O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Banking on God’s Mercy
Banking on God’s Mercy
Based on Luke 16:1-15
Preached on September 22, 2019
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Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and from His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Fellow baptized saints, the Lord speaks His Word to help you stay in His presence forever. His Word is free. Full of grace. Life-giving. But nobody said it was easy. Am I right? Wow. This morning Jesus teaches us a parable that on first hearing is one of the most difficult to understand. It hits our ears like a tangled-up mess. We furrow our brows, squint our eyes and say “What? What is Jesus trying to say here?” And even once we slow down and take a closer look, when it comes to this parable, we might still have a brow that is just as furrowed and eyes that are just as squinted. I can tell you - pastors worked really hard this week – all over the world. Because if you miss the key point of this parable, you could get the impression that Jesus is encouraging people to be dishonest. Let’s take a look.
The first thing to notice is that Jesus is speaking to His disciples. This is not something He is broadcasting to the crowds. This isn’t for beginners. This parable is for the faithful. Those who believe that Jesus is the King, and that His kingdom of mercy is breaking-in right before their eyes. How does that kingdom work? It is not of this world. It is different from everything we know. So how does one understand themselves living under Christ?
There was a rich man who had a manager, and 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.” Now, I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sound like your typical rich man to me. What lord, what owner, what rich man leaves the manager alone with the books after they fire them?!? Especially when that same manager is being fired for wasting possessions!?! No. I’ve seen what happens. Security is called. Keys are returned. An office is packed up. And the waster is escorted out of the building. And that’s the gentle version. This lord in our parable could have thrown his manager into jail. He could have had him punished in any number of ways. But that’s not what he does. Because that’s not the kind of man he is.
This lord is a merciful man. He’s known in the community for being merciful. He has not become rich by cheating or exploiting. He has a humble heart, a heart that shows mercy, a heart full of pity. And the moment you understand this lord, the rest of the parable immediately makes sense. It makes the actions of the manager make sense. It makes the response of the debtors make sense. And it makes the response of the rich man at the end make sense. Take a look.
The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my lord is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.’
At first, the manager, like all of us, thinks about how to save himself. What shall I do? What must I do? He is in such a predicament he even considers digging and begging. But like the prodigal son, the manager soon realizes he has hit rock bottom. He has come to the end of himself. No. There is nothing he can do.
This is when he remembers. He remembers his lord. He remembers the mercy. And the moment his attention is turned out from himself to his merciful master, he knows what to do. He may not have anything of his own to count on – but he can count on his master’s mercy. He can count on this other. He is going to bank on the mercy of his lord. He’s to going to trust that because his lord has been merciful in the past, he will be merciful again. And he’s going to use that mercy to make a place for himself.
But he better act quickly – before the word of his being fired gets out to everyone. For his plan to work, the debtors can’t know how desperate he is. They need to think his planned adjustments stem from the rich man’s mercy, not from the manager’s desperation.
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[b] of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’
The plan works. The debtors believe this comes from the rich man’s hand. They are used to him being merciful. The entire community is dependent on this generous and merciful lord, and here we see the manager benefit because he is an extension of his lord. Jesus had preached earlier, “Become merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Then we come to the big reveal, when the rich man discovers what his manager has done. What is this lord going to do? Well, he could reverse the manager’s adjustments, but if he does this, he will anger the debtors and change their view of his mercifulness. Or he could let the adjustments stand, in which case he has secured goodwill with his renters and extended his reputation as a man of mercy. Which one would you choose?
The rich man is true to who he is, so he commends the manager for banking on his mercy. He doesn’t commend the dishonesty. No. The deception is wrong. But the manager counted on the mercy of his master. He staked his entire cause on it, and he was not disappointed.
Beloved, the kingdom of mercy is here. Now. It has broken in – in Christ. And it shall rule forevermore. You are evidence of it. Part of it. And being part of it you participate in it. Embody it. And show it to everyone around you.
God is the rich man that the whole community depends on, and everything in all creation belongs to Him. We’re just borrowing it. Managing it. The problem is that at the Fall humanity was caught wasting God’s creation. We’ve been living in that time when we are still sorta managers, but know we have to turn in our accounts. We know we’re going to die. And so the clear question Jesus is asking us today is this: Do you remember? Do you remember God’s mercy? When you know you live under Him in His kingdom, stand before Him only by His grace and mercy alone – what do you do with your possessions between now and when you die?
“I tell you, Jesus says, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” All our money and possessions are just unrighteous wealth. They won’t be coming with you when you die. They are on loan to you from God, so use it for your future. Use it for your eternal future. Use it to bring others into His kingdom of mercy. Like the manager, spill His mercy out as far as possible in the Name of the merciful One. Because that is all your money is good for in the end. Helping others see that their merciful Lord Jesus Christ has cancelled all their debts with His holy, precious blood. And that He has an eternal dwelling that He wants them to have. One that you could visit them in forever.
Be shrewd about it. Jesus says. Clever. Be as clever for the kingdom of mercy, as people are for their own unrighteous goals. Think about it. The sons of this world are shrewd in their dealings. They bend the rules, play the game, beat the system – all for their own personal gain. Christ calls us to show the same cleverness for His kingdom – not breaking the rules – but in showing mercy – in using what God has loaned to us for the kingdom of mercy.
“If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?” All things in the world belong to God. But God has given you something of your own – there is one thing, that is not His, that He has given to you - faith – faith that holds true riches –faith that possesses heaven’s riches – faith that receives His eternal kingdom. Baptism, Preaching and Teaching, the Supper. These are the true riches of heaven that you receive only by faith. These are the source of mercy for you. Where faith grows as you let Him mercy you. Let Him cleanse you. Let Him rule you as King.
“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 money.” So Jesus puts it to you this morning: Are you trusting in money and possessions, or are you trusting in God? Are you trying to serve them both? Because you’ve gotta choose. If you try to have it both ways, you will hate one and love the other, or you’ll be attached to one and despise the other.
Beloved, you know its true – there is only One master that you want to have in the end. And its the One who shows you mercy. Turn away from your money. And serve it no longer. God offers you His own Son as true treasure, and in the end He will commend you for trusting in Him alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr