16th Sunday after Pentecost September 17, 2023
1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19
15, 383, 430, 46
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Sermon Audio: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/ministrybymail
Prayer of the Day: O Lord, You call us to be faithful in very little in order to be trusted with much. Preserve us by Your perpetual mercy, and because without You we cannot but fall, keep us from all things hurtful and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
[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. 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.’ 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. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ 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?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 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. 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.
“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.” (ESV)
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus who have been made rich through His poverty,
“Pastor, I don’t get this parable. Are we supposed to ‘buy’ friendship with people? And if we are able to ‘buy friends’ with our money, what does it mean that they will welcome us into heaven?” A member had been reading her Bible and came to this parable in Luke 16 and it didn’t make sense to her. And it wasn’t as though she was “blind” to the things of God. She was a life-long Christian, who had been a Christian teacher and taught her children about Jesus at home. Yet, this parable didn’t make any sense to her. Does it make sense to you?
Let’s walk through the text together and consider what Jesus is teaching us. First of all, let’s remember what a parable is. Our simple definition is, “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” With parables, Jesus uses stories of things that happen here on earth to teach us truths about God’s Kingdom. When studying the parables, we need to remember that Jesus is trying to teach us one thing and not get sidetracked from that one point.
The earthly story this morning deals with a man who was a manager of the possessions of a rich man. Another name for a manager is a “steward.” In the Old Testament, Joseph was a “steward” or “manager” of all the possessions in Potiphar’s house. Joseph faithfully took care of those things that belonged to Potiphar.
The steward or manager in this parable was NOT faithful or stalwart at all. He was accused wasting his master’s possessions and he is about to get fired for his unfaithfulness.
This leaves the man in a difficult position. He says he can’t dig—that is, he can’t farm for a living. Likewise, he is too proud to start begging for alms. So he comes up with a plan—what is referred to as a “shrewd” plan, something that is cunning and sly.
He goes to those who owed his former master something. One owed his master 100 measures of oil. (This is about 600 gallons of olive oil.) He tells the man to change his bill so that it only said “50 measures of oil.” He took 50% off this man’s large bill!
The second man owed his master 100 measures of wheat (or about 600 bushels or 36,000 lbs. of wheat!). The steward tells the man to take 20% off his bill and write “80 measures” on his bill.
How would you feel if someone took 20% or 50% off your debt? You would be, pardon the pun, “indebted” to that person. You would be so thankful to be alleviated that big chunk of your debt that you would gladly return the favor and help this man out if he ever needed it.
That was the manager’s plan on all along. Take a look at verse 4, “I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.” This was his sly plan, not to get back at his former employer, but to make sure he was taken care of in the future. This plan was so shrewd, that his former master was impressed when he found out about it. It was a shrewd planning in hopes of making friends.
Jesus says that’s how this world works. The businessmen and women of this world are always looking for an advantage for themselves. Billionaire Warren Buffet calls it “Intelligent Investment.” Donald Trump calls it “The Art of the Deal.” Businessmen and women want to make the most of the situations they find themselves in knowing it will benefit them in the future.
Now, Jesus is NOT teaching us to cheat our former employers out of what rightly belongs to them. Remember, when we look at parables there is one key point that Jesus is trying to make. That point is found for us in verse 9, “I tell you, make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” Jesus is talking about how we use our possessions in this world. Let’s explore that a little more.
All of you have been given something. You might have a little bit of money or a lot. You might have the “widow’s mite” in your piggy bank or like the rich man in the parable that, you might have so much wealth that you hire someone to manage it for you. Regardless of the amount, the Source of those finances are the same. Proverbs 22:2 says, “Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the maker of them all.” (EHV) Moses writes, “You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:18) James reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17) God is the source of all your possessions and you are the steward of those things. Even if it is “unrighteous wealth,” as Jesus calls it, that is something that does not spiritually benefit you.
So how does God want us to use the things He has given us? Again, we go back to those peculiar words of verse 9 where Jesus says to use the unrighteous wealth to make friends that they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. What does that mean?
It most certainly does NOT mean that you can use money to buy your way into heaven. That is absolutely clear from the rest of Scripture. But what Jesus says here is spoken of elsewhere in Scripture. Jesus says in Luke 14, “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:13-14) Solomon writes in Proverbs 19, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17)
Our Savior gives us possessions not only so we and our family can have our daily bread, He also gives us these things for the good of others. Great or small, He calls on us in verse 10 to be faithful or stalwart stewards. Being a faithful steward of the possessions God has given us means being willing to share with others, including those who cannot pay us back. In doing so, you will be making friends—friends who will thank Jesus for the good you have done for them. Friends who will welcome you with joy in heaven.
When we share with others, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Whether it is something small like a cup of cold water or offering to cut someone’s debt in half, in using the things of this world to care for others, we are really serving our Savior Jesus who gave us all these things in the first place. Whether little or big, our Savior calls on us to be faithful or stalwart in our stewardship and use them in such a way that people will be friendly to us for our charity.
Have you heard the story of the trap someone came up with to catch wild monkeys? They get a jar with a wide bottom and narrow opening and bury it in the ground with just the opening exposed. They put some sort of fruit in the jar to attract a monkey. The opening is big enough that monkey is able to slip his empty hand into the jar to grab the fruit, but when he pulls it up in his clinched hand, he can’t get it out of the narrow opening. Since he is unwilling to let go of that fruit in the jar and he can’t get his closed fist out of the opening, he is easily captured.
We don’t like to let go of our possessions. We have it clenched in our fist and don’t want to give it up. So Jesus warns us, “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.” (Luke 16:13) Our Savior has given us possession to use to make friends with, not to greedily hold onto and never let go.
The greatest possession our Savior has given us are the riches of His kingdom. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Jesus was the perfect steward, faithful in all the work which the Father gave Him to do. His whole life was a life of faithful service. His was a life free of sin, always richly loving God above all things and always richly loving His neighbor as Himself. He was faithful unto death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus came and said, “What do you owe My Master?” But Jesus didn’t just cut your debt to God by 20% or even by 50%. No Jesus paid it all. He took your debt on Himself and on the cross He paid it in full. 100%. Your record has been cleared. You are forgiven the sins of loving your money more than God and your unwillingness to use your money to help others.
Remember we asked how you would feel about someone who cut your debt by 50% or even 20%? You would feel “indebted” to that person. Jesus has cleared ALL your debt away with God and filled your spiritual bank account with the riches of His righteousness. Heaven is now yours through faith in Him.
THESE are the true riches we have been entrusted with—the riches of the Gospel. We can thank our Savior by being stalwart stewards and share these treasures. “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) By sharing the true riches of the Gospel we will make friends for all eternity. May God the Holy Spirit equip us to be faithful in the little things our Savior has given us and the true riches of His kingdom, found in His Gospel. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® (EHV ®) © 2019 The Wartburg Project. All rights reserved. Used by permission.