Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost based on Luke 16:1-13
Dear stewards of unrighteous wealth: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The sons of this world are shrewd in dealing with their own generation. You can see it everywhere. If the sons of this world want something, they know what they need to do to make it possible.
If they want a cottage and a big vacation every year, they will do everything they can to make sure that they happen. They will work overtime, get a second job, skip family events, neglect their wife and children, whatever it takes to make sure they get what they want.
If the sons of this world want fame and celebrity status, they will do everything to make sure that it happens. They will move to Hollywood, divorce the spouse who doesn’t want to go, attend every audition for every part being willing to do anything no matter how humiliating and indecent. Even for fifteen minutes of fame the sons of this world will eat beetles, lie in a pit of snakes, and perform dangerous stunts. You know what I’m talking about if you ever saw the television show “Fear Factor” before it was cancelled.
If the sons of this world want their son to play in the NHL, do they not do everything they can to make sure it will happen? They spend thousands of dollars on equipment and ice time. They wake up in the wee hours of the morning to take them to practice. They sacrifice vacation time to drive their aspiring NHLer across the province for tournaments. They sacrifice the cottage and the big vacation and their own fame and celebrity status to make sure this one thing that they really want will happen.
The sons of this world are shrewd. They know what they want and they go after it. They may not be successful, but it is not for lack of trying. They will do everything in their power to get what they want. They will even be dishonest and scam their employers if it is to their advantage.
That’s what the dishonest manager did in Jesus’ parable. Once he got caught squandering his master’s possessions and was given notice that he was going to be fired, he continued his scamming for his own benefit. He continued to steal from his master, in this case giving it to the master’s debtors, so that he would gain goodwill with the debtors. His only hope was that the debtors would help him when he gets kicked out of his master’s house and would have nowhere to go. He’s such a sly, manipulative shyster that even his master can’t help but appreciate his shrewdness.
So is Jesus telling us to be like the dishonest steward? Yes, and no. Jesus is not telling us to be dishonest or to seek personal benefits at the expense of others. Quite the opposite. He says, “The sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” We, the sons of light, are not supposed to be dishonest or using that which belongs to another in an unfaithful way. The sons of light are not supposed to act like the sons of this world.
We are, however, supposed to be shrewd in how we use our wealth. Really, not our wealth, since Jesus says it does not belong to us. It belongs to another – our master – but we are to be shrewd in its use. We are supposed to make friends for ourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive us into the eternal dwellings.
How do you make friends with money? Giving it away of course! Give away the master’s money which has been untrusted to your stewardship, so that those who receive it will receive you into the eternal dwellings. That is, give God’s money to the spreading of the Gospel, so that those who hear and believe the Word of God that you have supported will be in heaven to receive you when the unrighteous wealth fails, that is when you die. In this life you may never meet the people that your mission dollars support, but they will receive you into eternal life. Your giving away of the master’s unrighteous wealth makes eternal friends for you. That is faithful use of the master’s wealth which also benefits you.
The Pharisees ridiculed Jesus for saying this because they were lovers of money. They thought that you can serve God and money. They thought they could be unfaithful with unrighteous wealth and still receive the true riches of eternal life. They thought they could be unfaithful with God’s money which had been entrusted to them and still receive their own riches in eternity.
Jesus told them, “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. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Dear sons of light, do not be like the sons of this world. Do not sacrifice everything in the pursuit of wealth. Do not cling to unrighteous mammon like it can save you. It will fail. You will die. Then whose will all the wealth be that you have stored up? (cf. Luke 12:20) You cannot take it with you.
Rather, be shrewd like the dishonest manager, but in a faithful way. Jesus says, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)
Giving to the needy and supporting mission work around the world will not save you, but it will save those who hear God’s Word and believe. Giving your unrighteous wealth to support the sharing of the Gospel results in eternal benefits – for you and for those who hear God’s Word through pastors and missionaries.
The unrighteous wealth of this world will fail. It has an expiry date. So be shrewd. Use it wisely. Give God what is His and provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
There is a world out there dying, even in our own community. They need to hear the same thing that you hear. They need to hear of the forgiveness of sins. They need to hear that the Law that they are unable to keep has been kept for them by Jesus. They need to hear that the punishment they deserve for their sins was put on Jesus. They need to be baptized and brought into the Church.
The world, and we, need to hear of the shrewdness of Jesus. Jesus knew what it would take to save the world lost in sin. Jesus didn’t scam someone else to pay the price of our sins, He paid the price Himself. He paid it with His own holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. There is no one else who could pay the price.
The debts that we owe God were wiped clean. Jesus didn’t just give us a discount on what we owe. Even that we would be unable to pay. Jesus paid the whole entire price of our sins and the sins of the whole world. Your bill has been paid in full. No balance remains. Jesus knew what it would take to save you and He did everything for you to save you. Take you bill, and sit down quickly and write zero. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.