The 18th Sunday After Pentecost September 30, 2007
1 Timothy 2:1-8
352, 385, 441, 443
[Jesus] also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ Then the steward said within himself, ‘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 to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.’ So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than 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. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Dear fellow Christians:
Money matters! It matters when you’re standing in front of a vending machine filled with ice-cold soft drinks on a hot summer day. It matters when you have a week’s groceries in the shopping cart at the checkout line. Money matters when it’s time to send in the mortgage payment or when taxes are due. Money matters to everyone in one way or another. There is nothing surprising about that. But did you know that money matters more to believers than to those who are not the Lord’s followers? It’s true.
It might seem, though, that it should be just the opposite, since money is an earthly thing, and we as believers are looking to spiritual things above all. But that spiritual perspective is going to show in outward, earthly ways. So we put a picture of Jesus on the living room wall. Faith is a matter of the heart, but it might show in your putting a fish symbol on your car. We love the Word of God, and it shows in the Bibles that we have in our homes.
So does our faith show in our attitude toward money and how we spend it? If someone looked at how you spend your allowance, or perused your checkbook register, would it show that you are a child of God? The Lord wants it to. In the parable before us, He shows us why MONEY MATTERS.
At first, the steward or business manager of the rich man’s estate may not have thought too seriously about money. If he wanted more, he could siphon it from the master’s bank accounts into his own and no one would be the wiser. It was not his money. He did not earn it. It did not mean that much to him. But suddenly that all changed. Someone blew the whistle on him and alerted the master to what he was doing. The master fired him and told him to hand over the financial records. The steward recognized the urgent reality of the situation.
Do we think like the steward in Jesus’ parable when it comes to our money and possessions? We talk about “my” car in the parking lot, “my” job, “my” home, “my” bank accounts. But where do they come from? We didn’t make them. God is the creator. “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3 NIV). He says, “Every animal of the forest is Mine and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 51:10 NIV). All the cars in the parking lot? They belong to God. We may have our names on the titles, but they are still God’s. Our homes and furniture and appliances? They are God’s too. Our bank accounts and retirement funds? God’s. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17 NIV).
God entrusts us with an abundance of earthly things, but they still belong to Him. We are His stewards or managers who are accountable to Him. When we write a check, when you spend your allowance, when we use the things in our homes, or get behind the wheel of our car, we are stewards of God. That is why money matters. Are we being faithful? What does God see when He looks at our record?
The steward took stock of the situation. He was not strong enough to go into farming as a new means of earning his livelihood, and he was ashamed to beg. But then he came up with an ingenious plan. He called in those who had an account with his master and had each one reduce the amount he owed. In that way he gained their goodwill and could count on them for favors when he was unemployed.
What did the master do when he found out? Instead of condemning him as a worthless scoundrel, he commended the servant. It was not because of the man’s dishonesty. He commended him “because he had dealt shrewdly.” [v.8] The man had been very perceptive and astute in using what he had to plan for his future security. It is the same initiative which moves someone who is laid off from his job to take his last $100 and start a new business in his garage, and build it into a multimillion dollar enterprise. Through careful investing over 40 years, someone else accumulates the money needed to build a dream home. In each of these cases money matters as a means to an end. The Lord provides us with money and the things it buys, and He wants us to use them just as shrewdly and diligently as a means to an end.
To do that, however, we need to remember that money has limitations. There are things it cannot do. We can buy new clothes with it, but it cannot buy the robe of righteousness we need to stand before God. Money can buy a vacation, but not happiness. We can buy locks, gates, and guns, but not eternal security and peace. We can buy a retirement home, but the mansions of heaven are not for sale. Jesus cautions: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19 NIV).
Those heavenly treasures are ours through Jesus alone. He lived a flawless, holy life, so that we could have His holiness credited to our account and be pronounced righteous by God. Jesus died on the cross as the payment for all our sin, so that we might be forgiven and have new spiritual life. Through faith in Him we have come out of the darkness of sin and death into the light of God’s love. Jesus saves, not money!
Yet money matters. It matters more to believers than to anyone else, because we see it in a totally different light. People of the world use it shrewdly for their own selfish purposes. But they think only of this life and often they end up serving money rather than money serving them. We have the same sinful tendency. That is why Jesus warns that we cannot have it both ways. We cannot serve God and mammon (money and what it buys) at the same time. [cf. v.13]
Don’t serve mammon, but be very shrewd and diligent in making it serve you. “Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” [v.9] Christ’s love is our motivation: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). We are spiritually rich in Christ. He is our security. We lack nothing. That enables us then to freely invest our money and goods in the lives of others in Jesus’ name. We can afford to be generous.
We are shrewd and godly stewards when we use our money to help those in need. But an even more shrewd investment is using our funds for an eternal benefit. Most of what we spend money on lasts only a short time, and then it is used up or worn out. But when we spend money to keep the programs of our church and school going, the return is eternal. The Gospel message creates new life in the hearts of our children, and fortifies them for adulthood in an evil world. The Gospel sustains us through every stage of life and prepares us for the life to come. Our mission money gives people in many different places what they need even more than food, clothing, or medicine. When we use our God-given resources to send young people to Immanuel Lutheran High School or College, it is a shrewd investment because it helps them grow in faith, not only in secular knowledge. What other investment can do all of that?
Money matters to the believer. Look at Zacchaeus. As an agent for the Roman IRS, he became a wealthy man. But his money really did not mean much until Jesus called him to follow Him. Then he saw what great potential money had in serving the Lord, and he eagerly said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8 NIV). The two coins of a widow woman mattered, not because of what they could buy for her, but as a means of serving the Lord her Savior (cf. Luke 21:1-4).
Whether you have a lot or a little by earthly standards, ask yourself, “Am I being a shrewd manager of what God has given me?” Think of where the allowance or paycheck goes. Look over the credit card statement and the checkbook register. Divide your spending into three categories. Look at what you spend for necessities. Then look at what you spend for non-essentials, such as entertainment and fast food. And then look at what you spend for the Lord and for others. When you look at those categories, do they reflect the priorities of a child of God? Are there perhaps ways we could redirect some of our funds into better investments?
Money matters because it is a means to a goal. The dishonest steward’s goal was to make friends who would provide for him in the future. Jesus tells us to look beyond this temporary life, and to make friends who will welcome us into heaven. No one is going to bribe his way into eternal life, but the point is that faithfulness in using the money God gives us in showing love toward others, especially in providing the Gospel to them, is a good barometer of faith in the heart. “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much…Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches.” [vv.10-11]
When we are eager and shrewd stewards, we show our love and devotion to the Lord. When we invest to help others, we gain friends who can testify on our behalf. It is as though they then can stand before God and say, “Yes, this person showed me great kindness. It is certainly evidence of saving faith in his heart.” Can people say that of us?
Money matters to everyone, but especially to the child of God. For we understand that what we have is not just a product of our own hard work. It is a trust from the gracious hand of God. We are not owners, but stewards or managers of all we receive. We have a commission to invest shrewdly with an eye to the eternal future which is quickly approaching. May God give us the will and ability to spend wisely in love for Him and for the good of our neighbor! Amen.
Lord, You love the cheerful giver
Who with open heart and hand
Blesses freely, as a river
That refreshes all the land.
Grant us, then, the grace of giving
With a spirit large and true
That our life and all our living
We may consecrate to You.
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