Are you managing your gifts well?

“So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

—Luke 16:5-13 (NRSV)

In times of crisis, God often appears where we least expect God to be, coming to us “from below” to give His people help and aid. There are a lot of crises in Luke’s Gospel that include receiving help from unexpected places – the Jewish traveler left for dead along the road who is saved by a Samaritan; the rich man who begs for help from Lazarus, the slave he ignored; this manager now suddenly dependent on those who used to look to him for loans. Throughout the story of Jesus, God regularly shows up in those places where we least expect God to be so that we are not tempted to put our faith in the wrong place.

Perhaps that is the most significant message of this passage: we are placed on this earth to love and care for each other, not to separate ourselves from each other with wealth, status, or privilege. St. Augustine, a prominent figure in the early church, once said that “God gave us people to love and things to use, and original sin manifests itself in our ability to confuse those two, loving things and using people.”

photo of Carson King wearing plaid shirt decorated with small Iowa State logo.

Jesus is speaking about relationships in this passage. The relationship people have with money and material possessions, and the relationships people have with others. I honestly can’t think of a better recent example of prioritizing these types of relationships than what we have been following in Iowa news the end of last month. The irony is that it all started as a joke. Carson King, a 24 year-old Iowa State football fan made a sign that he brought to the live, national coverage of ESPN’s Gameday show on September 14th. Located right behind the stage, he held a sign that said his beer supply needed replenished, and he included his profile name and the name of the online money transferring portal he used. Over the course of a couple of hours, his sign was regularly seen during the broadcast. People across the country saw his request, and to Carson’s surprise, they started to actually give him money. It was when he reached a total of $600 that he decided to donate the money to charity, specifically the Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. When he announced this decision, it only made more people give, and continue to give, and then Anheuser-Busch and Venmo, the online money transferring platform, both committed to matching the grand total at the end of September to the hospital. Between the money he had received after a week, and the promised matching funds, more than $1 million and growing will be donated. I do not know Carson. I do not know his family or anything about his upbringing. I do not know about his faith. What I do know is that this young man has made his relationship with others in this instance a greater priority than his relationship with money and material possessions. He used his visibility and what started as a joke, much to his mother’s chagrin, to benefit children and families in deep need of hope and care. I’m sure he’s not a perfect person, and neither are you nor I, but I think we can agree that what he’s doing is pretty incredible—truly a blessing to others he doesn’t even know. This is a story of managing an unexpected resource that he recognizes must be shared with others. Now imagine if you were in his position. Because, actually you are. God has given you gifts, talents, abilities, and resources to share with others. These are yours to manage. The question Jesus is asking you today in this passage is, “Where do your priorities lie in managing your gifts from God?” There is nothing wrong with being successful. But does your success bear witness to Christ’s ministry and mission? If you’re not sure, ask yourself, “Who was Jesus and what did he do?” Let that be your starting place.

photo credit: The Daily Iowan

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