By Dr. P. Sellappan
We have heard about many cover-up jobs in history. But one beats them all—it involves an astronomical amount and implicates three top guns and millions of others. It is a scandalous story and you surely don’t want to miss it!
There was a rich man (master) who had an accountant (manager) to take care of all his properties (assets). An accusation was brought against him that he was tampering with the accounts and wasting his master’s assets. The master summoned him to give an account of what he had done and then fired him from his job. Surprisingly, the accountant didn’t plead for mercy, nor did he appeal to be reinstated. He simply accepted the sack.
Being the shrewd accountant that he was, he quickly hatched up a plan. The plan was: he would meet his master’s customers one by one and offer to slash the amounts they owed their master before handing over the books. It was an attractive offer because they could not pay their debts. The accountant saw their plight, so he took pity on them because they were heavily in debt. He called them one by one and slashed their debts, risking his own life and job. He also had an ulterior motive. He reasoned: “If I slash their debts, they will remember my kindness, and take me into their homes when I am sacked from my job.”
Surprisingly, his master didn’t get angry or condemn him for what he had done. In fact, he praised him for acting shrewdly. You can read this fascinating parable—story—in Luke 16:1–13.
Let’s start by identifying the characters in the story. The rich man is the Father-figure; the shrewd accountant is His Son Jesus; we, the entire human race, are the debtors; and those who brought the accusation are the religious authorities—the olden-day and modern-day Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes.
Adam and Eve and the entire human race fell—sinned—and earned the death penalty which they could never pay even in a million years (or in an endless cycle of rebirths). God the Father sent His Son Jesus to settle their sins—debts. Jesus came secretly, taking the form of a human being and went around forgiving people—tax collectors, publicans, prostitutes and all sinners. The religious authorities who were strict law-keepers were upset with Jesus because He was forgiving people indiscriminately. They accused Him of undermining their efforts to uphold and promote the law. After all, they were the custodians of the law. They believed that law-breakers should be punished and not allowed to go scot-free. Jesus’ actions provoked them because He was forgiving sinners freely instead of meting out judgments. The authorities questioned Jesus as to who had given Him the authority to forgive people. (Matthew 9:1–8) Jesus claimed that He was the Son of God and therefore had authority to forgive people. They were infuriated and accused Him of playing God and misappropriating God’s name and power (assets). They wanted Him dead, so they brought all sorts of false accusations against Him which finally led to His death on the cross. He was fired—crucified—to pay the penalty of their (and all of humanity’s) sins.
Jesus was killed but He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. Since then He has been busy knocking on the doors of peoples’ hearts hoping they would receive Him into their lives (homes) for the kindness that He had shown them (slashing their debts). (Revelation 3:20).
All the master’s customers were hardcore debtors (Romans 3:10) —spiritually dead — who could never, in a million years, settle their bills. They dare not face their creditor (God) because of fear of punishment. And they certainly didn’t want to be labelled ‘bankrupts’ and ‘debtors’.
Isn’t this how we sometimes feel about our sinful condition? We dare not approach God because of fear of punishment even though God is extremely gracious and merciful. He personally took the initiative to send His Son Jesus to settle all our debts—irrespective of the amount. Jesus was fired—crucified—on the cross to take away our sin, our shame and our guilt. He became ‘unjust’ so we might be justified. He has come to set us free from the clutches of sin and death so that we can approach God’s throne of grace boldly and confidently. He has wiped out all our sins (debts) once and for all in and through His death and resurrection. Not only has He obliterated our debts, he has also filled our accounts with huge credits. He became sin for us—wiping our spiritual slate clean. And He became righteousness for us—filling our spiritual accounts to the brim. All we need to do is to put our trust in Jesus. In God’s eyes, we are debt-free. He doesn’t see our debts because they have been wiped clean. So we don’t have to be terrified or hide from God. We can start sharing our lives with Him and get to know Him personally. He wants us to enter into an intimate relationship with Him.
There is one more thing to take note of. The parable should not be taken literally in totality. For example, it might give the impression that Jesus has only forgiven some of our sins. But that is not true since other scriptures make it clear that He has forgiven all our sins. (Psalm 103:3, 11–12, Colossians 2:13, 1 John 1:9) This includes our past, present and future sins.
The Chief Accountant Jesus has already died to all record-keeping. He has thrown away the accounts books and closed His accounting business for good. (Hebrews 7:11–18). You don’t have to keep track of your debits and credits. You don’t have to keep track of your bad deeds and good deeds (which are suspect anyway). Nor should you keep track of other peoples’ failures and shortcomings. God has declared forever that He will not use the law books to judge us. Why? Because all that the law books do is to pronounce us guilty and send us to hell. Grace is the only game in town—the Grace that enters everyone’s name in the Book of Life. This is the only book God will look at—and, thankfully, He has written all our names in that precious book. (Revelation 20:12–15).
You Can Participate.
The rest of the verses in the parable, Luke 16:9–13, is a call to action. Jesus is calling us to participate in His glorious “cover-up” ministry. St. Paul writes “Love covers a multitude of sins.”(1 Peter 4:8). Jesus became poor so that we might become rich, He became sin so that we might become righteous, He died and rose from the grave so that we might die and rise with Him.
Jesus has already settled all our sins with His precious blood. We have been given a spiritual bailout. Now He is asking us to go and tell others so that they too can get bailouts. God wants us to proclaim the Good News—telling people that their sins have all been forgiven forever. He wants us to use our resources—money, time, gifts and talents —to go and tell people everywhere that God in Christ has already forgiven their sins, accepted and reconciled them, and raised and seated them in the heavenly realm as His own beloved children. (Ephesians 2:1–10). He has done all this in and through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Everyone who trusts Jesus has already passed from darkness to light and from death to life. This is what the “cover-up” ministry is all about.
Is there a reward for participating in Jesus’ “cover-up” ministry? You bet! The money you spend to share the Gospel will come back to you manifold. How? Many—perhaps thousands—may come to know God through your kind generosity. They too will know who Jesus is and accept Him as their personal Saviour. And you will have many more friends—brothers and sisters—in your eternal home with God.
While the people of this world are shrewd in accumulating wealth for themselves, God is asking us to be shrewd by sharing our wealth to make friends who will be with us for all eternity. Make no mistake. We live in an uncertain world. Our money may leave us when financial tsunamis strike us, or we may leave our money when death calls us to the ‘other world’. There is no security whatsoever in our money or in our life. Our only security is Jesus. So God asks us to be wise stewards—even unjust stewards—so we can have many brothers and sisters in our eternal home just like what Jesus did in this scandalous story.
The Triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—the three top guns have been planning this cover-up job for a long time. They have been working relentlessly and secretly to cover the entire humanity’s sin (which could pile up to the third heaven) and include them in His glorious life as His own beloved children. This is the biggest scandal of all time—and this is precisely what God’s grace is all about.
Now that your debts have been totally wiped out, would you like to help in covering up other peoples’ debts by participating in Jesus’ “cover-up” ministry?
Robert F. Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment, William Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002