Ninth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Anderson sermon
St. Luke 16:1-9 “God has Hired You for the Management of His Possessions.”
August 6, 2023 | Christ Lutheran Church
In Nomine Iesu
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Lord God, heavenly Father, who appointed us all as Your stewards, grant that we may not waste the goods entrusted to us, but rightly employ them, and with our temporal things make to ourselves friends, that we may be received into everlasting dwellings; through Your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, now and forever. Amen. (The Lutheran Liturgy, companion altar book for The Lutheran Hymnal, p. 150)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Rom. 1:7, etc.)
The sermon text for today is taken from the 16th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke. We read selected verses in Jesus’ name:
“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…’ “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.”
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by Your truth, Your Word is truth. Amen. (Joh. 17:17)
In Christ Jesus, who teaches you that God has mercy on you as He gives you management over His possessions so that you will live, dear fellow redeemed:
I have held quite a few jobs on my journey to becoming a pastor. In having all of these jobs that I worked, I always had a boss and they also had a boss. To have a job means that you are always answering to somebody. Whether it’s the Dairy Queen supervisor, the various department managers and assistant managers at Walmart, or now my congregation, there is someone giving orders. Being the pastor though, I have freedom in how I get my job done, and that kind of freedom is a little scary. I usually avoid having management positions. There is a lot of responsibility! Jesus teaches how easy it can be to not manage accounts properly, and that God will call us to make an account for how we have managed His possessions. As we look at our lives, and know that our management has not been up to par, God doesn’t want us to worry because He has hired each one of us for the management of His possessions.
The rich man in the parable must have been very rich and had a lot of possessions. You have to be doing well for yourself if you are going to hire a sole manager to run all of your operations. The rich man has complete faith in the manager to do his job, for he does not take part in the daily operations. The manager is large and in charge. However, he was not up to the task. The parable states that he failed miserably. “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.” Not only was he dishonest with his management, but he was getting fired.
Isn’t firing him the appropriate action for someone who has not done the job that they were supposed to do? He was wasting this man’s possessions. It clearly was noticeable. The man’s first instinct is to think, “‘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.” He doesn’t want to do hard work because he just had a cozy job and having a job of that status, it is beneath him to beg. The manager certainly isn’t looking to repent of his ways. He feels sorry for himself.
Instead of taking action for his deeds, the manager then doubles down. Why repent and admit that he did something wrong? “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.’” Is he changing his ways? Of course not! He does the debtors a big favor and because of this the rich man commends him for his shrewdness.
This commending is not because of his mismanagement. Jesus is not teaching us how to sin. This parable can look that way, but Jesus is teaching us that we are already like the manager. How good are we with the management of our possessions? God has entrusted us with so much and how do we act? We say “I don’t have enough.” Our management efforts can be about us wanting more. If it’s not about having enough, it can be about wanting bigger and better. We can covet our neighbor’s belongings. “They have all of the new toys, and I don’t.” As our management practices can become covetous, they can go the other way. We can be like the manager and fail at management completely too where we are behind. We can be wasteful when it comes to our possessions and money saying, “let’s have fun now, we can worry about the bills later.” We can be asking the same questions as the manager. We don’t want to work our way out of the hole, and instead we sit in despair.
The reason we sit in despair is because we think that our troubles are only our own. When we look at our possessions as only ours, we fail to hear what the Old Testament lesson taught us. “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours” (1 Chronicles 29:11). Our possessions, whether we have a lot or a little, are not ours. Everything is God’s and He wants us to manage it well. Instead we act like the manager in the parable. Jesus explains a few verses later how important it is that we remember that everything is God’s. “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 mammon” (Luke 16:13).
Now the manager had served the master of possessions instead of the master who had employed him. To correct what he did wrong and to save face, the scheme that he came up with was commended. The reason that his shrewdness was commended was because in making himself look good, being selfish, he also made the rich man look good with his debtors. The reason that the rich man looked good is because the debtors would think that the manager erased the debt on behalf of the rich man. The manager also did this not only to save face with the debtors; he did it to save face with the rich man. He appealed to the mercy of the rich man. He did not deserve mercy from the rich man because he was hired and he failed his job. God’s mercy overcomes bad management. The world feels God’s mercy when he gives believers and unbelievers their belongings. We don’t deserve anything.
Jesus teaches about these mercies of God. The manager doesn’t deserve to have anything let alone be the manager of everything that the rich man owns. Jesus reminds the people that they have been hired by God. He hires people and gives them possessions showing His great mercy. The ultimate mercy of God is when He sent His only Son for your salvation.
Your salvation is found in this parable. It can be hard to think about it, knowing that you are the dishonest manager. Your sins of being dishonest, failing to manage what God has given you, they are forgiven. If they weren’t, Jesus would not call you the sons of light. It may seem hard to live life thinking that you don’t have enough. Yet God has given you all that you need. He has mercy on you just like He has mercy on unbelievers. He provides for you with both physical and spiritual belongings. Where you have failed in managing your possessions and lives, Christ lived His life perfectly, knowing that God had given Him all that He needed so that He could serve Him, serve you, and take care of your souls with His death on the cross. Christ is responsible for you.
And as you have been given responsibility for your possessions, there is a risk to go back to the way of the manager. The manager did not help the debtors to help them out; he did it selfishly for himself and to appeal to the rich man’s mercy. To manage your possessions is to help take care of others willingly. Whether it is friends, family, the church, or those who are in need, your hired management position is to care for and love others. That doesn’t mean money, but to manage all of your possessions wisely. That is where the commending comes from that Jesus is teaching. “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.” The world works very hard to take care of their possessions because that is all that they have. What you have is worth much more.
And the reason that you have more is because as Jesus states, the possessions that you have could very well disappear. They are not forever. You can use the possessions that you have now to take care of others. Those fruits will not go unnoticed with the unbelieving world. When you help your neighbor, you show the faith that you have in your Savior. Your eternal dwelling is waiting. You can’t manage your lives to earn your spot in that dwelling, even though sometimes you will try. In your failure that is forgiven by Christ, your eternal dwelling is yours through the faith that you have in your risen Savior who has gone to prepare a place for you. And because of His love for you, the proof of the eternal
dwelling is seen in the help shown to your neighbor.
When you help others and take care of your possessions, this is God hiring you to be His managers. You are doing this work not because you can on your own, but because the Holy Spirit is working in you. When God hires you there is pressure. You can cave to the pressure by thinking that God hasn’t given you enough to do the job. And sometimes you can get greedy and think that you know better than the boss. God then tells you that you deserve to be fired because of your poor job performance. Instead of losing hope in your deserved firing, Christ willingly took care of His greatest possession, dying on the cross, giving you the inheritance of the eternal dwellings. He shows you God is merciful. Your management skills are there. Congratulations, you’re hired! The Lord’s blessing on your work as He helps you manage what is His. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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