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Trinity 9 – Luke 16:1-9

by pastorjuhl ~ August 22nd, 2011

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

            A while back, I was introduced to a term in the business world I had never heard before. The term is “walked out”. When someone is fired from their job, they are taken directly to Human Resources, where they are told of their firing. The now-former employee is not given a chance to go back to their desk and pack up. People are there already doing it for them. Their belongings will be sent to them. Information Technology people are deleting information from their computer. They are given terms of their settlement, if any. They are expected to sign the agreement, and following the signing, the now-former employee is “walked out” of the building by security. They are literally walked out to their car and almost personally escorted off the property, under the assumption that they are never to return.

The unjust steward in today’s Gospel is not “walked out” of his job. He is told to give an account of [his] stewardship, for [he] can no longer be steward. Human resource departments across the country would consider how the steward’s master dealt with him as very poor practice. You don’t give a crooked employee a second chance. You have to isolate them from their job and “walk them off” the property with no chance for revenge and no chance to say goodbye to their colleagues.

There is a glimmer of hope for the unjust steward and he takes full advantage of it. You have to hand it to the fellow, he certainly is shrewd. He’s also a wimp. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. A real man is not bashful to pick up a shovel and make a living. A real man might be ashamed to beg, but sometimes a little charity helps in a pinch. Nevertheless, the unjust steward wants nothing to do with manual labor and charity.

He does have an out in this glimmer of hope. The unjust steward takes advantage of his master’s mercy and settles debts in the debtor’s favor. What were once 100 measures of oil are now 50. What were once 100 measures of wheat are now 80. If the unjust steward has not been “walked out” yet, surely now it will happen so that his master can gain control of his assets.

What a surprise to see that it doesn’t happen. Not only does it not happen, but also Jesus says the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. It’s important to note what Jesus does not say as much as what He does say. Jesus does not say you should follow the unjust steward’s example. You are not to mismanage things not under your direct ownership. However, that is exactly what you do when you are not shrewd with all that our heavenly Father gives you as a steward.

The words “steward” and “stewardship” tend to put a target on the back of a preacher. Blessed Martin Luther once said the most sensitive body part is the pocketbook. The closer you get to someone’s pocketbook, the touchier and defensive someone gets. The same can be said for preachers and your pocketbook. You might think a preacher has no business talking about what you do with your money. He has every business in the world to talk about it. After all, Jesus talks about in the Gospels! If our blessed Lord talks about it, so should a preacher talk about it.

Stewardship is not all about money. It’s about what you do with everything God gives you, whether it’s your money, or your talents, or how you spend your time. Stewardship is about the way you use what’s been given to you as a trust, not as a right. No one drives through the pearly gates with a U-Haul. There will come a day when you will have to give an account of your stewardship, since you can’t take money and possessions with you into the New Creation.

Jesus says the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. You have all kinds of mammon, an overabundance of excess. How do you put it to use in your daily life to witness being a child of the Light? Children of the world are not afraid to put to use what is not theirs to make friends among others. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. A little favor now leads to a big favor later. It’s almost like “The Godfather”. He helps you out, and one day you might have to help him out. His favor from you may or may not be legal. Nevertheless, you are expected to pay back thanks to his help on your behalf.

Jesus’ parable in Luke chapter 16 is far from a “Godfather” situation. The parable shows how Christians like you are not as lavish with stuff and things that don’t belong to you to forward the Gospel here as others who are not afraid to take advantage of other people’s property in order to forward their prosperity. You don’t give a second thought shelling out $20 for something that will break or soon become obsolete. Nevertheless, when it comes time to give $20, or $10, or even $1 toward the extension of the Kingdom of God, you think of all kinds of excuses not to give.

Thanks be to God you do not deal with a God Who “walks out” those who misuse His Gifts even once. God has every right not only to terminate your stewardship, but also to terminate you from eternal life. Your shrewdness doesn’t extend to the One Thing Needful: the treasure of forgiveness of sins in Christ’s atoning Blood. But like the certain rich man in Christ’s parable, our Father in heaven leaves the barn door open behind Him. There is a time of grace. He has mercy to allow you to make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon.

Making friends this way is by no means earning your way to heaven through possessions and income. It is putting to use what God gives you here and now in order that you, and others, may rejoice for all eternity in the Presence of God. Who wouldn’t want to put to use the filthy things of here and now to advance the Gospel? Who wouldn’t want to provide someone who knows not the Lord Jesus and His reconciling love with eternal security?

            Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. An example of Jesus’ Word among you is the 400 square feet expansion of the parsonage. All the money pledged, all the labor volunteered or paid for, and the finished product yet to come is not about the David Juhl family and their wants and their needs. The parsonage expansion is using unrighteous mammon for a righteous purpose. A parsonage expansion is furthering the lavish distribution of the Means of Grace among you. It is a pious good work that shows forth the love of God in Christ Jesus. It is a sermon without words to the citizens of Momence that says, “Jesus Christ works among us now in His Word and Sacraments. He will continue to feed us and lead us long after our current pastor is here. We want to make sure the stewardship of the Means of Grace continues among us until Christ’s return.”

Stewardship is, again, not so much about money and possessions, but the way that you use money and possessions in this age to draw the elect into the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is God’s righteousness in Jesus Christ alone that declares you righteous before the Judgment Seat of God. You are cleansed and sealed in His forgiving blood. His stewardship of the greatest heavenly treasure is perfect and just. You will fail in using unrighteous mammon to make friends for yourselves. Jesus never fails as He stewards His gifts among you to feed you with forgiveness and life and lead you into an everlasting home. You will be “walked out” of this life into a life rich with joy.

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

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