Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sermon: Trinity 9 – 2013

28 July 2013 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.

“Charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.”

This is how the Dishonest Manager got his nickname.  It’s not that he was treating people unfairly, making people lie about their time cards, or embezzling funds.  No, his dishonesty is rooted in “wasting” the “possessions” that he was supposed to manage.  For when we are entrusted with property that is not ours for the sake of management, we sometimes begin to think the stuff actually belongs to us.  We feel entitled.  We serve ourselves instead of the real owner.  And that is dishonest.

In the world of business, this might take the form of using the company car for personal business, or using the company credit card for purchases unrelated to work, or cashing in personally for research done on company time.  Of course, if the boss approves of such things, there is no wrongdoing.  The owner of the business may well grant such privileges.  But in our Lord’s story, the owner finds out some other way, saying: “What is this that I hear…?”  This offense goes way beyond the using of the wrong cover sheet for TPS reports. 

The Dishonest Manager has been caught breaking the seventh commandment – not necessarily by outright theft, but by poor stewardship of resources entrusted to him.  “We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions,” as we say in our catechism, “or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.”

The protagonist of our Lord’s story is dishonest because of his poor stewardship.  He squanders that which is not his own, rather than helping the boss to “improve and protect his possessions and income.”

All Christians are stewards, managers of property that really doesn’t belong to us.  And we become so entitled as to believe that we own that which belongs to God.  Now, we are given the gifts that the Lord provides us, especially life, liberty, and property – as we learn from natural law.  But the deep reality is that these gifts are on loan to us by our Lord.  He breathes life into us, and then He recalls us according to His will.  He grants us freedom to move about, and may also, by allowing persecution, infirmity, or financial limitations, cause us to stay in one place.  He provides us, whether directly or by opportunity, with the daily bread we need “to support this body and life,” including necessities and luxuries, including money and property – and we are to manage all of these things – even our very lives – for the sake of the kingdom.

So where does the kingdom of God fit in to our priorities.  If we get a raise, do we give to the Lord first?  To we put less in the plate in order to save for a vacation?  Are the tickets to the game more inspiring to us than the spread of the gospel through the work of the church?  Do we spend more time shopping for clothes that we don’t need than we do clothing our impoverished brethren here and around the world who lack the simple necessities of life?

And what about our time, dear friends?  Do we spend more time on facebook or in the Holy Book?  Is a one hour church service “tortuous” while even double overtime in a Saints or LSU game goes by in the blink of an eye?

Do you know more trivia about the royal baby than the truly eternal important confession of the real Royal Baby, the King of the universe who came into our world not to be photographed by mobs of paparazzi but to be beaten and crucified by the raging mob for our sakes?  Are you more enamored with trashy television celebrities than you are of the holy prophets, apostles, and saints of the Church?  Do you spend more money on crawfish boils than on supporting the fishing of men through missionary work?  Do you know the words to pop songs better than the hymns and liturgy of the church?

These are hard questions, because none of us are very good stewards.  We in the United States live like kings and queens compared to the rest of the world, and yet our churches have to struggle just to meet the most basic bills. 

Brothers and sisters, this is Dishonest Management.  We need to take a good hard look at how we manage our time and money, our talents and our very bodies.  And we can start by examining how we view God.  As King David speaks to Him: “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.”

Is God an imposition on our time and treasure?  Does Christianity cramp our lifestyle?  Do we offer sacrifices of our possession and time only when we feel like it? 

The Lord is calling us to repent.  Repent, dear friends!  Let us repent with the urgency of our Dishonest Manager to save his own skin.  “What shall I do,” asks the manager when he realizes he is in trouble, “since my master is taking the management away from me?”  Dear friends, the Lord has not taken your management away from you.  There is time to repent.  There is time to become an honest manager, a good steward.  Now is that time!

The Dishonest manager’s plan is radical, because he realizes the dire straits he is in – and that is a blessed realization.  And though his solution is to cheat, the owner sees into the manager’s heart, and realizes that he is zealous to protect that which he was entrusted with.  Jesus said, “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.”

Jesus is telling us to repent.  The secular world is more devoted to its religion than we are to ours.  The unbelievers operate with more shrewdness than we do.  And even though the Lord Jesus has given us everything as a free gift, has made us co-heirs with Him of everything the Father has given Him, we are still stingy and selfish and not satisfied.  We want to justify ourselves in our messed up priorities.  Again, dear friends, this parable is a call to repentance.

For “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?”

“One who is faithful in a very little….”  We need not start with much.  The Lord sees our faithfulness even in a little.  Even a mustard tree begins with a tiny seed.  But we need to repent, by, in the words of Luther, letting God be God.  He needs to be our priority.  If you do not support the congregation, you can begin by committing, promising, and following through with putting a single dollar a week in the plate.  It is a commitment, whether you are here or not.  And if you currently do not pray or have family devotions at home, you can commit, beginning today, to pray the table prayer before meals.  It takes literally a few seconds.  And if you do not read the Bible on your own, you can make a promise to God and to yourself to take a Portals of Prayer with you and spend a few minutes a day in the Word of God.  And you can make a vow, a pledge, that unless you are ill or out of town, you will be here, listening to the Word and partaking of the sacraments, each and every week – no matter the weather, no matter what is happening in our community.  Doing so will enrich your life in ways you do not even know.

The Lord wants us to hear and to act because He loves us!  He does not want us scurrying after false gods, idols that will not make us happy, wasting His resources on things that ultimately don’t matter.  For in eternity, what counts is that which is eternal.  Nobody will even remember a couple years from now who won the game, what kind of wheels you have on your car, or what kind of jewelry you have. 

Remember, as St. Paul teaches us anew, “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

God is faithful, dear friends!  He gives us everything we need to live and to provide for our families!  He even takes our suffering and death to the cross!  He forgives all of our sins and invites us into His kingdom with no strings attached, as a free and full gift!  He gives us eternal life and assures us that we are counted among the redeemed by Holy Baptism and by the faith He has given us to begin with.  All of this is yours, dear friends, by virtue of Jesus, by His blood, and according to His boundless love and mercy.  We are rich beyond measure, and the Lord invites us into His kingdom, where we are privileged to work for Him as the greatest and most generous Master of all, where we are paid an infinite sum, and where we are entrusted with the true riches of eternal life. 

To Him be praise, honor, and glory, forever and ever. Amen.


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