9th Sunday after Trinity + Luke 16:1-9 + July 24, 2016
Order of Holy Communion - pg. 15Hymn # 417 How Can I Thank Thee, Lord
Hymn # 441 We Give Thee But Thine Own
Hymn # 425 All Depends on Our Possessing
1 Chronicles 29:10-13
1 Corinthians 10:6-13
Collect for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity
Let Thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of Thy humble servants; and that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please Thee; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Sermon on the Holy Gospel
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) This parable is probably the most confusing parable Jesus spoke. As you hear the parable you grow to really dislike the unjust steward. He’s abusing his master’s wealth by enriching himself off his master’s property. He would have been in charge of everything that belonged to the master; land, property, animals, servants, invoices, inventories, and the like. None of it belonged to him. What made him unjust is that he wasted his master’s goods and enriched himself materially. He lived luxuriously, feasted sumptuously, and dwelt comfortably at his master’s expense. When word comes that he’s fired and has to bring the ledgers to the master, everything changes though. Before that word came, the unjust steward was only interested in self-gratification. Once word comes from the master though, he quickly assesses the situation. “What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig. I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what do to.” In a moment, the steward rises up from his shameful negligence and laziness and becomes quite shrewd. Instead of playing the short game of instant self-gratification, he thinks long-term towards self-preservation. It’s no longer, “What can I get out of this situation?” Now he thinks, “How can I use my master’s goods to help others, so that they will welcome me into their homes once I’m canned?”
2) It is that shrewdness which the master in the parable, and thus Jesus, commends. He says, “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dwelt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation that the sons of light. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” Jesus does not commend the steward for the things that earned him the title “unjust.” Jesus is not commending the actions of the steward at the beginning of the parable when he was slothful and self-indulgent in his stewardship of someone else’s possessions. Jesus commends, and recommends, the stewards actions and mindset once he gets news that he’s being fired. The unjust steward made a serious reckoning of how to use the stewardship, even though he only had it for a few brief hours. Instead of, “How can I use my master’s possessions for MY benefit and comfort and luxury?” the shrewdly asked, “How can I use my master’s possessions and property for my neighbor’s benefit?” His motivation was still selfish. He did not want to dig. He must not have had the back for it. He did not want to beg. He had too much pride for that. He figured that if he could use his stewardship to help his fellowman, his fellowman would help him when he needed it most.
3) So what does Jesus teach us in this parable? He says, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation that the sons of light.” We all see how unbelievers shrewdly live their lives as they chase more wealth. They rise early in the morning and make great sacrifices in order to obtain more wealth and luxury. Like the unjust steward, the unbelieving world will take whatever advantage it can to increase its wealth, reputation, and power. Luther uses thieves and prostitutes as examples of this as well. The lady of the night carefully dresses and makes herself up so that she can ply her ungodly trade. The thief goes to great pains to plan out every detail of his heist because the hangman’s noose hangs overhead if he neglects the smallest point. Although these are extreme examples, they show us the shrewdness of the world when it comes to worldly things. They know their goal. They know how to get it. They give themselves every advantage to obtaining that goal, just as the steward did in the parable. His goal was to provide for himself into the future using his stewardship while he still had it. He succeeded in this because of his foresight and quickness.
4) The sons of light, on the other hand, are often lazy and slothful toward their goal. The sons of light are not caught up in enriching themselves in this life at any cost as the heathen are. The sons of light strive for divine things! Being sons of light means that you have God as your Father, for he dwells “in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16). God the Father “has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light, St. Paul writes. (Colossians 1:12). He qualifies us to be partakers in the heavenly inheritance through faith, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). Because we are sons of light, heirs of everlasting life and the heavenly blessings, our goal is divine things. Sons of light are to be zealous for the Word of God, its study and contemplation. Being sons of the light we desire to hear and inwardly digest the words God speaks to us. Being sons of light we shun the darkness of this world and its goals of self-gratification, luxury, and comfort, for we know that the things of this life offer no real gratification, luxury, or comfort. All that we have in this life is a gift from God, a stewardship, if you will. The sons of light are to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2) so that we do not cling to our material possessions as our own, but as blessings bestowed by God for our benefit and for our neighbor’s benefit.
5) Not only ought the sons of light pursue with zeal heavenly things, but we ought to also pursue good works for neighbor, for good works are commanded by God, though not for our salvation. The parable shows that pursuing good works is pleasing to God our Father. Jesus says, “I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” What does this mean? First it means that we should use “unrighteous mammon” to make friends in this life, that is, we should use our possessions, our wealth, our vocations and stewardships from God to serve our neighbor and help them in whatever need the have. Christ calls mammon “unrighteous” not because wealth is unrighteous in and of itself, but because it is so often abused by people, and that abuse causes it to be “unrighteous mammon.” St. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Money is not intrinsically evil. But it is frequently abused and made into an idol more often than any of us care to admit. Wealth is a gift from God. “Both riches and honor come from you” David says in 1 Chronicles 29:12. As stewards of the riches and honor God gives, we as sons of light should strive to use our wealth and honor, and everything we have at our disposal, for the good of our neighbor. In this we ought to be shrewd as well! We ought to be always on the lookout for our neighbor’s need, knowing that all we have is a stewardship from God and not ours.
6) Christ admonishes the sons of light to use unrighteous mammon to make friends so that “when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” The unjust steward used his stewardship for the good of his neighbor so that when he came to the end of his stewardship, the friends he made with his master’s wealth would offer their homes to him. This is something we as Christians will experience on the Last Day at the resurrection of the body and judgment of all flesh. Those for whom we have done good works, those who have been the recipients of our acts of charity and compassion will welcome us into our heavenly home. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus tells those who loved their neighbors, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). So our good works are seen by Christ and on the Last Day He Himself will praise us for them. Not only will our neighbors, but also our Lord Jesus will receive us “into an everlasting home.” With this is mind, we ought to be zealous for good works, not to earn our salvation or to gain God’s favor though. We ought to be industrious in our good works according to the Ten Commandments because we are sons of light, heirs of life everlasting and co-heirs of all the heavenly blessings with Christ. Consider the words of St. Paul in Galatians 6:9-10, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
7) Now for the challenging part. How do you do this? How do you use unrighteous mammon for the sake of making friends? How do you go about being industrious in good works? For this you have two things. The first is your vocation. Are you a father or mother, a grandfather or grandmother? Are you a husband or wife? Are you an employee or employer? Are you a citizen? Who do you interact with on a daily basis? These are your neighbors. The second thing God has given you to answer the question, “how do you go about being zealous for good works?” is the Ten Commandments. They show you much more than simply from what you should abstain. They show you what God requires of you, how He wants you to love your neighbor as you love yourself. When you consider the commandments and what God requires in them, you’ll soon realize that you will never run out of good works to do for your neighbor. There are countless ways to support his body and life. There are countless ways to protect his marriage, to improve his possessions and income, to guard and defend his reputation, and the like. This is why God has given you the stewardship He has. He has placed you in your vocations for the sake of your fellowman. So be zealous for good works. Be shrewd with your wealth, your honor, your vocations, so that you use them for the benefit of the church, the ministry, and all the heavenly things. But also be circumspect with how you may best serve your neighbor in whatever need you see. That is the reason God has put you, the sons of light, into that stewardship. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.