Text: Luke 16:1-13 (2 Sam 22:26-34, 1 Cor 10:6-13)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Sin is more than breaking rules. Sin is a violation of the order of the universe. In the Lord’s creation, everything has its place to fit in. The Lord created all things, made them work together, and declared the whole thing “very good.” But as anyone who lives in this world knows, sin has changed everything.
Sin is when the creature thinks it knows better than Creator. Sin is when the order gets reversed. Sin is when the servant wishes to be the master. Sin is when the child claims authority over the parent. Sin is when the man desires to be a woman, and the woman desires to be a man. Sin is when Lucifer demands that God serve him. Sin is when Eve defies God, wishing to be like God. And sin is when Adam submits to her desire to defy God instead of submitting to God.
And the results are disastrous. When drugs or alcohol master the person, people die in car accidents, their bodies wither away, and relationships suffer. When anger masters the person, violence ensues – even the kind of violence that leads to mass murder. When sexual desire, jealousy, or greed master a person, every manner of destructive things happen.
And the wages of sin is indeed death.
St. Paul points out the terrible consequences of sin, calling to mind historical biblical examples of idolatry: “the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play,” of “sexual immorality,” of “putting Christ to the test” and “grumbling” – for all of these things involve our sinful nature’s refusal to submit to God, to His will, to accept where He has placed us, to be content with what He has given us – and St. Paul warns us, dear friends, he warns us Christians, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
For what sums up our culture better than this: idolatry that focuses on eating, drinking, and playing; a casual attitude toward sexuality; making a mockery of Jesus; and constant negativity and grumbling?
Our Lord similarly warns us of our sinful refusal to submit to Him as our Master when He teaches us: “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Money is not the root of all evil as people often misquote Scripture, but rather “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” Money is simply a convenient way to trade. Unless the dairy farmer needs his oil changed right now, the mechanic cannot buy a gallon of milk. But both can accept silver coins to trade. Money is not evil. It’s just a way to barter.
What is evil is when money is stolen, when people scheme to get money dishonestly, or when the money itself is corrupted. In the middles ages, bankers began to loan money that they didn’t have – a practice that continues to this day. In modern times, governments began to print money out of thin air to pay their own bills – also a practice that continues to this day. This is nothing more than theft, and it is sinful.
The love of money indeed can tempt honest people to all kinds of evils – even to seeing the honest servant of money itself become a wicked master, even to the point of being a god. Given a choice between receiving Holy Communion, the forgiveness of sins, hearing holy absolution, and studying the Word of God – or getting rich – what does our culture prefer? What do we prefer? Do we daydream about being in perfect, sinless communion with the living God, or do we rather fantasize about winning the lottery? Would we rather be kneeling anonymously at the rail, or famous and bowing to an adoring audience? Would we rather receive the keys of the kingdom through the forgiveness of sins, or are our thoughts more consumed by the keys to a new luxury car?
“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.”
We are servants, dear friends. We are servants of the Lord who created us, or we are enslaved by things that were made along with us. Either we serve our rightful Lord and Master, or we allow unrighteousness to master and lord over us.
We are sinners. We need to confess. We need to repent. We need to be forgiven. And that is why we are here. The Lord has given the keys to His church, to be entrusted to His pastors, to be used for the benefit of those who repent and to the judgment of those who do not.
Dear friends, our Lord is trying to get our attention. “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.” For that is the lesson of our Lord’s story of the cheating manager. In order to receive worldly riches, the manager was willing to do what he needed to do. And yet, as the Lord points out, we, “the sons of light” lack this shrewdness. We are so often spiritually clueless. Rather than seeing the writing on the wall, rather than fearing our potential destruction, we freely participate in our culture’s behavior: eat, drink, play, be sexually immoral, put Christ to the test, and grumble. The Lord is calling upon us to display the shrewdness of the “sons of this world.”
The crooked manager forgave debts. We Christians ought to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And we ought to carry out our part of the petition. For our Lord has come into our midst to forgive us. As the prophet Samuel prays to God: “With the merciful You show Yourself merciful; with the blameless man You show Yourself blameless; with the purified You deal purely, and with the crooked You make Yourself seem torturous.”
The Lord has come into our world as a Man – conceived, born, dead, and risen again – all “for us men and for our salvation” – to overcome the sin that we have invited on ourselves by our greed and idolatry. He offers us His Word of forgiveness, our baptism, and His body and blood as a way to tear up the bill of our debts, as One who is shrewd for us even though it meant a cross for Himself. Our Lord’s shrewdness is rewarded by the Father by restoring us as His servants, being received again into communion with Him, our true Master and our life’s joy – an eternal joy that nothing the world has to offer in the form of money, sexuality, eating, drinking, playing, putting Christ to the test, or even fashionable grumbling and trash-talking can approach.
The Lord calls us to be shrewd by receiving His gifts, by serving our true Master instead of money, and by receiving His faithfulness in much as atonement for our dishonesty and our unfaithfulness in much.
For this is your true treasure, dear friends: forgiveness, salvation, eternal life, riches that await you in eternity, contentment in your present service of God and the joyful hope of praising your Master, surrounded by wealth that cannot be imagined (let alone coveted) in this life.
“This God – His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him…. This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.”
This is indeed our treasure, dear brothers and sisters: living forever in the peace and joy in which we were created, perfectly, within the order of God’s perfect creation, when He declared it all – especially His beloved people – to be “very good” – fitting in perfectly where we have been made to be, without sin, without death, without sorrow, in perfect peace, perfect health, and perfect love – world without end! Amen.
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In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.