Our Stewardship: To Share God’s Mercy and Compassion to the World
“Our Stewardship: To Share God’s Mercy & Compassion to the World
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(22nd Anniversary of the Consecration of Archbishop Hines)
September 18, 2016
Readings: Amos 8:4-12, Psalm 138
We have been sharing the truth of the Gospel as we’ve received it for 38 years, progressing more and more in the knowledge of God through the years, and realizing how great God is – His love, mercy and grace. Today we celebrate 22 years of my consecration as bishop and all the glory belongs to God.
The Gospel for today can bring a bit of confusion if you don’t go back to the very beginning – to Genesis. The Gospel tells of the story of an unrighteous steward and his master. It was reported to the master that the steward was taking from him and squandering his possessions. So the master summoned him and demanded an accounting of his management. The steward was in a quandary, asking himself, “What shall I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.” What the steward did was to summon each of his master’s debtors and collected from them some of what they owed the master. This gained the praise of the master because the unrighteous steward acted shrewdly. But how could he have earned the praise of his master when he stole from his master and stole some more (by not collecting the full amount of what the debtors owed the master)?
To understand this, we have to go back to Genesis when God created everything. As Creator, He is the Master. He owns everything and all that we have is from Him. When He created man, He equipped man to be fruitful and multiply, and to rule and reign over all creation. He instructed man to cultivate and keep the Garden and everything that was in it. This is stewardship. God gave the world to man to oversee. We look at Adam; he didn’t have a care in the world. God gave him everything he would ever need and he was in-charge of everything. He didn’t need clothing – he didn’t have to worry about what to wear or if his clothing matched with his shoes. He didn’t worry about what to eat. God provided him with everything. He cultivated the land and gave all that his Master expected of him. When Eve came along and the enemy tempted them with the thought that they could be like God, they succumbed. They didn’t realize that they were already like God. They had a kingdom to rule. It was a deception that man fell into. Since that fall, man has become selfish and self-centered, thinking only of himself. Now we want the best for ourselves – expensive brands in clothing, beautiful homes and cars, gadgets, etc. Now we cover in shame what God has given us. Today, we continue to allow the enemy to deceive us when we think that we need possessions, the best education, fame and fortune to complete us when God has already given us everything pertaining to life and godliness.
So from today’s Gospel, we examine ourselves and ask: having been given everything by God, do we, in turn, give to Him what’s due Him? When we don’t, we’re actually stealing from God who gave us our life, strength, talent and the resources in our hands. We think all the good we’re enjoying is because of our hard work and when life is good, we forget God. By telling us the story of the steward and his master, isn’t God calling our attention to the fact that the world is waiting for redemption from us? What this is saying to us is that as we have been blessed by God, we have the responsibility to those around us to help them reduce their debt to God; by showing them how. There is a battle today: the wealthy vs. the poor. The poor are just like the wealthy – both were created by God; both have hearts that were saved by Christ. So why do we put the poor down? They need our care and attention. This is why Paul asks us to pray for all men (1Timothy 2:1), even the corrupt and unrighteous “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” and because “this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”. These are the people who have obligations to God because of their rebellion, as we read in Amos 8. Amos spoke of the wealthy who were cheating and stealing from the needy. God said these people were trampling the needy. The “needy” being referred to here is not limited to those who are materially poor, but also covers those who don’t know God and are lost; those who are hurting and don’t know who to turn to for comfort; those who live unrighteous lives because they don’t know any better. We should not condemn others just because we think we know God and they don’t, or because we think we know God more than they do. God desires for us to take care of the people, especially the needy. This is our stewardship – we reach out and care for the poor and the needy. Next Sunday’s Gospel is about the rich man and Lazarus. In the story, the rich man was thinking only about his present life, not seeing that he also has to prepare himself for the hereafter. When we fulfill our stewardship faithfully by caring for the poor and the needy, we are preparing ourselves for eternal life with God.
People should see us as having compassion, and this will separate us from others. When Janie and I went to the US for our grandchild’s high school graduation, she took a lot of pictures. She loves taking pictures and wants to have them printed so she can share them. So we went to a department store so she can get the pictures printed while I went around. When we were done and were lined up at the cashier, there was a man who kept looking at us. Finally, he got the nerve to approach me and told me that he’s been following me around the store because he could smell my perfume and he wants to know what it is so he could get a bottle for himself. I share that because I want to drive the point that our life should be such a sweet-smelling aroma that people will seek us out and follow us because we’re different. This should be who we are in character because God is in us and He has empowered us to be like Him. God has given us gifts, and if we develop these gifts, we will be able to do a lot for His Kingdom. People will follow us because of the peace, joy and strength they see in us.
We need to be able to tell people about God. We need to help people experience His mercy and compassion. This is what I need to share with you today. We need to prepare for the future. We need to pay attention to what God is teaching us through His Word and not spending too much time listening to the world. When I was younger, back in the town where I grew up, people made their living in car-making. Today, everything is about computers and everybody wants to work with computers. The world is constantly changing. God’s Word is the only thing that doesn’t change. God is our Source. I’m telling you this so you can reduce your debt to the Master. We do this by taking care of others, instead of focusing on ourselves. May God guide us and cause us to be shrewd (as the master in the Gospel praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly, “for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light”), so that God can be glorified. Christ has paid our debt. May we give Him the honor and glory. We’re here to celebrate because of Christ who paid our debt and gave us freedom.