdom and for His interests, and if you didn’t do that then you’re out of line, you’re out of the law and you are incurring loss or condemnation. That is a thought that pursues me: what am I doing with what God gave me? When I’m called to give an accounting, am I going to be able to stand there and in all integrity say; Father, I did the best I could, here’s what I did with my gifting, with my talent.

Each one of us, if we take seriously our identity as believers and as members of this kingdom that belongs to a King that is very demanding just as He is generous, we must be pursued by this thought; what am I doing to advance the Kingdom of God?, because God is expecting one day that I will give an account of what I did in every area, in every source.

You know many of us we take this liberties with our identity as children of God and as stewards and we sort of take all liberties of whether to give or not to give, to work or not to work in the Kingdom, to invest or not to invest. This is not an option, God expects us to be diligent workers in his kingdom and this is what defines a faithful servant, as opposed to one who is not faithful.

And here Jesus says in verse 9, another principle: “…. And I tell you earn friends through the unjust riches so that when they are lacking you will be received in the eternal dwellings”. This man was astute in the sense that he knew that a day of reckoning was coming and while he could still have time, he went to the debtors and sliced their debts so that he could earn goodwill with them, so that when he was thrown out of his job he would be received in their homes and maybe be employed by them. He involved them in a collusion effort incredible, in an effort to steal money from the owner so that they could be implicated in this thing and he would have leverage on them when he left. He planned ahead, he planned for the future. You know what Jesus praised was not the man’s dishonesty, he praised the man’s foresight, his planning ahead, his not being consumed with the present crisis of the moment, and his willingness to look ahead and prepare the situation that was coming and be ready for it. Therein lies a huge teaching as well. You know many of us Christians are so consumed by the needs and the crisis and the tyranny of the urgent that we do not take time to plan about the future, and here lies one of the big problems of the people of God.

And this is what I’m saying and don’t jump to any theological conclusions yet. Theirs is something that is prevalent in scripture, particularly in Jesus’ teachings which is this: there is a connection, the nature of that connection we’re not sure of completely but there is a connection, a direction connection between how we behave with respect to money and possessions and gifts here, on this earth, and our situation in the coming life. Now let me back track a little bit and (…40:34….) I am not saying, I want you to realize that, I am not saying that salvation depends on anything that we do here on earth except accept Jesus Christ, that’s clear through the word. What the Bible is implying is that the other world, the coming life is not a sort of a one-dimensional life where everybody is the same, dresses the same and everybody gets a harp and a piece of a cloud to strum in to the rest of eternity. Eternity is going to be a very dynamic place, a place of responsibilities, without the pain, without the anxiety, a place of great creativity, a place of different degrees of glory and of reward. Yes, we will all be saved by Jesus Christ but the degree, I believe, in a mysterious sort of way, that I don’t even want to dwell too much into, that there will be different degrees of glory and attainment and satisfaction, if you will, depending on how we invest here on earth. And this is what is implied here when it says, you know “earn friends through unjust riches so that when they lack you will be received in the eternal dwellings”.

Let’s go to Luke 12, for example… because it is important that you understand exactly what I’m alluding to, theologically speaking. Luke 12, verse 33: it says “sell what you have, give alms, make yourself treasures that do not grow old, treasures in the heavens that do not die out, where thieves do not enter and neither is any sort of corruption”. In other words, store for heaven, invest for heaven, because as you do that there is much better promise of gain there than here. It is possible to affect heaven through what you do here. Again, all the details of that relationship are not given to us, but there is enough textual background to suggest that there is and that we should not overlook that very subtle connection between these two dimensions. I’m going to finish here at the risk of losing a lot of great stuff in this context, maybe I’ll continue next Sunday.

I don’t want to run the risk, as in the parable of the other unfaithful servant, that when the master comes and calls to an accounting each of the ones that he gave a talent to or more than one talent to, there are two I think it is, who were faithful or three, and there’s one who wasn’t and that one receives deep condemnation to the point that in the case of the parable he’s thrown out completely and I think the idea is there. Really anybody who has been touched by a salvation experience, who was consumed by gratitude towards Jesus who saved him, is going to be a giver, is going to be a committed person.

You know what I really want to cement in your heart, in your sensibility is this idea that for the rest of our lives, particularly us, who are in the kingdom, and those even who have a longer life to live, and many of us, like the young people who are here. You know we adopt this attitude wherever there’s a need in the kingdom, I am going to say: here I am Lord what do you need of me?, and I’m going to feel alluded, I’m going to feel directly implicated in whatever situation I need I come across throughout my years in this earth because I’m a member of the Kingdom of God and God has given me, and the more I give to God the more He gives me, that’s the beautiful thing about it, but we have to be committed. You know I want you to just commit to your heart to a giving life. Commit yourself to being a grateful giver, a joyful giver for the rest of your life and I tell you there’s no better life. There’s no life with more joy than that, I’m telling you right now, I am convinced of that, I have seen the Lord bless my life in the little bit that I’ve given him. I want to be blessed by this time of reflection on our giving life.

Let’s just lower our heads for a moment and just bow our heads and embrace this vision of a giving attitude. The Bible says that God loves the cheerful giver, the hilarious giver is really the implication in Greek, a giver who gives exorbitantly. He loves those people and He loves them so much that he blesses them beyond our wildest imagination.

Never let fear prevent you from giving to the Lord. Fear is one of the things that really freezes us many time. In that parable of the unfaithful servant, the second one, the unfaithful servant didn’t invest because he was afraid of losing and then incurring his owner’s anger and so he stayed unproductive, infertile because he was afraid. Let us never allow fear or timidity to control our giving life. It is a matter of the will. It is a matter of the principle faculty, it’s not a matter of emotions and circumstances. Just tell the Lord, Father I want to be a cheerful giver all my life. I want to give myself first of all. We embrace your call right now. We embrace your vision, Father. We rebuke the grasping mind, the one that attaches to things and to this world. We reject that mind. We give everything to you Father. We divest ourselves of everything right now in the mind and in the spirit and whatever you want to give back to us that’s what we will keep. Let us be managers that have integrity and that are wise and bless us in this journey, Father. Bless us in this journey and crown us with joy, Father. Thank you, Lord.

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