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Stöckhardt on Trinity 9 – Luke 16:1-9

by pastorjuhl ~ July 28th, 2010

George Stöckhardt’s sermon for Trinity 9 in Gnade um Gnade is quite good. Here are a few choice quotes, some are extended quotes.

The wisdom which the Lord enjoins is but a special outflow and evidence of the wisdom that is generally fitting for the children of light, for believers. Not only in relation to their enemies, to the enemies of faith, but in whatever activity they are engaged in Christians should exhibit wisdom and prudence. It is laudable virtue, yes, a sacred Christian obligation wisely to make use of the time of our earthly sojourn, to number our days and make the best use of them. We live upon earth and are busy with earthly matters; we work, earn, but, sell as other people do. In our earthly vocation we have to associate with the children of this world, with the greedy, with adulterers, and others. Should we wish to discontinue these business dealings, we would have to quit the world. And so it is a Christian obligation in our association with people, in all our dealings, with the labor of our hands, to be intent upon what is pleasing to God, to let reflection, wisdom, understanding hold sway, as the apostle says, to walk as wise among fools.
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The main question for the children of light, for Christians is: How am I justified before God? How will I pass muster before God’s judgment on that great day, upon death, on Judgment Day? And Christians are foolish if they shove this most important question of all into the background and concern themselves with other useless, inconsequential questions and cares. True Christian wisdom is to keep one’s eyes fixed on the day of death, on Judgment Day. We are to learn this kind of wisdom from the children of the world. How they early on diligently guard against future reverses that affect temporal weal and woe, so, and all the more so, should we watch and pray so that we are not confounded on that day which determines our eternal weal and woe.
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We are children of light. By God’s grace and enlightenment we know the goal. We also know the way to the goal. We know how and by what means we are able to enter the eternal mansions. We are saved by God’s grace alone. The gift of God is eternal life. We know how we shall be able to pass muster on that day before the Supreme Judge. Through the blood and merit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through His suffering and death He has settled accounts for us. God’s grace and Christ’s merit are, however, offered to us in the Word, in the Gospel. For that reason everything depends upon our accepting the Gospel, upon receiving it in faith. That is the way to life. The Gospel, Word, and Sacrament are the means through which we receive grace and salvation. The Word of God that is being preached to us, that we have before us in the Bible, which also gives power and effect to the Sacraments, is the Church’s most precious, greatest treasure. It is ours. It is a veritable treasure that will never pass away.
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It is Christian wisdom for Christians to be conscientious and faithful stewards with respect to eternal, heavenly, genuine blessings, above all with respect to the Word of God that is able to save their souls. Ah, how foolish it is when one frivolously throws away and squanders God’s Word, yes, when one makes sparing use of God’s Word. In the end, upon the hour of death one will come up short, then one is too weak and too poor and does not have enough faith to stand firm amid the terrors of final judgment. We should learn wisdom from the children of the world. They apply all their energies and utilize all the means at their disposal to secure their home for the future, and they certainly do not build upon sand.
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We have before us an eternal goal, the heavenly treasure. Thus we should with an altogether different diligence, with much greater, ardent longing and zeal gather, expend, economize, gather for ourselves from God’s Word, from preaching, out of the Bible eternal, genuine treasures, day and night to busy ourselves with God’s Word and make use of every opportunity to profit from God’s Word when it is expounded and laid upon our hearts. In the end it will become apparent how wise and prudent we were after having richly provided for and nourished our soul with God’s Word throughout our earthly life.

As the children of the world are wise in their generation, in dealing with their own kind, in making wise use of their wealth and possessions, in like manner the children of light should deal wisely in their generation, should faithfully husband the blessings and gifts of the kingdom of heaven. This is what the Lord means.

But the Lord in our Gospel demands still more from the children of light, from Christians. He exhorts them also to make use of the world’s possessions, of unrighteous mammon, to their own purposes. As the children of the world many times reach over into the area of religion, into the Church, an area foreign to them, and now and then pretend piety and worship with Christians for discretion’s sake, for business and personal reasons, thus should Christians take in hand what is foreign to them, unrighteous mammon, the world’s possessions and direct the earthly to the advantage of the eternal, to the heavenly goal.

It is really wise to make everything useful and serviceable to the highest goal, to the salvation of souls. The Lord says: “Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon!” While the world, following the example of the unjust steward, this irresponsible spendthrift and miserable deceiver, makes unjust use of mammon, of possessions profiteers and deceives by means of wealth, thus should we make use of wealth, of the mammon of unrighteousness in the right way. And the right way is to make friends with mammon, that is, to make friends with the poor, gladly to do good and share with the poor. This is dealing not only justly, fairly, in love, but also wisely. This serves the final goal.

Of course, it is only by grace, for the sake of Christ’s merit, through faith that we are justified and saved, not through works. But the poor whom we have aided will on Judgment Day rise up and testify that we fed, gave drink to, clothed the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and therefore through works demonstrated our faith, our Christianity, and will receive us into the everlasting habitations and thank us forever for what we did to them in time, and God upon their request will reward us out of grace into eternity.

Of course, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. But he who sows richly, who has made many friend with the mammon of unrighteousness, who has richly sacrificed for church, school, missions, and so for his part has won friends for God, he will reap bountifully there. Thus we want to evaluate all things, spiritual and temporal, all circumstances, all the days that God still gives us on earth, in relation to the final, eternal, blessed goal.

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