C Cycle – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
I remember a Gallup poll in the mid-nineties about religions impact on society. The reason I remember it was because early in my ministry I developed an interest in how societal trends impact us as Christians and how we as Christians can impact society. The conclusion of that survey revealed active participating Christians are impacted by society in direct opposition to their Christian beliefs. We cheat on our spouses and on our taxes. We disobey the laws, and we lie, cheat, steal and all of this at the same rate as non-Christians. It revealed how society has a stronger influence on us than our faith.
If you think about it, this parable spoken by Jesus two thousand years ago is directed at how the steward failed to live up to a standard demanded of any steward. Hs job was to grow the master’s property, investments, and reputation. His job was not to maintain what he was given but grow it. He has obviously failed and according to the parable he has “squandered” the master’s property. He has failed because he was distracted, or misguided, or failed to understand what he was given.
It is just as easy for us to quickly think about the parable of the talents (Mt.25), but this parable is revealing something deeper than just multiplying what God has given us. This parable goes deeper than just giving back as it invites us to stop and reflect on how our faith impacts every area of our lives.
Each of us move through differing stages of life and looking back we can easily enumerate our missed investment opportunities. That is not the issue for the real question we need to face is “are we squandering the gift of forgiveness” given to us by God. All too often, our spiritual life has been influenced by how those around us and how they will react to our belief in God. Concern for how others view us causes us to live cautiously and by being cautiously, we fail to live our faith in a way that influences others to desire what we have received.
Jesus is challenging us to outwardly expose our faith to those who could impact our relationships, our future income, our employment, job growth or any other aspect of our lives. It is easier to suppress our belief in God than to stand firm in our faith.
This parable goes to the heart of who we are. Are we disciples who believe or are we like Nicodemus who sought out Jesus at night so no one would know. This parable goes deeper than just job status, it involves relationships, acceptance or rejection and exclusion. It takes a strong faith and trust to stand firm in the face of ridicule and rejection.
Recently our men’s ministry had a group of men watch the movie “Woodlawn.” If you have not seen it, you must watch it because it is a perfect example of how we need to respond to this parable. It is a perfect example of how allowing your faith to be the source of all you do and all you say. It shows how a life of faith can and should impact one individual, a group of people, an entire school and an entre town. It is not easy to be a visible believer in Christ as Lord. It is not easy to acknowledge God as the answer to all we long for all the while knowing your witness to that jeopardizes all you dream of attaining.
There is another lesson in this parable, and it is how the steward responds when he realizes he has lost everything by his lack of attention to what his master expected of him. He became focused, immediately energized to protect his future, and avoid total disaster. He starts making deals with the debtors of the master. The theologians disagree on what was transpiring when he began reducing what they owed the master. Some experts say he was giving up his commission, his cut for collecting the debt in a timely manner.
Ohers say he was giving away the master’s money and compounding his failures. But since his master praises him for his prudence it does seem he was giving up his commission to gain favor with the debtors. Interesting how he responded once he realized his future was in jeopardy. He used his ability to direct his attention to things that would help him survive. How easily we turn to the world instead of applying ourselves to being the best version of who God created us to be.
This parable is not about us giving our time, talent, and treasure to the church. This is about us being stewards of God’s grace. We are squandering the gift of salvation by suppressing our spiritual lives while in the presence of others. Paul tells us to have our minds renewed, our eyes opened and have our hearts touched by God. To have God do that we need to be present to him, not just in church but in our homes, our workplace and where we play. If we must begin to exercise our “spiritual stewardship” outside these walls.
Jesus is challenging all who profess him as the Christ, to allow what he did on the cross to influence everything we do, every minute of every day. If we can do that, we will multiply our ability to love, to forgive and to influence others. If we do not, then that survey of thirty years ago by Gallup will remain valid in how the world views Christians. If our faith does not change us, then why would anyone be interested in what Christianity offers?
The truth is the world needs a revival of faith and those in the world need to experience Christians who are living in a manner that gives those seeking hope. Because hope can easily turn into faith which is a confident assurance that our God is always with us. The world needs believers whose lives are full of joy even amid great tragedy we do manifest a belief in God’s goodness and his ability to work good in all circumstances. It needs stewards who understand God’s grace versus a people who deal in the things offered us by the world.