The 9th Sunday after Trinity—9 August 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Reading from Holy Scripture: Luke 16:1–13 (ESV) 1 [Jesus] also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 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. 10 “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. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 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.”
Sometimes, it would be good if pews had seatbelts, for it strikes the pastor to cover a lot of ground in his sermon and in a short amount of time. This is such a sermon. So buckle up, because I am going to drive you fast through three topics. No stopping to admire the scenery—just getting you to the destination, which of course is Jesus’ love and mercy for you.
Three topics this morning. The third topic I preach on all the time—the mercy of Jesus for you. But these days pastors rarely preach on the first two topics—money and evangelism.
First, money. When I was a child, my church had a stewardship drive every fall. On a Sunday evening we would gather for a potluck. Then the pastor and chairman would stand up and give speeches about the church budget and about using your time, talents, and treasures to the glory of God. And then these blue pledge cards would be passed around, and everyone was expected to write down how much they intended to give in the coming year and then even sign and return the card to the stewardship committee.
Pledge drives have gone the way of the dodo bird, and I am not suggesting that we bring them back. But pledge drives did remind us once a year that God has blessed us with time, talents, and treasures, which we are to use for His Kingdom. And to be so reminded is a good thing indeed.
There is a deep connection between our use of our time, talents, and treasures and our benefiting from the Lord’s holy Word and Sacraments. Which brings us to our text: 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?
The very little,… the unrighteous wealth, of which our Lord speaks—this refers to your time, talents, and treasures. They are that which is another’s. These riches do not come from you; rather, they are God’s gift to you. The true riches…that which is [now] your own as God’s dear children are the great treasures of God’s Word, and also Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper.
Your calling in Christ is to be faithful in the very little, in the unrighteous wealth, which is another’s. You are to use your time, talents, and treasures in faith toward God and fervent love for others. If you squander your time, talents, and treasures on self-centered living, focusing only on satisfying your earthly desires, then you will have no appetite for God’s holy Word and Sacraments.
Here is the main point about money, abilities, and the hours of our lives in relation to God’s true riches: if you are faithful in the little things, then you will be faithful in the big ones; if you are unrighteous in the little things, you will be unrighteous in the big things.
Sadly, some people who were baptized and confirmed become so consumed on spending their time, talents, and treasures upon themselves that they cannot be bothered with the true riches of God’s Word and Sacraments. The abuse of unrighteous wealth leads to the neglect of true riches. And yet—thanks be to God—there is a great multitude of Christians—including you—who are faithful in the very little things—using their time, talents, and treasures to the glory of God and the well-being of their neighbour—so that, by God’s grace, they end up being faithful in much, in daily living in their baptism and in faithfully receiving the Lord’s Word and Supper.
Okay, that’s the first topic; now the second: evangelism. Our Lord Jesus tells us: make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. In today’s parable, the manager quickly works to lower the debt of his master’s debtors so that after he is fired, they will gladly receive him into their homes. Something similar is to happen in your life. You are to use your time, talents, and treasures in such a way that your fellow saints will welcome you with joy in the eternal dwellings of heaven.
Being baptized, you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful (James 5:11). You know that your calling is to be imitators of God, as beloved children[, to] walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1). You are to be merciful, even as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). Imitating God’s mercy for you, you give generously, selflessly of your time, talents, and treasures, with no thought of reward, not let[ting] your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:3-4).
Here is the bottom line: You have been shown generous mercy by God for the sake of Christ Jesus your Saviour; now, you are to show merciful generousity to others. Really, using your time, talents, and treasures in generous mercy to others is rewarding in itself. But there is more. Your giving to others is a such a marvelous display of mercy that it may just touch their lives for all eternity. And thus, the way you use your time, talents, and treasures is indeed a form of evangelism.
Let me explain by way of illustration. Let’s say you have died and you are in heaven. A fellow saint walks up to you and says: “you didn’t know me on earth, but I want you to know that I am here in part because God worked through you to give money to the seminary, which trained a man to be a pastor, who ended up being called to a church in my town, and through his ministry I was brought by the Holy Spirit to confess Christ Jesus as Lord.” Or: “I was your next door neighbour, and I was struggling to cope with the stresses of my life. One day, you knocked on my door to invite me over for coffee. From then on, you spent many an hour listening to my troubles and doing what you could to help. And in your acts of kindness, I caught a glimpse of God’s love and mercy, and I came to share your faith in the Holy Triune God.”
I hope you see the point I am making with these two illustrations. Through your generous and merciful use of your time, talents, and treasures, you are making friends for yourself for all eternity. Of course, you do not give in order to earn God’s favour or to win the approval of others. You give freely, generously, as God has given to you. And you give with the prayer that your giving of your wealth, of your abilities, and of the hours of your life may indeed be used by the Holy Spirit to gather others into the Church and thus to make them your friends forever!
As you can tell, with preaching on three distinct topics, the scenery is just whizzing by—there’s no time to stop and explore each topic in depth. But there will be future sermonic trips for taking in more. For now, we need to briefly catch a glimpse of our third topic—the mercy of Jesus. That is what today’s parable is really all about. In past sermons, I have covered this parable in detail. Today, I only want to draw your attention to the master’s question and the manager’s response.
The master calls the manager to him and says: What is this that I hear about you? It is very similar to the question the LORD God asked of Adam and Eve after they had fallen into sin: Where are you? (Genesis 3:9). These questions are really an invitation from God for sinners to confess their sins. Now, in Genesis, Adam played the blame game: the woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate (3:12). But it’s different with the manager. Oh, he does have an inner dialogue with himself, but before the master he is silent. And in the ancient world, to be silent before charges of misconduct was to admit one’s guilt.
In short, the manager is confessing his sin and also trusting that the master who showed mercy in not casting him into prison will remain merciful. The manager goes out to lessen the debt of the master’s debtors, with the double effect that the debtors praise the master for his generousity and the master commends the manager for trusting in the master’s mercy.
Today, you are the manager. God says to you: what is this that I hear about you squandering your time, talents, and treasures on yourself and neglecting the true riches of My Word and Sacraments?. And you show your contrition, not by being silent like the manager, but by saying “yes, Lord it is true. Like the manager and also the prodigal son squandering that which was another’s, so I have squandered away unrighteous wealth, and You have every right not to entrust to me Your true riches. But You have poured out Your mercy on an undeserving world through the holy death of Your only-begotten Son. Now, for the sake of my Saviour Jesus, I trust You to pour out Your mercy upon me.”
And God—being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us in Christ Jesus—God forgives you. God fills you afresh with the Holy Spirit, Who makes you faithful in the very little riches of time, talents, and treasures and also faithful in the true riches of God’s holy Word and Sacraments. And the day is coming when the eternal friends you have made through your faithful displays of generous mercy will welcome you into the eternal dwellings, saying: we shout for joy over your salvation (Psalm 20:5). Amen.