In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Our Lord’s parable today is almost incomprehensible. (Luke 16:1-13) What’s He saying? That we should be like the dishonest manager? (Luke 16:8a) That we should use money to bribe people to somehow get into eternal dwellings? (Luke 16:9) What?
It does’t make sense till you hear King David’s words after the Lord delivered him from hands of his enemies. (2 Sam. 22:1) “With the merciful you show Yourself merciful; with the blameless man you seem blameless; with the pure you deal purely but with the crooked you seem oh so crooked.” (2 Sam. 22:26-27) That’s the key to all of this isn’t it. Not that the parable is telling us how we should act, but rather that the parable is about how the world views the Lord. He seems crooked. Twisted. Not right. For grace isn’t right is it. It is not right to forgive someone who wastes another’s wealth. And that’s what our Lord does. He forgives your wasting of His blessings to you. Both His spiritual and material riches. And He forgives you over and over. And He commends you when you “waste” his riches by giving them away to others. How could an evil person be forgiven? This is not right says a world seeking vengeance. We all think that our own faults and foibles are just misdemeanours. Easy to forgive. Not a big deal. But what about the truly evil person? Whatever your standard is for that—and you’ve all got folks you consider unforgivable, actions that can’t or shouldn’t be forgiven, but instead deserve quick and instant punishment: those who harm children or discriminate in one way or another, those who defraud parents, batter wives, commit genocide. You name it. There are things we consider the worst. People who should not only be given a swift kick in the pants, but upon whom justice should be meted out with extreme prejudice as the military might say.
And God doesn’t do it. He lets it ride here in time. He seems like that crazy rich man who not only has a corrupt manager, but then commends him for his shrewd misuse of his wealth. (Luke 16:1, 8) What is that? That’s not justice. That’s not right. No. It’s not. Getting what you deserve. That’s right. Not getting commended when you are a worthless scoundrel. That’s right.
Repent. For you are the worthless scoundrel. You sin much daily in thought, word, and deed. Your “little” sins aren’t much better than the little bargains the dishonest manager made. For you keep thinking you’re getting away with them and besides no one is getting hurt by them. Which is not true. Because even your “little” sins impact yourself, your family, everyone close to you. And that doesn’t even begin to deal with your “big” sins. Repent.
This parable reveals something about the state of your heart. If you do not see yourself as a worthless scoundrel before the Lord, deserving of death and hell, then you can not see our gift-giving God as anything but ultimately unfair and twisted. Like David you have to see yourself as an unworthy recipient of His gracious gifts before you can honestly confess that He is pure. That He is just. That He is gracious and merciful.
That’s why the sons of this world are more shrewd than the sons of light. They know no man can serve two masters. Why even try? They have unapologetically worshipped the god of unrighteous wealth. They make no bones about it. We are a culture addicted to worshipping money and its pursuit. We consider success to be when you have money. We think the Church isn’t doing well if it doesn’t have full pews and therefore full coffers. But that’s not God’s judgment. That’s ours. God simply desires faithfulness, not numbers. (Luke 16:10-12) God owns all things. (Ps. 50:10-12) Created all things. He has no need of your money. He can make it appear if He needed to. And guess what, when the Church needs it, He does make it appear. Usually by putting the desire to support the preaching of the gospel for the comfort and salvation of sinners into the hearts of those who have received His mercy. And those who have received much from the Lord, gladly give much to Him and His work. Thus, with the merciful He shows Himself merciful. With the blameless upright man He is blameless and upright. For in faith you see Him as such. You experience Him as such. In unbelief you see Him only as twisted.
But we sons of light are foolish ones. For we try to serve two masters. And even the sons of this world know you can’t. (Luke 16:13) The dishonest manager knew where he belonged. He belonged amongst those whom money could buy a place. But the sons of light only need money to get along in this world. We don’t need it to buy the eternal dwellings. Money is not something to be sought after, as in grasped for, clinged to, or worshipped for us. For it is not our god. We can not serve it. You must know its place in your life, or you will become it’s servant. Its place is this: it is a gift from God. All good gifts come from our God who gave us His Son Jesus Christ. And gives you abilities and energies to work and make a living. And wisdom to manage that money shrewdly. In faith we recognize it comes from Him and is granted by His hand to you. So money does not control you or cause you to fear. Rather like all gifts, it is to be received and held with thanksgiving to God. It is to be managed and used for the sake of your neighbour. And money, in particular, has such a hold on us that God does demand us give some of it back to Him (2 Cor. 9:6-12; Mal. 3:8-10; Explanation of 3rd Commandment) in order to remind us of money and things’ position in our lives. That it is merely one of His gifts to us. So in love for God and neighbour you use it for good of your family, for the good of those in need of care whom the Lord puts in your life. You use it to return thanks to the Lord who granted it to you in first place, choosing to set a portion of it aside for the proclamation of the Gospel through your church. So that not only you, but your kids, and the world can receive the same gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation which are yours in Christ Jesus. For all gifts come from Him. All things in this world serve Him. And just as God makes a way of escape from every temptation (1 Cor. 10:13) so, Christ our Lord has served His Father completely, that you who keep trying to serve God and money can be bought, not with gold or silver, but at the cost of Jesus’ blood from your slavery to money. Set free to be God’s slave. (Luke 16:13) To serve Him in everlasting innocence and blessedness into all eternity.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church