How to be a better person? # 28

BUILD A NEST EGG!

Jesus prayed that the Father would protect and keep His followers or disciples in the world as witnesses (Jn. 17:15-18). How then were they to survive in a hostile world? In the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, Jesus made this comment, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are shrewder in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into their dwellings” (Lk. 16:8-9). In simple terms, Jesus as urging us to “Build a Nest Egg” with worldly goods and earthly friends!

The suggestion that we turn to worldly people with means to save some income for a time when we shall need it, is quite unexpected. Is this coming from the Jesus that told us not to worry or have second thoughts about the future (Mt. 7:25-34)? Indeed, it is because the poor cannot help us. No matter what we may think about the people that have acquired wealth, they are the most able to turn a profit. More than anything, they value money, at times too much; nevertheless, they are more practical and realistic in their business of making money. They take risks and some do not yield any returns. However that does not stop investors from trying again and again. Not every investment that we have made has succeeded. We are thankful for the ones that assist us at our old age. In spite of the resent financial hardships, we did not have to go to the rich or the poor for help. Building a “Nest Egg” does not come without determination and sacrifices.

I also was struck by the comment that secular business people are shrewder or sharper in doing business deals than Christians. I have experienced that Christians expect preferences and special deals. It is not good business practice and it does not impress the world when we deal favorably with each other. Like in Jesus day, the religious people did not deal fairly with each other or with the outsider. We do not like to hear this, but the Israelites were instructed to plunder the Egyptians before they left (Ex. 12:36). I, too, lived in a country where the Jewish merchants exploited the farmers. A farmer paid more for a needle, than he got for a bushel of grain. These merchants made enemies with the natives, who were mostly Ukrainians and Poles. The Germans were not the first to build Ghettoes. We had them in Poland. Jews were not protected at nights outside their Ghettoes. Peddlers that did not make it back to their Ghettoes stayed with friendly families. We had some stay in our barn with their horse and wagon.

Another disturbing hint was that worldly people handled their own better than Christians do. Today, that is no longer the case, because the world has become like Christians in dealing with their own kind. At times, the humane behavior of the worldly is more Christian than what Christians do. This does make it difficult to put away some money for an emergency when we have family members with holes in their pockets. My father could not hang on to a buck. He had to build and buy new things. Two years before the Soviets caught up with us a second time, father was drafted as a civilian to build ditches and holes for the German army to hold off the Red Army. During this time, my mother was able to save several thousand Mark and when we were evacuated and became homeless for almost a year, we had something to fall back on. We do have to be able to deal with those, closest to us, before we can build some “Nest Egg.” It should be a family venture to put aside something for a rainy day. We have been traveling through rainy days that appeared endless.

Thirdly, the ethics Jesus appeared to endorse are troubling. The dishonest and manipulating manager is far too common (Lk. 16:1-18). On one hand, he was doing for others what he expected them to do for him (Mt. 7:12). The problem was he was helping himself with his owner’s resources to build a temporary security for himself. His beneficiaries will not feed and house him forever. What will he do then? Hence, this was commendable to the owner but not necessarily to Christians. Suppose this manager had tried to be trustworthy and had befriended his boss, what would his security have been? Jesus wanted and still does that His followers make friends with Mammon’s followers and trust these worldly people with their investments, so that the worldly ones will learn to trust the Christians. Even in Jesus’ time, it was no longer a matter of loving money, but a basic necessity to stay alive. Money has always been a tool and not an idol for most of mankind. Money is as essential as the air we breathe or the sun and rain we need. We depend on it even more when we are no longer able to earn our keep.

During the sixties, I was pasturing in New York City. On one of the corners in the Bronx sat a beggar. One day he disappeared. I asked a parishioner that saw him every day. I was told that he had died and the police found one half million Dollars in his belongings. He was a professional and knew how to secure his future. Unfortunately, like the rich fool, he did not live to enjoy his money. We are not to put our savings were moths and rust corrode or thieves break in and steal (Mt. 6:19-20). Rather, we are to put it into the hands that know how to invest and build our retirement (Mt. 25:14-30). We, too, have trusted a Christian Organization to help us build our “Nest Egg” that has been twice as efficient than Social Security. Beware of placing our securities in the hands of those that use it for themselves and give it to those that did not earn it. “The one person to watch if you’re going to save money is yourself.” The Amish say, “Spend less than you earn and you’ll never be in debt” (Doan pp.165-166). A “Nest Egg” can do much for our attitude.