Turning a $3 Million Loss into a Profit

With presses set to run off 3 million copies of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 convention speech, the publisher found permission had not been given to obtained to use photos of Roosevelt and his runningmate, Governor Hiram Johnson of California.  Copyright law put the penalty for such oversights at $1 per copy.

The chairman of the campaign committee was equal to the situation.  He dictated a telegram to the Chicago studio that had taken the pictures: “Planning to issue 3 million copies Roosevelt speech with pictures Roosevelt and Johnson on cover. Great publicity opportunity for photographers.  What will you pay us to use your photographs?”  An hour later the reply was back, “Appreciate opportunity, but can pay only $250.” (From 1,000 Stories and Quotations of Famous People, 1972)

In difficult times, it is easy to only see the problem, and never see the solution.  Wisdom does not allow the problem to rule the man, but the man to rule the problem.  In the parable of the shrewd servant, Jesus told of a man who was dishonest manager.  The master called the manager to give an account.  The servant quickly went to those who owed his master money and quickly slashed their prices.  Why?  So that when he got sacked by his master, he would have people who owed him a favor and would help him.  Jesus said, “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.  For the sons of the world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light,” (Luke 16:8, ESV).

The commendation is not for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness.  He’s clever.  He thought outside the box.  Jesus tells us that unbelievers are better at being clever than believers.  In this case, He was referring to money.  Jesus’ whole point for the story is given in verse 9 of Luke 16: “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,” (ESV).

Three quick points:

  1. This passage speaks of “eternal dwellings:” i.e. heaven.  Thus this whole thing has to do with the believer going to and resting in heaven.
  2. The passage deals with “unrighteous wealth:” i.e. non-tithe/church-giving money.  Back in Jesus’ day one had the temple tax which would have been considered righteous money; spending-money was unrighteous in that it wasn’t used directly for giving to the temple.  So we need to think about how we spend our money outside of our regular tithes and offerings.
  3. This passage says we are to “make friends:” i.e. the Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).  It is not that we gain salvation, but rather we gain a glorious welcoming.  Jesus encouraged us to grow God’s kingdom and receive a “well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master,” (Matthew 25:21, ESV).

I do not believe I am conflating these two passages (Luke 16 and Matthew 25) since both make the point that “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much,” (Luke 16:10, ESV).

So then the question is: how can we think outside the box?  How can we be clever, specifically with using our money for God’s kingdom, but more in general throughout any area of our lives?  Again it is hard to think this way in moments of stress or trouble, but we need to start to show a bit of shrewdness.  Jesus told his disciples heading out on mission to be wise (same word he used of the servant in Luke 16) as serpents and gentle as doves.  Again, the emphasis is on the wisdom, the cleverness, the shrewdness, not on the dishonesty.  We ought never be dishonest, but we are to be clever.


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