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 about 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 Israel, a steward's wage was a hidden commission added to the total debt. It is likely that the steward was actually canceling some portion of the debt that was owed to him. By canceling his share of the bill, he made friends for himself and, in so doing, 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 supported 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 exist, they create "disorder" and open the door for "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. Yet, although we are in trouble, God has not abandoned us. Indeed, He desires us to see that a way into blessing still exists, but it depends upon on how wisely we respond to our failures. Though we have made a mess of the past, the Lord tells us there is still hope.

Through this very parable of the "shrewd steward," the Lord reveals that He anticipated our wastefulness. Using the steward's actions as our model, Jesus offers a profound, yet simple strategy. He concludes the parable offering us a remedy. He says,

"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. Furthermore, the Lord is not only interested in our canceling what others owe us, He calls us to become friends with one another, and He’s telling us that our future hinges on how we care for each other.

There is a day coming when, according to the Lord, the "mammon of unrighteousness" shall fail. When it does, in city after city where the church has truly united in Christ - where debts have been forgiven and where churches communities are friends - a habitation of eternal life is emerging.

Two Sets
As we enter the year 2010, we must learn the principle of keeping two sets of books. One set is toward God. With the Lord we must be exact and fully accountable; but with others let us cancel all debts. The outcome? We can see healing, friendships and transformation occur between people of color and the white community. What the church lives is what the church gives, and our healing can spread quickly into the larger society around us. Imagine, evangelicals and pentecostals forgiving each other, uniting in Jesus according to John 17 and 2 Chronicles 7:14, seeing God begin to "heal our land!"

How do we get there? We must "make friends" with Christians from other churches and other cultures. If we have the "mammon of righteousness," let us use at least some to bless other churches. Take an offering for the pastor or church down the street. Pastors, if you know another pastor is hurting, befriend him. Intercessors, let's unite in prayer, perhaps weekly or at least monthly and pray corporately for our communities.

The Bible calls this "eternal dwelling" the "habitation of God" (Eph. 2:21-22). It is where Christ-centered relationships manifest Heaven on earth (see Ps. 133). You see, until the rapture occurs, God's ark of safety for us is us -- friends, united in the life and love of Christ. It is true, God calls us to keep two sets of books: one exact and the other forgiving.


For those interested in pursing more information on churches uniting, we've enclosed a follow-up from our good friend, Phil Miglioratti.

Contact Mission America at www.missionamerica.org.

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