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Trinity 9 – Luke 16:1-9

by pastorjuhl ~ July 31st, 2010

Lots of help on this one from different places. I took a different tack with this text courtesy of Robert Farar Capon. It’s a way of preaching this text, one of many angles. I tried to weave in a more traditional way to look at this parable as well. I leave it to the Holy Spirit to take care of the rest.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Lucky for us we don’t have to deal with a just steward (Robert Farar Capon). A just steward would not be so forgiving. A just steward would expect immediate payment in full of all debts. A just steward would ignore our prayer from the Introit Psalm 54: O God, save me, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your might…. He has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.

The eye of a just steward would look upon you and me in vindication, but not the kind of vindication that brings mercy. A just steward’s eye brings vindication according to the letter of the Law. A debt is owed. The steward must see to it that the debt is paid in a timely fashion.

What if the unjust steward in Luke chapter 16 was a just steward? There would be no fire sale. There would be no deep discounts. Pay up or suffer.

One hundred measures of oil or wheat is nothing compared to the debt of sin we owe Almighty God. The problem is we cannot pay back that debt. All our offers of repayment fall upon ears that will not hear our futile excuses. Even if there were no excuses, the debt cannot be paid. Therefore, we must suffer the consequences of an unpaid debt. There is no room for us in the kingdom of heaven. There is only the burning lake of fire where weeping and gnashing of teeth are heard and seen for eternity.

This is our future if Jesus told a parable about a just steward rather than an unjust steward. It is the world’s future too, if there is no repentance from worshipping mammon and the improper use of mammon.

Let’s remember what is mammon. Mammon is an excess of abundance. It’s the leftovers of the leftovers. If you have more of what you need than what you need, that’s mammon. Jesus reminds us in the Sermon on the Mount that you cannot serve God and mammon. Luke puts that same quote a few verses after today’s Holy Gospel. So what do you do with the excess of abundance? Jesus puts that question before us in this parable.

The answer is not so much what you do with mammon, but how you use mammon. The unjust steward in Luke chapter 16 took fifty percent and twenty percent off a bill for oil and wheat. The rich man had to nod his head and commend the steward for shrewd business. Look on the bright side: the rich man might never have the debt settled had not the unjust steward been shrewd! Fifty percent is better than nothing among children of the world. It’s better to cut your losses and take what you can get.

That’s not how our heavenly Father works. There is no fire sale concerning the debt of sin. The only fire we deserve is that burning lake of fire. If we can’t pay the debt, and our Father in heaven will not forgive the debt without perfect payment in full, what is there left to do but wait for Judgment Day in sackcloth and ashes.

Our Father in heaven is so just that He does what seems to be unjust. The Father sends His Son to save us from sin, death, and hell. St. Augustine said the cross is the devil’s mousetrap. It’s a mousetrap for us too. Jesus baits us criminals with his own criminality: as the shabby debtors in the parable were willing to deal only with the crooked steward and not with the upright lord, so we find ourselves drawn by the bait of a Jesus who winks at iniquity and makes friends of sinners – of us crooks, that is – and of all the losers who would never in a million years go near a God who knew what was expected of himself and insisted on what he expected of others (Robert Farar Capon).

Satan takes the bait and is trapped. The scandal of the cross catches him across the windpipe as a mousetrap catches a mouse. Jesus befriends unrighteous, unworthy, slimy, filthy, nasty mammon like you and I in order to pay our debt of sin in full. Perhaps that is why we love to hear Jesus called “friend of sinners”. The Jews couldn’t stand the fact that Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners. He knew better than that, or so they thought. Jesus knew what He was doing. If He does not dine with tax collectors and sinners, He cannot dine with anyone this side of heaven.

The Friend of Sinners shrewdly allows Himself to be taken captive, to suffer death upon the cross, and to rise from the dead triumphant over all our foes. Jesus shrewdly uses His human nature with His divine nature to reconcile sinners to the Father. As we sing in the Communion hymn, “O Lord, We Bless Thee”: All our debt/Thou hast paid/Peace with God once more is made. /O Lord, have mercy.

Our heavenly Father is the merciful master. His steward, Jesus, does more than cut your debt of sin by twenty percent or fifty percent. He cancels your debt. He forgives your debt you cannot pay. Even though you don’t deserve it, He brings you into His house and gives you eternal life. Our Father looks at the mousetrap of the cross and honors His Son’s cancelling your debt. You are free.

King David says in today’s Old Testament reading: With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; with the pure You will show Yourself pure; and with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. You will save the humble people; but Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down. We actually deal with a Just Steward Who make friends with unrighteous mammon like you and me in order to save us from sin and death. Because Jesus Christ, the Friend of Sinners, is merciful, blameless, pure, and shrewd, so are you by His grace through faith in the Chief Steward of the heavenly Gifts.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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