Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sermon: Trinity 9 – 2011

21 August 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 16:1-13 (2 Sam 22:26-34, 1 Cor 10:6-13)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Jesus tells us a shocking story because he wants to teach us a shocking lesson: we Christians are not very smart.

More accurately, we’re not very “shrewd.” A shrewd businessman uses the resources at his disposal for the good of the company. A shrewd general figures out a way to achieve military success even with a smaller army and a difficult strategic position. A shrewd diplomat will find a way to get something out of another country without causing a war.

In our Lord’s parable, “the master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness.” Notice he doesn’t commend him for his dishonesty, but rather for his wisdom and resourcefulness – his ability to “think outside the box” to wrench success from certain failure.

For when people are facing starvation and public humiliation, they find a way to become resourceful and motivated. In such dire circumstances, there is no room for complacency and frivolity.

And Jesus criticizes us because “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” In matters of business, war, politics, family life, education, work, and leisure time we are very shrewd. But when we deal with God’s Kingdom, we’re really quite naïve and foolish. And for our lack of shrewdness, the kingdom suffers. And when the kingdom suffers, people remain in their sins. People lack communion with God. People suffer in hell.

We suffer from a lack of priority. Like the dishonest manager, we are not very good stewards. We allow the situation to degenerate until it becomes dire in the Lord’s kingdom. We allow other things to take priority over and above the church. Over time, the kingdom becomes a lower and lower priority in our lives.

Dear friends, we need to be shrewd for the sake of the kingdom! Our Lord wants us to be honest, to be “innocent as doves,” and yet, he also implores us to also be “wise as serpents” and to “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

Money is neither good nor evil. It is a tool that can be used for the kingdom or against the kingdom. Money can be a great temptation to selfishness, but it can also be used unselfishly for the good of our neighbor and the glory of God. Our Lord warns us that wealth can make it difficult to enter the kingdom, even like a camel passing through the eye of a needle, but he also teaches us that “with God, all things are possible.” With a regenerated heart, the wealthy can and do serve the kingdom. In the joy of the gospel, even those who are not well off can outgive even the wealthy by their two mites offered in faith.

However, as our Lord points out, when it comes to the kingdom, we generally aren’t very shred. We don’t have a very good track record, and we need to be reminded what is important and how we should use the resources God has entrusted to us.

People who would not think of missing a day of work – or even going in late – will absent themselves from hearing God’s Word and from partaking of the Holy Sacrament. People who are shrewd with their savings or investments, who find a way to generate business or secure promotions – may not even put money in the plate to support the work of the kingdom. Christians may well analyze the stock market and pay attention to TV news channels virtually around the clock while allowing the Bible to sit unopened on the shelf.

On the other hand, the church benefits when we also “think outside the box” when it comes to ways to support the work of the kingdom, when we “make friends with unrighteous wealth” and are “innocent as doves” in our shrewdness.

Dear friends, we are part of an enterprise – not a corporation, but the corpus of the Body of Christ, not a Fortune 500 company, but rather the eternal company of heaven! We are not part of a political entity, but rather subjects of a kingdom. Dear brothers and sisters, we are at war. We need strategy. We need officers. We need soldiers. We need to move men and resources in the service of our King and kingdom. We are not part of the world whose wealth is passing away, whose material goods all rot in a landfill, rather we are “sons of light” who have been entrusted with the “true riches” of the forgiveness of sins, communion with God, and everlasting life!

Our Lord bids us to be “faithful in a very little” even as our Lord was “faithful in much” – even being so shrewd as to sacrifice His very body and blood on the cross for our salvation, and finding a way to “think outside the box” to give us the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments so that we might receive the gifts He won for us by His shrewd faithfulness.

And when it comes to our sins, He tears up the bill and forgives our debts. Instead of trying to buy our way into heaven, the Lord frees up our funds to serve the kingdom of heaven, motivated not by selfishness, but by selflessness. The Lord has shrewdly defeated Satan and entrusts us, his managers and stewards, with receiving others into those “eternal dwellings.”

Indeed, we cannot serve two masters. We “cannot serve God and money.” When we are shrewd in the eyes of the world and foolish in the kingdom, we are simply being selfish. We are simply serving the false god Mammon – which is to say, we are serving ourselves. Let us be shrewd in matters of the kingdom. Let us not only be unselfish with the time and treasure and talents the Lord has entrusted to us, but let us, like the dishonest manager, think of ways to serve the kingdom with shrewdness and wisdom, - while maintaining our integrity and innocence – motivated by a desire to draw people to the kingdom and to give glory and honor to Him who suffered shame and dishonor for us.

Indeed, dear friends, we can learn something even from a dishonest manager – we can learn to be shrewd. We can learn to treasure that which is truly important and we can learn to effectively use the things the Lord has entrusted to us. And in Christ, we can put it all into perspective with the hymnist:

What is the World to me
With all its vaunted pleasure
When You, and You alone,
Lord Jesus are my treasure!
You only, dearest Lord,
My soul’s delight shall be;
You are my peace, my rest.
What is the world to me!


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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