Preached to the saints at Trinity Lutheran Church of Layton, Utah.
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
To hear who is the one that is faithful and what that means for you, click on the MP3 audio link provided above.
Thanks be to God He has given us His One and only Son to be and do for us what we cannot be or do of ourselves.
Your servant of the Word,
Here is the preaching manuscript.
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. 11If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13No 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."
Dear faithful people in Christ,
Who is the One who is faithful? The one who attends the Divine Service every week? The one who joyfully gives his offerings to the church? The one who is always putting his neighbor first and serving him with gladness?
Well, yes, but who does all that? The parable Jesus tells in today's Gospel can help us in this regard.
On the face of it, this parable commends a hired hand for acting dishonestly to save his own hide. Unless we understand what is going on around this parable we walk away from it thinking it is a lesson on dealing with our finances and investments in this world in order to win friends and influence people, because in doing so we somehow are feathering a heavenly retirement nest. But as always, in reading the Scripture and hearing the Word of God, if all we get out of it is what we have to do to gain access to our heavenly home, we leave ourselves on the outside of the window looking in.
Jesus has turned from addressing the Pharisees and is speaking to His disciples as he tells the tale of the parable of the "steward of unrighteousness." However, we also must remember that the Pharisees are still present, listening in as Jesus teaches, catechizes His disciples. But this parable is one of those difficult and cloudy texts—purposefully so. And when we face such a piece of Scripture, the rule for right interpretation and understanding is to look to other parts of Scripture that are clear.
As Jesus himself warns the Pharisees on another occasion, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness of me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. John 5:39 40
Furthermore, let us remember that earlier in chapter 9 of His Gospel Luke indicates a point in Jesus ministry where He clearly is heading to Calvary and needs to prepare His disciples for that day:
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face . . . to prepare for Him. "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." Luke 9:51- 56
So, here in today's parable we have Jesus catechizing His disciples, preparing them for His death on the cross and His subsequent departure, which will leave them in charge of proclaiming and spreading the message of the kingdom of heaven. This He does with a parable so that hearing, the Pharisees will not understand, because they do not recognize Him as the Christ, who by His crucifixion is THE key to understanding all of Scripture -- and therefore, also this parable.
Now that we have an idea of what is going on here, let us take a closer look at the story Jesus tells. For today, rather than getting all caught up in the details in the middle, I=d like us to focus on the beginning and the end of the story. It is at the beginning and the end that we see what is truly happening and why.
The parable begins: ""There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions."
The word "charges," i.e. accusation, is very important here for two reasons.
1. Nowhere in the parable do the charges become fact born out by evidence.
2. The person or persons making the charges are never revealed.
The Greek word for "accusation" here is "diabollo," the same word from which we get the devil's name. Satan was our accuser before the throne of God until Jesus ascended victorious to cast Him out of heaven, and throughout His ministry the Pharisees were Christ's accusers. Keep this thought in mind, we will come back to it shortly.
But now, let us take a quick look at how Jesus closes the parable: master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.
Here the Greek word so often translated "shrewd" is perhaps better understood by us as "prudent" or even "wise."
What was so prudent and wise about the steward's actions toward the debtors? It could only be the forgiving of their debts. Here is the nugget of the story that prepares the disciples for what is to come, that journey to Jerusalem to which Jesus had steadfastly set His face that He might be received up on the cross to forgive the debts of a sinful world that owes the Master, the Lord their very lives. It is the same nugget that leaves the Pharisees shaking their heads and leads to their being the agents for Christ's death.
These Pharisees were continually trying to trap Jesus, accusing Him of sinning against the Scriptures and blaspheming God and His name. Eventually they succeeded in making their accusations stick--at least in the realm of this unrighteous world. The result was that the only righteous one among us was slain on a cursed tree to bear the unrighteousness of those He came to serve. Jesus, the very Son of God who knew no sin and was falsely accused, became sin for us so that He could pay the price and wipe out all our debt before His father, the rich man and Lord of Heaven to whom we all owe our very lives and all that we have.
On the cross, Jesus the Christ, the steward of unrighteousness--that is, the one who managed our sin and bore its consequences for us--begged His Father, the master of the estate, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
He paid our debts, delivering us from sin and bondage to the accuser. Having done so, He is received up into heaven where He has prepared a place for us to live with Him forever. And having completed His task of clearing away the slate of our debt, He sends us forth as His forgiven people to deliver that forgiveness to others that they may know all accusations the evil one brings against them have been wiped clean as well.
Jesus, the steward of our unrighteousness, makes us stewards of His righteousness. What a great Gospel lesson and parable this is to help us better understand our own stewardship issues as well. We look at stewardship as what we do with our stuff. The meetings become forums to ask, "Where will we get the money?" "How are we going to get more people to help us make budget?" "How can we spend less to preserve our resources."
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. These are the wrong questions to ask. Just as the steward of unrighteousness has nothing that has not been given first by the master, that is, the Father in heaven, we have nothing that truly belongs to us that has not been given us by God to manage for the sake of our neighbor--i.e. spouse, children, relatives, friends, fellow church members, and the communities in which we live.
Stewardship is not a matter of our raising funds, our luring more people in, or how frugal we can be with our resources. As the parable of the talents shows, it is about taking what we ALL have been given--some more, some less--and using it without fear of running out. For the One who is faithful has given us all things and has all things to give.
So we should never think of stewardship as our sacrifice for God. For we have nothing to give, whether it be the treasures of this world or the kingdom of heaven, that has not first been given to us.
This is what Jesus has in mind when He exhorts us to, "... go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Matt 9:13
All of us baptized children of God are first of all His stewards of righteousness. In God's mercy we have been given the keys to the kingdom of heaven and are sent out to bring more people into the kingdom and house of our Lord. We are first of all stewards of the means of grace, the Word and the Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins that bestows the mercy of God on all who hear and believe. And second of all, we are stewards of unrighteous mammon, the riches of this world by which we ensure the means of grace have a home, a person to administer them, and the means to take them out into the world.
That we may be faithful stewards and set our faces to the cross with Jesus, the disciples, the prophets and all the saints, our Lord catechizes us to be disciples as well.
We pray in The Fifth Petition of the Lord's Prayer as taken from Matthew 6:12: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. What does this mean? "We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that he would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us."
And we forgive because we have been forgiven first by the steward of our unrighteous sin and debt, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord Who alone is the One who is faithful. Who alone is the one who attends the Divine Service every week. Who alone is the one who joyfully gives his offerings to the church. Who alone is the one who is always putting his neighbor first and serving him with gladness. And yet, He is never alone. For where He goes He takes you and all His baptized whom the Holy Spirit makes faithful to be with Him by forgiving your sins and giving you the name of the One Who Is Faithful-- the name of the Father ,and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.
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