A Future Together
part 7

Click here to listen to this sermon.

Read Luke 16:1-15.
It’s been said that this is one of the hardest parables of Jesus to understand. It appears that Jesus is praising the crafty scoundrel who cheats his boss to provide for his own retirement.
The reason this parable has been misunderstood is the very problem Jesus is addressing in the parable: We’ve gotten our values turned upside down. We’ve made Jesus into an institution and taken the risk out of discipleship. We have substituted sacrifice for safety.
This has caused us to overlook the opportunities that God has placed before us – in some cases literally. Why? Because God has opened doors and instead of rushing through with vision, purpose and enthusiasm, we’ve tip-toed carefully as if we were entering a haunted house. Why would we be so timid when our Father is the one holding the door open? [Maybe we’ve assumed that Jesus is behind us rather than out in front blazing the trail].

I don’t think this parable is so hard to understand. Jesus isn’t making an example of this fellow, but he is making a contrast. He’s saying, if the people of the world are so shrewd, motivated, and passionate then how much more should we be creative and motivated about God’s purposes?

Here’s what Jesus is teaching:

  1. You need to use your resources like children of light
  2. You need to make friends – you need to be neighbors
  3. You need to trust your Master – and he’ll trust you
  4. You need to get God’s values

Jesus is teaching us this same lesson. He’s delivering it to this congregation. The people of the world “get it ...”

  1. Did you know that Wal-Mart has an Emergency Operations Center. They do; and they watch the weather in the entire United States and they pack trucks in the distribution centers accordingly because they have calculated down to details what people consume after a weather situation. Case in point: The company had 45 trucks in Brookhaven, MS full of goods loaded and ready for delivery before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Wal-Mart gets it.

  2. The corporations are interested in our kids. "You've got to reach kids throughout the day -- in school, as they're shopping at the mall, or at the movies," says a senior vice president at Grey Advertising. "You've got to become part of the fabric of their lives." Why? Because they care or because they are selling something. Are we saying we should adopt their methods? No, I don’t think kids need to be inundated with advertising, but the corporations are shrewd and motivated. The corporations get it.

  3. The crackdown on cold medicine at the local pharmacy has made it difficult for the mom and pop American methamphetamine labs to get ahead. But the meth industry hasn’t been slowed down. They’ve outsourced to Mexico. Crystal meth, known as Ice, is manufactured in superlabs out of the country and delivered to the U.S. That’s shrewd. That’s motivation. Meth dealers get it. (Unfortunately)
“It is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.”

I say all of this so that we might really open our eyes and pay attention to what’s going on all around us. And for now I think it is right for us to pay attention to our neighbor. I mean West-Ark’s neighbor right across the street. For the last 30 years, our congregation has met here at Grand and Waldron. We come together and learn, we eat together, we listen to preaching and we take our communion. In all that time, Westark Community College has grown into the University of Arkansas Fort Smith. They have become a more traditional campus with on-campus housing. UAFS is growing and will be a force for development in this region.

Is this an opportunity? Don’t you think that Jesus is expecting us to be more creative, attentive, and motivated than anyone else in an effort to be a good neighbor and a source of light to the people who make up the UA Fort Smith community?

Practical Suggestions:

  1. We already have the facilities (sort of). Most campus ministries build an outreach center near to the campus so that the church will have a presence on-campus. We’re already here. Most congregations would love to have our situation. Some of our well-intentioned efforts to build a ministry off campus have not worked out. Rather than lament that, let’s get creative and motivated. Our challenge isn’t to build somewhere else off site. Our challenge is to rethink the way we use these facilities. Can we invite and integrate others? It means using our resources not just for ourselves, but to make friends – or better yet to use our resources as friends.

  2. Won't you be my neighbor? - So how can we be good neighbors? What makes good neighbors? People you know and trust. People who show kindness and respect. People who share. Every Monday through Saturday college students and faculty park in this lot. More people from out of town will be moving into Sebastian Commons in the fall. Who will cross Waldron Road and welcome them, help them, show some concern? Who will be here to welcome, chat, have a meal when they come across the street ...? The campus minister ...?

  3. The congregation is the key. Leaving all of this to the campus minister is a mistake. As much of a mistake as leaving all the evangelism, preaching, teaching, and leading to me. Our CM leads us. He doesn't do this for us, he is not our proxy. He can coach and guide us so that we can be “smarter” in what we do, but we have to integrate the students into our life here. (Aggies for Christ – What is it that they’re doing? A & M Church of Christ is the key. They have made it a focus of their life and mission to minister to A & M)

  4. Such a Time as This – The goal of college was to develop people who lead noble lives. That has been too much set aside for commercial, market concerns. The main concern now is to graduate people who have a chance at getting a good career. But there’s still something about that transitional stage of life. It is the time when we are establishing our independence as young adults and taking what we’ve been taught and putting it into practice – or it is a time when we are really searching to understand the purpose and calling of our lives.

I love to tell stories of churches that get it. One day I want to tell the story of how a church on the corner of Grand and Waldron in the first decade of the 21st got it – and they responded to an opportunity that was placed right before them.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 13 April 2008

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin