So I get that summer’s winding down (back to school supplies have been on the shelf at Wal-Mart since, like, February). But there’s still time enough to put together your lemonade stand for the front-yard entrepreneur in your family.
Come on: nothing symbolizes idyllic, suburban America like the screen door, wind chimes, and a plywood lemonade stand. But while kids can learn a thing or three about business skills, it’s usually the parents that pay the greatest toll, right?
Think about the overheads. First, the stand itself. Lumber? Paint? Maybe just the folding table from the garage? Then there’s the lemonade. Mix, sugar, cups—these things add up over time. And what about your time? You’ve gotta help out, supervise, tell the kids to get back to work, etc.
And you’re charging, what, like 50 cents a cup at most? Breaking even would be a pipe dream. This ain’t the Jamba Juice at the local mall. This is costly. But when you’re ten, you can look in that cash box and see the $5.00 in quarters and think “Wow! Look what I did all by myself!”
That’s laughable. And you know it’s laughable. But we take God for granted the same way, preferring instead to count our blessings (job, car, spouse, kids, etc.) and think “Wow! Look what I did!”
The reality is there’s no such thing as the self-made man. God gives the blessings, we are merely his hired hands in managing those gifts here on earth. That’s what this Sunday’s parable is fundamentally about:
He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. (Luke 16:1-8)
Wait—is Jesus praising the guy for undercutting his boss? It’s unlikely that Jesus would applaud such shady behavior. No; we can best understand this story culturally. The wealthy would often hire managers to handle their finances. In many cases, managers had what we might call “power of attorney,” or at least free range over their employers’ checkbook. And, in just as many cases, managers could take a private commission for their labors. So when the manager adjusts the prices, he’s not being shady; he’s adjusting the prices so that everyone can benefit. The result is better stewardship than simply robotically insisting the debtors pay sticker price.
The gospel teaches us that we’re not the boss. We are managers of the gifts God chooses to bestow. Therefore our allegiance should be not to the gift itself, but the Giver of all gifts. Come this Sunday to explore how financial stewardship reflects a heart of worship.