Frank had always loved nice stuff, but as an employee of FEMA for 32 years most of these things were unaffordable. Things had changed recently, though. His co-workers first noticed the new iPod. Then it was the new clothes, the week-long luxury cruise, and even the new car. Everyone figured it was a mid-life crisis; they had seen it before in others.
His co-worker, Matt, was suspicious, though. He peered into some of Frank’s expense account records, and he discovered a number of charges that he didn’t think were legitimate.
The next morning, Frank’s boss called him in. Frank was told that he had 24 hours to give an accounting for a long list of questionable expenditures.
Frank went pale. His hands got sweaty. As he walked back to his office, he knew he was in trouble. There was no way he could legitimize those charges. He knew that he would be fired tomorrow.
“What am I going to do?” Frank said to himself. “How will I find another job? I’m 54. I don’t want to take unemployment or welfare, and I don’t want to work at McDonalds.
He got an idea. He had friends. If he didn’t have his job anymore, he still had his friends. He started the plan in motion. He quickly arranged for five of them to receive generous hurricane relief checks and made sure that they were sent by the end of the day. He called his friends and told them to expect a little extra money because he was able to pull some strings.
The next day Frank turned in the feeble explanation of his expense reports. He was fired within the hour. Fortunately, Frank had some very grateful friends. One of them got Frank a new job with a higher salary. One of them paid Frank’s mortgage for three months.
Four weeks later Frank was called back into FEMA by his former boss. The fraudulent hurricane relief checks had been discovered. His boss went on about how immoral Frank’s actions were, but suddenly he stopped short. He said, “I’ve been thinking. Let’s keep this between us. I’m suspending any charges against you.”
Frank was stunned. He said, “Really? Why?”
Frank’s boss said, “Let’s just say I’ve never seen such a display of shrewdness before.”
The story you just heard may sound strange and slightly familiar at the same time. It is my attempt at modernizing one of the parables Jesus told — the Parable of the Shrewd Manager:
"Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ "‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." Luke 16"1-9
This parable has been defined by many as one of the most problematic of Jesus’ parables. It raises a number of questions. Why would Jesus want us to follow the example of someone who cheats his master? How would you like it if someone taught your kid to imitate the practices of Bernie Madoff.
Perhaps the one thing more problematic than not understanding it is understanding it!
The most problematic thing, however, is not the story. The biggest surprise is that Jesus uses this story as a positive example for His followers. Jesus says through this parable and the following verses that we should be shrewd like the manager. But instead of being shrewd for our own interests, we must be shrewd for God.
We are all managers.
As managers, we are to use our resources for God with effort and imagination.
Shrewdness can be difficult to define. For some of us, shrewdness brings up images of shady car salesmen, politicians, and businesspeople. To be shrewd, however, means to use your resources with effort and imagination. Shrewdness is not a negative thing in itself. What matters is how we use our shrewdness. We must be shrewd for God.
Unfortunately, sometimes we Christians are not shrewd. Many Christians put much more effort and imagination into teaching in “real schools” than in teaching Sunday school. Some of us haphazardly run committee meetings in a way that would never fly in the secular world. We may present the Gospel to others with little thought and imagination.
Shrewd = Clever and Creative and Conscientious – in today’s words – “think out of the box”
I. Shrewdness Is Knowing Who’s My BOSS, Vv. 1-2
HERE’S THE PROBLEM: We forget that we are accountable until we are called to give account!
When I understand I have to answer to God for my choices and decisions, I will try harder to please God.
Shrewd people practice openness and accountability - HERE’S THE “OUT OF THE BOX” IDEA – LIVE UNDER ACCOUNTABILITY – NO SECRET or SHADOWS
Accountability is one thing we desperately need the most, and the one thing we most resist. We need support. Some things in life are just too hard to do on your own. We need people to come along side of us and encourage us. Whether you are dieting, or exercising, or trying to change a bad habit in your life—we all need people in our lives to support us, encourage us, and to ask us some hard questions about whether we are really following through on our commitment to change.
People who rarely go to church—1 out of 4 of them admit that they have talked to their friends about personal struggles. Do you know how many Christians have do that? 1 out of every 8.
Christians don’t talk about a lot of stuff that really matters in our day to day lives: Sex, money, parenting, jobs. Let’s pop the top off our dirty little secrets and start holding each other accountable. Let’s start encouraging and edifying one another; life and money troubles are just to hard to go at it alone.
Accountability requires being vulnerable enough to allow someone to explore your habits, priorities and neglect. Chuck Swindoll for example, has seven questions that he and a group of fellow pastors challenge each other with regularly:
1. Have you been inappropriate with a member of the opposite sex this past week ?
2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
3. Have you looked at any sexually explicit material?
4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?
