Exhortation, January 25

Exhortation for January 25:

Jesus concluded the parable of the “unjust steward” by saying, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Though Jesus’ words have a particular application to the Pharisees of His own day, He states a principle here that applies throughout the ages and in many different realms.

The specific application that Jesus makes here is in our use of money, what he calls “unrighteous mammon.” “Mammon” is a Greek transliteration of an Aramaic word that meant wealth, possessions, or property. The Aramaic word at the root of the word “Mammon” means “trust,” and indicates that possessions bring security and protection.

If Mammon is, as Jesus says, “unrighteous,” then it might seem that we should avoid it altogether. We should sell all our goods and give what we have to the poor. But that is not what Jesus says here. Jesus says that our use of “unrighteous wealth” is a crucial test of whether we are fit for more valuable possessions, whether we are fit to be stewards of the kingdom of heaven. Instead of telling us to get rid of our wealth, Jesus says that our decisions about money and possessions are never merely decisions about money and possessions. They are decisions about the direction and aims of our life. They reveal something deep about our character. I read recently about a psychiatrist who had noticed that his patients were far more willing to talk about their sexual sins than about their financial difficulties and mistakes. Sex was considered “public” information, but money was treated as a zone of privacy. Our possessions are very much a part of us, and when someone else starts prying into our checkbook or someone robs us, we feel it almost as a rape. But Jesus doesn’t leave our checkbooks alone. Jesus is Lord of all, and He is Lord of all our possessions. And He says that our checkbooks are good tests of our qualification to handle “true riches.”

There are many other applications: Each of us has been given not only material goods but also gifts, talents, and tasks, and our faithfulness in those little things is a test and a training ground for faithfulness in larger things. This is a constant pattern in Scripture. Before Joseph was exalted to be a ruler over Egypt, he had labored as a servant in the house of Potipher and had proven himself by his faithful service in prison. Before Moses led Israel from Egypt, he served as a shepherd to Jethro’s flocks. Before David was exalted to the throne of Israel, he spent years as a shepherd, and then as a fugitive leader of a band of warriors. All the great heroes of Scripture were trained to be faithful in small things before receiving responsibility for great things.

And we are called to follow their example, because it is also the example of Jesus. Children, you have been given various tasks and chores around the house. As you do those things well, you are learning to be faithful in larger things. And God will eventually give you more important things to do. You have to obey rules that you may not understand, but if you are obedient in those little things, the Lord is preparing you for greater things.

And to the working men and women of the congregation: No job is too small or too menial to be honorable before God, and no matter how small or how unimportant your work may seem, it is a training ground for greater responsibility and greater riches. Be faithful as you work on the assembly line, as you wait tables, as you change diapers, as you finish your school assignments, as you make those aggravating telemarketing calls to unsuspecting strangers, as you do whatever you are doing. Do little things you do with a whole heart, faithfully, as to the Lord. And trust that God will give you greater things to do.

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