If you have been reading my devotions for a while now, you know that I talk often about my two children and what they teach me about God and my faith journey. Today will be no different as a moment with my children hit me in a funny and convicting way of all places while trick or treating.
Earlier on Sunday morning, I had prepared a Pastoral Prayer that quite literally asked God to show us what it means to be generous and joyous through our children; but how quickly I forgot my own words. Sunday night was Halloween and so let me paint a picture for you. My beautiful Princess Ariel and my handsome gruff Pirate began their trick-or-treating journey in our own neighborhood around 5pm. My parents had come over to enjoy the experience and to watch how quickly they got the hang of going door to door saying, “Trick-or-Treat!” Our youngest learned within about 3 houses that the faster he runs from one door to the next, the more candy he will receive, and if he is friendly enough to our neighbors and hugs them, he may even get an extra candy in his bag. After almost 45 minutes of this, we got in the car and headed to a friend’s neighborhood to walk around with them. By this time it was 6PM and Emmaline and Charlie already had 1/3 of their bags filled. When we met our friends in their driveway, my children immediately noticed that their children’s bags were empty and so they each reached into their own bags and pulled out 5-6 pieces of candy to give to the other two kids. You would have thought that I would have been so very proud of their generosity, but I got caught up in the moment when I saw my favorite sour candy being surrendered to these other children. “Wait,” I said, “those are mommy’s favorite candy…”
How quickly I had forgotten my prayer from morning worship. How quickly I grew selfish. How quickly I made it about me.
Maybe you can remember a time like this in your own life. Can you picture what your own children looked like when they first discovered how much fun trick-or-treating can be? Do you remember going house to house and greeting your neighbors along the way? Maybe you used to look forward to the time at the end when all of the candy was combined and the parents secretly figured out which candy they would sneak out of the bag while the children were sleeping (no judgment, we all do it). And can you remember a time in your life past the holiday traditions when your children showed you the generous face of Jesus when you needed to see it most?
These moments happen for me more times than I care to admit. And so, as we look again at our Scripture from Sunday (Luke 16), what might God be teaching us that the youngest amongst us understand and practice intuitively that we grownups can learn from?
As you re-read Luke 16:1-13 again, I challenge you to look for a “glass-half-full” interpretation of the dishonest steward. His title alone, I admit, made me almost discount the story altogether, but the Gospel writer includes it for a reason. While as parents and grandparents; partners and friends, we want to encourage honesty and trustworthiness in all of our relationships, the character of the trickster is a part of Jewish folklore and stories from the Bible (see the story of Jacob and Esau if you need a reminder). And so why is it included here, right after the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the Prodigal (lost) son? I believe it is to evoke the sense of urgency one feels if they lose their sheep, or their income, or their child. One commentator wrote of this passage,
“the parable turns on the steward’s shrewd response to the urgency of his situation and invites hearers to understand that they are likewise in the midst of a crisis that demands an urgent decision if a disaster is to be avoided.”
In Jesus’ parables, stewards are expected to invest the talents that were placed in their safekeeping, and when they are faithful, then they are given even greater responsibilities.
One of my favorite preaching professors, Fred Craddock wrote this on the Scripture. He said that very few of us will get to do things that are so very important that they get recorded in history, but those of us living in the day-to-day will have more humble ways to be stewards of our gifts. He writes, “more likely the week will present no more than a chance to give a cup of water, write a note, visit a nursing home, vote for a county commissioner, teach a Sunday School Class, share a meal, tell a child a story, go to choir practice, and feed the neighbor’s cat.”
“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.” Luke 16:10 NRSV
And so my question for us to ponder this day or this week is this.
Are you being a shrewd steward of the talents and gifts God has given to you? Are you being faithful with the smallest of treasures; with the candy at the bottom of your bag? You don’t have to be caring for large amounts of oil and grain-like the debtors in our parable do; it could be something very small and maybe seemingly insignificant that God uses to bless someone else. But do you use your position, your wealth, and your privilege to respond to the needs of others with urgency and joy? Do you hold nothing back in trying to make the world a more fair place to live by using the excess you have at your disposal? And does that graciousness extend to both neighbors and strangers alike? Because in the end, our God is in the business of making sure that everyone has ‘candy in their bag’ and that no one is left out.