After the Sermon-Assume Responsibility for the Present Luke 12: 41-48

Family and Consumer SciencesHome economics is what most of us called the class when we went to school.  Now, it is called Family and Consumer Sciences.  It is a formal study and includes such topics as consumer education, institutional management, interior design, home furnishing, cleaning, handicrafts, sewing, clothing and textiles, commercial and home cooking, nutrition, food preservation, hygiene, child development, managing money, and family relationships.  The discipline teaches students how to properly run a family environment and make the world a better place for generations to come.

Jesus thinks it’s a worthy field of study; using home economic concepts as a basis for a parable on human responsibility.  He asks; “Who’s the faithful and prudent manager, whom the master puts in charge to give the food allowance at the proper time?‘Oikonomos’ is the for the word manager.  It comes from a combination of two Greek words: ‘oikos’ meaning household and ‘nomos’ meaning law or rule. The word transliterates to household law.  This word gives us our word economist.  Literally, the word means, one who sets the rules of the household; speaking of a person that sees that the household run smoothly and everyone is taken care of properly.House Steward

In the parable, Jesus uses this word to describe the job of a steward who would do the job the way the master would want things done while the master is away. Jesus says, “Blessed is the steward whom the master finds at work upon returning.”  Jesus assumes the best and offers his blessing on this steward who had assumed the responsibility needed each day.  God is not looking for us to mess up, so we can be judged, God stands ready to affirm faithfulness with spoken and actual blessings.

This faithful steward becomes a ruthless steward after the master delays returning home.  He grows too fond of those checks coming in the mailbox to take care of the household; perhaps taking his share and cutting back on what is offered to others in the household.  When they complain, he takes them out to the woodshed; thinking there will be no reckoning for his actions.  The steward must have been surprised when the master returned and turned the tables and serves him up for dinner to the dogs.

Not my jobPeter asked if Jesus was speaking to just the disciples or to everyone; wondering; who is this responsibility parable addressed.  Peter is asking, “Are you talking to me”.  Usually when we ask that question we want to be excused from responsibility.  We are well schooled in the passive aggressive response, “Not my job, I am not the one in charge around here.”

Nelson Mandela is fond of saying, “Your playing small doesn’t serve the world well.”  We play small when we under appreciate that each of us are God’s stewards who have something to offer and influence to share.  This parable does speak a word of warning to leaders who are tempted to look after their needs instead of leading by serving.  None of us are exempt from these words, each of us can contribute in differing degrees and at different times.  In each present moment, we are to be responsible stewards.

There is a false humility that excuses inaction; choosing to believe the myth of our insignificance.  Playing to our insignificance is a selfish attitude for it fools us into thinking we only need to look out for me.  That inward turn puts us in the position of only being concerned for my achievements and watching out only for my possessions.  Our imaginary insignificance gets us off the hook of being responsible for what we can offer with what we have or we’re able to give for the sake of others.False Humility

When Jimmy Carter returned to Plains, Georgia after completing his time in the Navy, Rosalynn and he opened a small business.  The leading men of Plains stopped by the shop to enroll him in the White Citizen’s Council.  It was assumed, at that time, you would be a member if you wanted to succeed in town.  Carter repeatedly told them no.  He suffered the lies that others told.  Some said he was a communist and others boycotted his business.  Carter took a stand at great personal and family risk.  But, Carter was being a good steward of his influence, particularly at that present time.

Jimmy Carter at ChurchJimmy Carter has repeatedly said he learned lessons of responsibility in his Baptist Sunday School class from teachers who had no idea what ideas he was embracing.  He applied the lesson that Jesus loves all the little children and God has the whole world in his hands as he made decisions that influenced others.  We’re to do the same in the boardroom, classroom or locker room.  We have power; the question is how will we use that power.

One day, Lauren, our daughter, saw I had a box of cookies in hand and asked for one.  I handed her a cookie and the youngest daughter, Erin looked at me with hound dogs eyes.  So, I gave the box to Lauren and instructed her to share the few cookies left with Erin.  Lauren figured that wasn’t enough for her appetite and her sister’s too; so, she ate the rest.  I soon heard the cries of protest and hastened back to the kitchen to deal with this case of irresponsible stewardship.Refusing to Share

The box of cookies is a good metaphor when thinking about being a steward of what we can offer.  We may have more or less than a half empty box of cookies, but we’re equally responsible for the sharing of our talents and treasures.  We’re simply look at what we hold in our hand and examine how we using it for the sake of others on this present day.  We’re not to wait to we get more cookies or a new box, this is the only moment we have.  Simply, take some time at this rail today or at your desk tomorrow and make mental or actual list of three things within your grasp, which you offer at this present time because you feel responsible to another person.

Being responsible for the present is the hardest easiest thing we can do.  It is easy because what is needed is obvious.  The hard part is making the changes in our life that cause us to actually step up to the plate and take on real responsibility.  How does do the hard thing that can easily be done?

Fair ShareIt happens when students make a decision to welcome new students who are having an awkward time adjusting to a new school.  It happens when a co-worker offers to go the second mile for the sake of another co-worker.  It happens when a retired person shows up at the local school, hospital, or community center and offers professional expertise.  It happens when church members can show up in the office and ask where I can help.  The list of opportunities is endless, or as Jesus said the harvest is plentiful.

God does supply our needs, but God does that through faithful stewards.  We live in a world where every person doesn’t get everything they need while others have access to more than enough.  God depends on us to see to fair distribution.  So, we are to consider carefully what we do and say to insure we are being good stewards of what we have.

Dean Ragsdale runs a steel fabrication business.  As a responsible business person, he kept his ear tuned to the community.  When he heard the number one issue holding back parents in poverty was affordable day care, he approached his church and was sure the expertise in the existing preschool could address this issue.  Not knowing a single thing about day care, Dean led the charge to open a day care that now has three satellites where no one pays more than $40.00 a week.  New Hope Day care was born because someone assumed responsibility for the present challenge.

Some preachers have abused this text to collect money; causing them to be guilty of using the pulpit to feather his or her nest.  Stewardship has little to do with collecting funds for charity.  Stewardship has more to do with doing what is just and right in a responsible way each day for the sake of others with what we have been blessed with in this life.Stewardship a Way of Life

The parable suggests God gives pass fail grades in Home Economics or Family and Consumer Sciences in the Kingdom of God.  Some might think this text is a rather harsh.  Failing to be a good steward not only deprives others of what they need, but also damages our souls.

Cecil Sherman the longtime pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Ft Worth addressed this text saying, “When I preach on giving, I am just trying to deliver people of that which if held too tightly would send them straight to &^*#.”  In his own salty way he cuts to the chase.  So does Jesus at the end of the parable saying the unfaithful steward was cut into pieces as cast off with the other unbelievers.  These words make us think that sometimes Jesus takes this stewardship stuff much too seriously.  Surely, he cannot mean it, can he?

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