Two Sets of Books

By Francis Frangipane
(En EspaƱol)

It was not a dream. It was simply a thought in the middle of the night that 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" kept the two sets of books when Jesus' story of the rich man and his wasteful steward surfaced in my mind. The parable, 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 management away from me?" (v. 3).

To secure his future, he shrewdly contacted his employer's debtors. To the one who owed 100 measures of oil he said, "Write fifty" (v.6). 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 for his wisdom and prudence (v. 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: at least part of what the steward cancelled what was legitimately owed him. By cancelling his share of the debtors’ bills, he made friends for himself; he prepared for himself a future.

God Is Calling Us To Account
In many ways, American Christianity has been like the 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 squandered much of what the Lord gave 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; with them "disorder and every evil thing" entered the church (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. 4:12-13).

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 the part of our national decline that is due to our neglect. And He says that our future hinges on how wisely we respond.

God's Ark: Covenant Friendships
Yet even though we have made a mess of the past, the Lord tells us there is hope for our future. 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 us His profound yet simple strategy. He tells us, "Make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:. 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. Perhaps by cancelling the debts others owe us, we are actually working to create an "eternal dwelling” made of Christ inspired relations, which the Lord says shall endure even when the wealth fails.

According to Jesus, God’s strategy is both simple and wonderfully practical: make friends. I believe a healing opportunity is coming from Heaven, and it is beginning to heal the historic wounds between peoples in America. But the Lord is not only interested in healing the past; He wants us to also become covenant friends with one another. Our future hinges on how we care for each other.

Sooner than we imagine, the "mammon of unrighteousness" shall fail. (America's national debt is a towering 17 trillion dollars!) When it does, this nation as we have known it will be no more. But God has a place of immunity prepared for us.

It is time we began keeping two sets of books: one that is exact toward God, being fully accountable to Christ; the other is forgiving, cancelling what others owe us. Picture the outcome: blacks, whites and Hispanics together removing the stronghold of hopelessness from our inner cities, truly becoming friends. 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. In every city where Christians have cancelled the debts owed them, an "eternal dwelling" is emerging; it is made of Christ-centered friendships. God's ark for us is us, united in the love of Jesus, keeping two sets of books: one is exact, the other forgiving.