Two Sets Of Books

By Francis Frangipane

It was not a dream. It was simply a thought in the middle of the night, but it came into my mind with such clarity that it roused me from my sleep. It said, "He keeps two sets of books: one is exact and the other forgiving."

I barely had time to wonder who it was that kept these mysterious two accounts when the parable of the wise, but wasteful, steward surfaced in my mind. The story, which comes from Luke, chapter 16, tells of a manager who was soon to be dismissed for squandering his employer's wealth.

"What shall I do," the steward pondered, "since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? (vs 3).

To secure his future, he shrewdly contacted his employer's debtors. To the one that owed 100 measures of oil he said, "Write fifty." He reduced another's debt from 100 measures of wheat to eighty. So clever was his plan that even the steward's master praised him because he acted shrewdly, with wisdom and prudence (vs 8).

The parable becomes even more meaningful when we consider that, in ancient Palestine, a steward's wage was a hidden commission added to the total debt. It is likely that the steward was actually canceling the portion of the debt that was legitimately owed to him. By canceling his share of the bill, he made friends for himself and, in spite of being unrighteous, he prepared for himself a future.

God Is Calling Us To Account
In many ways, American Christianity has been like the unrighteous, wasteful steward. Our Master has given us great wealth. With it, He expected His church to better care for the poor; we could have a hundred times the number of missionaries. Instead, we have squandered much of what the Lord has given us on personal pursuits and possessions.

The Lord has also given us each other. But, again, instead of using our diversity for our common good, we fell into jealously and selfish ambition. James tells us that when jealousy and selfish ambition enter our lives, they bring with them "disorder and every evil thing" (James 3:16).

If we look honestly at the church today, whether it is in regard to ourselves, our cities or our environment, we are guilty of squandering our Master's possessions. What was written of Jerusalem applies also to us: "the adversary and the enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem--because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests" (Lam 4:12-13a).

If we had not wasted our resources, we could have easily remedied many of society's needs. The Lord, I believe, is holding the church accountable for that part of our national decline which is due to our neglect. Although we are in trouble, He has not abandoned us. God wants us to see that our future hinges on how wisely we respond to our failures. So, even though we have made a mess of the past, the Lord tells us there is still hope.

Indeed, through this very parable of the "shrewd steward," Jesus tells us that He anticipated our wastefulness. Using the steward's actions as our model, Jesus offers a profound, yet simple strategy. He tells us, "Make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings" (vs 9).

Perhaps we have been seeking answers for our cities that are too sophisticated. Maybe God's antidote for healing the conflicts in the world begins with healing the conflicts in the church. By canceling what others owe us we are actually working to create an "eternal dwelling" which shall endure when all else fails.

Our future is connected to the quality of our Christian friendships. You see, a healing initiative has already come from heaven and it is beginning to descend into the historic wounds between peoples in America. But, the Lord is not only interested in our canceling what others owe us, He wants us to make friends with one another. Our future hinges on how we care for each other.

Jesus tells us plainly that the "mammon of unrighteousness" shall fail. When it does, in city after city where the church has become united, where debts have been forgiven, a habitation filled with eternal life is being prepared.

It is time we begin keeping two sets of books: One which is exact toward God, being fully accountable to Christ and walking in diligence toward Him, but the other set of books is forgiving. In it, we cancel what others owe us. Picture the outcome: blacks and whites together removing the stronghold of hopelessness from our inner cities. Imagine, evangelicals and pentecostals forgiving each other, uniting in Jesus according to 2 Chron 7:14; seeing God supernaturally begin to "heal our land!"

How do we get there? We must "make friends" for ourselves. I don't mean invite other churches to our conferences, but other Christians to our homes. Go fishing together. Eat together.

In every city where Christians have canceled the debts owed them, an "eternal dwelling" is emerging. It is called the Habitation of God. It is made of Christ-centered friendships. Noah had a boat, but God's ark of safety for us is us, friends, united in the mercy of Christ. It is Christians with two sets of books: one exact toward God, the other forgiving toward man.