“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
- Luke 16:10-15
“Are you in prison? You are if you feel better when you have more and worse when you have less. You are if joy is one delivery away, one transfer away, one award away, or one makeover away. If your happiness comes from something you deposit, drive, drink, or digest, then face it – you are in prison, the prison of want.
“That’s the bad news. The good news is that you have a visitor. And your visitor has a message that can get you paroled. Make your way to the receiving room. Take your seat in the chair, and look across the table at the psalmist David. He motions for you to lean forward. ‘I have a secret to tell you,’ he whispers, ‘the secret of satisfaction. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need’ (Psalm 23:1).
“It’s as if he is saying, ‘What I have in God is greater than what I don’t have in life.’ You think you and I could learn to say the same thing?”
- Max Lucado, Traveling Light
I read the Max Lucado quote, and my mind went one direction. He had quoted Luke 16:13, about not serving God and money. That led to reading up to and through that verse to gain context and insight. That sent me in another direction entirely. So, I think this will be a series of thoughts that kind of follow the Scripture.
Let me start with a song. As I recently wrote, I love Big Band and Swing. Kitty Kallen had sung for the bands of Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James, but when she pursued a solo career, her biggest hit in 1954 was “Little Things Mean a lot,” being at the top of the charts for a long time. Maybe not what Jesus was saying exactly, but in part, and it gets us into the mood.
I interviewed for a project manager job, one that had teaching requirements built-in with the management of the project. I was a perfect fit. They were offering a higher salary than I had made in my last job. No one would be as uniquely qualified as I was with both project management and instructional experience, years of each, and with an engineering degree. I answered all their questions with good answers and examples of how I had done what I was saying, not just having learned it in school.
The questioning ceased. I smiled, and the hiring manager frowned. He picked up my resume and said that I was disqualified to work for them. They were a small company with small projects, and I had worked for DuPont and on a NASA project. He said that I would be bored working for them after having all that huge project work with NASA. In other words, they had me come in for an interview to gain insight and ideas – known in the trade as “data mining.” They had no intention of ever offering me the job.
So, already being turned down, I had nothing to lose. I asked respectfully if I could then give a reply to his final comments. I quoted John Glenn. “As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind – every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.” I went on to say that my time at NASA gave me invaluable experience for a small company. I had never worked in an organization that pinched pennies more than NASA, nor was so poorly funded. I constantly had a mounting list of things to do and no thought of hiring the people or getting the equipment to do those things. What I learned at NASA was how to be creative in getting more done with less resources. I learned how to squeeze ten pounds into every five-pound bag.
The hiring manager needed to justify the decision that he made before calling me to come in for an interview. He saw that I had the interest of the others around the table. His final words were, “I don’t believe a word of what you just said, good day, sir.” I nodded, said that it was a pleasure meeting with them (in part, a lie), and left the room. By then, I was getting used to the data mining interviews, but I needed a job.
When Jesus talked about being trusted in doing the littles things, at the NASA project, the little things became big things when it was mission-critical equipment that would enter earth orbit. Even the smallest things were reviewed again and again and everything had to be certified by certified people, and it was my job to justify that each guy was truly certified through experience, training, medical and physical proficiency, and that his instructors were certified in the same manner. It was a small job that most people, including the astronauts, would never notice when the astronaut would come by to shake hands with the people who had his back when he was in space.
But then again, what was this job interview for me? A means to get off unemployment and be productive once more. When Max Lucado talks about “one more transfer”, I might change that to one more job, at least in the mid-90s.
But I looked at the Max Lucado quote and I thought of so many people that I know who go out on shopping sprees. They just deposited a thousand dollars in the bank and they spend two thousand. They go home and realize that what they had bought would not bring them happiness, so they return to the shopping center the next day and visit the upscale stores, buying the same thing that they had bought the day before, but for 3-4 times the price. Now, they need an addition to the house to store the stuff that they could not afford. They are deeply in debt. And they are more depressed than ever.
And did any of that buying serve God? No, God was never a consideration. Having … ‘possessing’ was to make them happy, and ‘possessing’ let them down, and God didn’t help either. Yeah, they thought of God, but only when their depression increased and they thought to blame God, at least in part.
That seems to match what I have heard in interviewing people in prison – the prison with physical bars and doors that clank behind you, making you feel the most helpless that you have ever felt. Some speak of their crimes and admit that they need to be where they are, but most blame society, their environment, and always letting God share in the blame.
When you never consider God until the time to blame someone, it points to what Jesus was saying. You served money, or whatever other passion you had that got you into trouble – not necessarily prison type trouble, any problem big or small. You never served God. You just kept the God card handy when blame was needed. Yes, I confess, I have been there too.
And if we thought that we were doing a great job of following the Ten Commandments, Mr. So-tight-I-squeak-when-I-sit-in-the-pew, reading the last sentence of the quoted Scripture should convict each and every one of us. God finds what the world values highly as being “detestable.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t what to be in that category.
I would love to be remembered by the “jokes” people told others about me. “If you need a miracle, the miracle worker is in the corner cubicle.” “That guy over there is the best at getting the job done right with the least resources available.” Both were at different jobs, companies, and locations. Neither was altogether truthful, but I would like to think that I could be trusted in those little things. Only in trusting Jesus with my life and being content in making a tiny difference here or there can I truly break free of the “prison of want.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.