Sylvia Alloway, Granada Hills, CA

Warm-up Question

Have you ever had to take care of someone else’s property (mowing a lawn, caring for a pet, etc.)? What, if anything, did you learn about looking after other people’s things?

Making a Shrewd Investment

shutterstock_219530599Morgan Stanley bank is big, one the of the world’s largest providers of financial services. It is well known world-wide. So it would make sense that, when investing its employees’ retirement funds, it would know how to use the money for the best return.

A recent class action suit challenges that idea. Employees are suing the bank, claiming that Morgan Stanley invested their 401(k) funds in the bank’s own business interests. The investments performed poorly, as much as 99% below similar funds invested by other banks.

The legal question to be decided: Whose benefit comes first? As a bank, Morgan Stanley is allowed to put its own interests above the customers’. But as an employer, the law says it must put the employees’ financial welfare first.

In any case, if the suit is successful, Morgan Stanley will have to think about other people’s future, not just its own, and real economic growth, not just big profits. It will be interesting to see if it learns this lesson in stewardship.

Discussion Questions

  • A steward takes care of someone else’s property. How do you tell if a steward is doing a good job?
  • If you worked for Morgan Stanley and the bank president asked you to explain why the bank should change the way they handle the employees’ retirement savings, what would you say?
  • How would you answer the legal question? Which should come first, the bank’s profits or their employees’ financial needs? Why do you think that way?

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 8:4-7

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 16:1-13

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

The parable of the unjust steward is difficult to interpret. Is Jesus telling his disciples to imitate a crook who steals his employer’s money? To “buy” friendship with the world? Looking at the context can help.

Verse 13 makes it clear that he doesn’t want his disciples to admire the cheater. The man in the parable obviously has his mind on money the whole way through – stealing it and using it to buy a cushy life instead of having to work. The master admires the servant’s cleverness in using money to manipulate people. Both these men serve money (“mammon”). So why did Jesus tell a story about two guys who love money?

If we look at verse 14, we see the group that Jesus is talking to – the Pharisees, who loved their money. Even as they sneer, he condemns them, this time in plain language. Their hearts are detestable to God.

So what’s with verse 9? How can worldly wealth lead to friends in “eternal dwellings”? Like many truths about God’s Kingdom, this one is exactly the opposite of what the world thinks. God’s stewards seek opportunities to give money away. Jesus’ parables about money (the rich fool, Lazarus and the rich man) all make the same point. The money and goods you hoard will do you no good in heaven.

So, we are to be as shrewd in handling money (and all the gifts and abilities God has given us), but we are to “invest” in eternal goods. We make friends for eternity by giving lovingly to the poor, so that “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” We give to missions so that the Gospel may be spread around the world and more people can share “eternal dwellings” with us. As children of light, we use all we have to spread that light to others.

In the end we need to ask ourselves the same question as Morgan Stanley does. Whose interests come first, ours or the Lord’s?

Discussion Questions

  • What does it mean to be a good steward? How does Jesus use this parable to teach us about good stewardship?
  • The parable says we must be smart in using our gifts. What are some specific examples of using gifts wisely? Of misusing them?

Activity Suggestions

In groups or as a class make a list of gifts (money, talents, strength, etc.) that young people can use to advance God’s Kingdom.

Talk about ways each individual can use a specific gift in a practical situation – at school, at work, with friends or strangers.

Each student may write down a way they found to use a gift during the week and share it in the next class session.

Closing Prayer

Father in Heaven, we thank you for the great privilege of stewardship in your kingdom and for the gifts you have given us to use. We ask for wisdom and courage to use them for eternal benefits to ourselves and others. May we always put you and your interests first in our lives. In Jesus name, Amen.