God has put things in our hand that we can use for us, or we can use for Him and His Kingdom.
Jesus told a parable of a manager who had been accused of embezzlement and so his boss called him to an appointment to give an account of what he had done. The man knew that he would be found out, so he thought that he would use his present position to improve his future. He called in some of the people who owed his master – his boss – money or goods and asked them each how much they owed the master. In each case, he marked down the amount for the person that owed to the master, thus giving them a discount and making the person who owed his master think well of him.
As it turns out, the master approved of the man’s shrewdness, presumably because he at least received something back.
While I can understand the difficulty in understanding why Jesus would tell this story as a good example, given that the man had been a liar and a cheat, and then subsequently given discounts just to help himself, he – Jesus – did tell the story as an example of using what we have been given as an investment for the future. The man was using what had been put in front of him now to prepare his way for the future. He couldn’t do manual labor and he didn’t want to beg for money, so he used what he had been given as an investment.
“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 16:8-9
This struck me this morning because here in Catania, we have noticed over the last several years that we have routinely run into the same problem. The people that we work with, the immigrants and refugees, have significant needs. They frequently don’t know where they will sleep, nor what they will eat, and they find themselves scratching to survive on a daily basis. That is a difficult position to be in when you are trying to help someone think about how they can turn over their life to Christ and live for him. They have no stability and are desperate, so while it is certainly good and right, and definitely the right time, to be considering what God is doing in their lives, when you are trying to figure out what you will eat or where you will stay, it is difficult to have space within your mind for those conversations.
A few years ago, we started Agape Bici as a way to simply fix bikes or give them away to those in need. However, we noticed that this was something that God had put in our hand and that we could invest in for the future. We didn’t need an income, as God has provided for us through the support of those who believe in what God is doing through our work, but it would allow us to invest in the Kingdom of God, offering work for people here in Catania, and we hope one day, in other places as well. Those whom we have prayed would become workers within the Kingdom would also have the opportunity to support themselves for the future.
We see this as a way that we can invest in the Kingdom. We can use what God has given to us to see His Kingdom continue to grow. We can take what God has offered to us and make more out of it for the purpose of glorifying Him. If we are able to raise up and support more workers – as in workers for the Kingdom amongst the people groups that we are serving – we can see more people come to Christ, more disciples made, and more churches planted.
Let us use what God has given us so that we can invest for the true future, the future of the Kingdom.