Tuesday, March 22, 2011

“IS SOMETHING HAPPENING IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE THAT GOD WANTS US TO BE ATTENTIVE TO?”

As the first wave came to shore north of Sendai, the 59-year old man ran up the embankment. He turned and looked far away back out to see. He saw a second wave coming in the distance. The 59 year-old continued running and he didn't stop running till he was saved. Others--who were younger and faster--drowned because they hadn't taken the second and longer view.-

“IS SOMETHING HAPPENING IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE THAT GOD WANTS US TO BE ATTENTIVE TO?”

By Kevin Stoda, Matsu Islands, Taiwan


“Is something happening in the global village that God wants us to be attentive to?” asked the lay minister this past Sunday at our village Christian congregation here on Beigan Island.

We had just finished singing a song in Chinese about the “power of prayer”. Prior to that, we had taken time to pray for your brothers and sisters (i.e., All People!) in Japan. In the last half-month, we have seen so many heartrending images from Japan, and we really are concerned about what is happening --and will be happening--there.

In short, the lay leader’s question is certainly timely: “Is something happening in the global village that God wants us to be attentive to?”

In one way, this fascination and support for Japan and the Japanese which is pouring-forth from all over the world is justified. The Japanese are hurting. There are nearly 20,000 dead and some 250,000 or more homeless in a country devastated by earthquakes, a tsunami, and a nuclear calamity. The weather is cold. People are still out of water, electricity and other amenities. Total financial losses are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Like Haiti before it, Japan is certainly undergoing suffering of biblical proportions—even for a people who have suffered through similar natural and man-made disasters in the 20th century—including WWII and the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

On the other hand, seeing the concern from former colonies of Japan has been heartwarming for me. Let me remind readers--like America and the European states, Japan had been a colonial country that had occupied Formosa (present-day Taiwan), where I live now, for over 50 years--and Japan had also occupied another dozen of neighboring lands in the 1930s and 1940s.

Japan had waged one of the most ruthless wars in history. Nevertheless, prayers from Taiwan, China, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries are made for the Japanese this 2011. Many more people are sending money and aid to the Japanese through a variety of Buddhist, Christian, Taoist, Islamic, and non-religious NGOs. Other have asked their governments to send aid, workers and advisors.

The world is saying YES to that question of the lay pastor: “Is something in the global village that god wants us to be attentive to?”

However, the Taiwanese lay minister was certainly not only thinking about Japan and the Japanese—and neither should we!

We were soon asked to Luke 16:1-13 and look at a text on corruption—a topic which also concerns the people and the wealth of this world.


THE HUMAN TEXT OR PARABLE

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager goes as follows. Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
“‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
“Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd 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 eternal dwellings.
“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.”

PUNCHLINE

As the lay-pastor continued to share his message, I came to realize that the punchline for those of us pondering the question--“Is something happening in the global village that God wants us to be attentive to?” was verse 13. In it, Jesus had made clear to his followers that we are to “use worldly wealth to gain friends for ourselves, so that when it [the wealth] is gone, we will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

In short, you can’t take it [the wealth] with us, so use your wealth and your prayers to build friends.

This can be contrasted to what some governments and peoples have done or have allowed to happen in their countries in recent decades. Too many countries, too corporations, and even too many churches have reduced their foreign aid and assistance to their fellow man—saying people need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Likewise as nations they have said “government aid for military, military contractors and related firms” are good but foreign aid is “evil”.


ANOTHER POINT—this time my Point

Obviously, this parable of Jesus concerns earthly embezzlers and criminals as well as the necessary focus (eternal focus) for believers and good persons.

The message to embezzlers and criminals of this world is that they can lose their posts in government or corporations. They need, in short, to take a longer view before they act.

The sub-message of the parable is that the only way such criminal can normally “take care of themselves” should be by functioning on the Planet Earth as follows. (a) Criminals and corrupt leaders and managers should (b) “use worldly wealth to gain friends for themselves, so that (c) when it [the wealth] is gone, they will (d) be welcomed into dwellings of others.”

That means that through

(1) giving to others,
(2) being a good host, and
(3) acting as a good fellow to others

an embezzler or crook might be able survive in our managerial worlds—even after they lose their jobs or go to jail. Nonetheless, it is clear that if you embezzle you can lose your job. In short, take a long view to survive.

However, in far too many countries today , crooks and murderers are being allowed to rise to earthly heavens without a slap on the wrist, without the loss of high postings, without shame, without any sense of punishment or guilt before the masses. Some even get jobs at Federal Reserve or retire to their ranches in Crawford, Texas to live out their days.

This irresponsibility by managers and leaders on Earth means the people of Earth are being doubly screwed on earth. This strange system of no-responsibility for bad management and corruption is an attempt to turn basic historical and biblical principles (about bad management and bad usage of wealth) on their heads.

In the long term, Jesus’ parable of the shrewd (but corrupt) manager implies the necessity for all stakeholders to realize that the long view of humanity—leaning well-into eternity—is needed for good management.

Short term actions and decision-making processes are not helpful in many cases. For example, it is not shrewd for managers to immediately begin profit-taking from a firm without taking a long term view at investment, internal development, and global markets.

It was similarly short-term profit-seeking that allows managers like those at TEPCO (Tokyo Electric and Power Company) to build and design reactors at Fukushima which cannot pump water because the pump is placed below the water level (i.e. following any earthquake or tsunami). Such incompetence needs to be seen as criminally incompetent. This requires short term punishments.

Meanwhile, Taiwan—where I and the lay pastor live--has set a good example for the world in recent years by arresting and trying its former president for embezzlement. That ex-president is in jail. This will teach other leaders in Taiwan to take the long view—and to have a biblically long-view when handling the country’s wealth and resources. Such a biblical long-view wouldn’t hurt us at all these days! Don’t you agree, brother?

I pray it is or will become clearer.

Amen?

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