5. Have you given priority time to your spouse or family?
6. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your spiritual calling?
7. Have you just lied to me?
Listen to this news clipping. “Gambling, robbery, sexual immorality, and violence is prevalent. Half of all children are born out of wedlock; purity and fidelity to the marriage vow are sneered out of fashion. Corruption in politics is rampant. The world is broken.” This clipping is from 1694.
It was in this time that John Wesley began preaching to the poor, a message of new life through the free grace of Christ. His message was one of assurance and the power of the Spirit. He taught that while sin remained it could not reign. In addition to a great preacher Wesley was an organizer, and those who accepted Jesus as Lord where put into bands. In these bands people strived to put scripture into practice and they called it holiness. Wesley had a great deal of observers, but his goal was to bring them to obedience of Christ
They called their small group ministry “Bands” and these bands helped bring England, into a great awakening. These groups did not look much like a Bible study. They usually asked a few questions, we would probably look at the questions and call them accountability groups
AS WESLEYANS - ACCOUNTABILITY IS US! WILL YOU BE ACCOUNTABLE?
II. Shrewdness Is Knowing What’s My BUSINESS, Vv. 3-8
HERE’S THE PROBLEM: We don’t work as hard for God as we do for our own interests.
HERES THE “OUT OF THE BOX IDEA” - When I understand who my Boss is, I realize I mind my business for Him as I would work for my own benefit.
A parable is told of a community of ducks waddling off to duck church one Sunday to hear their duck preacher. After they waddled into the duck sanctuary, the service began and the duck preacher spoke eloquently of how God had given the ducks wings with which to fly. He pounded the pulpit with his beak and said, ”With these wings, there is nowhere we ducks can not go! There is no God-given task we ducks cannot accomplish!
With these wings we no longer need walk through life- we can soar high in the sky!
Shouts of Amen!¨ were quacked throughout the duck congregation.
The duck preacher concluded his message by exclaiming, With our wings we can fly through life! WE......CAN.....FLY!!!!” ¨ More ducks quacked out loud AMENS! in response.
Every duck loved the service. In fact all the ducks that were present commented on what a wonderfully convicting message they had heard from their duck preacher..……and then they left the church and waddled all the way home.
APPLICATION - Too often We waddle away from worship the same way we waddled in....
AS WESLEYANS LIFE-CHANGE IS US! WE CHANGE TO BE CHANGERS!
III. Shrewdness Is Knowing The BIG PICTURE, V. 9
HERE’S THE PROBLEM: If we don’t hold ourselves accountable, we get self-centered, and when we get self-centered we forget about eternity.
THE “OUT OF THE BOX IDEA” - What is more shrewd than finding a way to give eternal significance to temporary things?
A pilot's flying over a mountainous terrain, and as he's flying, he looks down to see two vehicles driving down the highway.
The first vehicle is a semi-trailer, pulling his load up and down that ol' highway. The second vehicle is a sports car driven by a guy who's got better things to do than be stuck behind a semi that can't always maintain the speed limit up the mountain grades.
Well, what the pilot can see that the drivers can't is that there is no traffic coming the other way. The car could easily pass the truck with no danger.
The problem is that neither the truck nor the car driver can see that. They can only see what's immediately in front of them.
They can't see the big picture.
You see, we only see things from the perspective of the created, not the Creator. We don't see the big picture. Only God does. You have to be tuned into Him so you can see what He sees!
Examine your own life and determine how you can increase your shrewdness for God Look at how God is calling you to serve him and review your resources.
Be shrewd for God
SEE THE BIG PICTURE – USE TEMPORARY THINGS TO GET ETERNAL RESULTS! What could be more shrewd than that?
During the Revolutionary War, a loyalist spy appeared at the headquarters of Hessian commander Colonel Johann Rall, carrying an urgent message. General George Washington and his Continental army had secretly crossed the Delaware River that morning and were advancing on Trenton, New Jersey where the Hessians were encamped. The spy was denied an audience with the commander and instead wrote his message on a piece of paper. A porter took the note to the Hessian colonel, but because Rall was involved in a poker game he stuffed the unread note into his pocket. When the guards at the Hessian camp began firing their muskets in a futile attempt to stop Washington’s army, Rall was still playing cards. Without time to organize, the Hessian army was captured. The battle occurred the day after Christmas, 1776, giving the colonists a late present--their first major victory of the war.
THIS ONE HESSIAN COLONEL CAUGHT PLAYING CHANGED HISTORY!
HOW COULD YOU CHANGE IF YOU WERE SHREWDLY ACCOUNTABLE?
WHAT IF YOU WERE SHREWD IN FAITH AS IN BUSINESS?
WHAT IF YOU MADE SHREWD DECISIONS BASED ON ETERNITY?