O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Luke 16:1-15
Preached on September 22, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, over the last couple of weeks we have witnessed the teachings of Jesus get crazier and crazier. It is like He is on a rampage against unbelief as He gets closer and closer to His cross. He has to keep escalating the level of insanity in the way He speaks about the reality of God's kingdom, because He keeps meeting resistance along the way. People, even His disciples as we see today, are not grasping that the brief waste of a life we have here on earth is nothing worth comparing to the eternal dwelling He has come to secure us. We are getting too comfortable here - as if this is it. We are losing sight of God's eternal reality because we can't see anything but ourselves. And so Jesus starts talking crazy talk.
First, there was this risky shepherd that leaves 99 perfectly good sheep to look for one. Then, it was the neurotic woman who couldn't wait til daylight to look for her lost coin. She had to light a lamp and waste her super expensive oil to find that coin that would've been there in the morning. After that it was the father who went mad, who actually gave his son his inheritance while he was still alive. And when his son wasted it away on prostitutes, he received him home again with no rebuke at all, only foolish mercy and the royal treatment.
And if all this were not enough then, Jesus tells this parable to His disciples, a parable in which a manager seems to be commended for his dishonesty. Is everything ok Jesus? You sound like you are a little confused.
But Jesus knows exactly what He is doing. He is speaking to people that need to wake up and investigate what He is saying. He is trying to get your attention so that you stop looking at yourself and start looking at Him. He speaks these very words to you today.
"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.'"
It's Judgment Day baby! Get ready to account for your life. By the way, the judge knows you've been wasting His stuff. He already said it, "You can no longer be manager." It's out of the rich man's house for you and into the gutter.
But there's this glaringly odd thing about this exchange, isn't there? Why the delay? Why did the rich man call in the manager to tell him he couldn't be manager, but then let him continue to be manager until he finally came back with the books? Why not fire him on the spot? Have someone else get the books? Why not haul him off to jail? There is more to this rich man than meets the eye. He has graciously given the manager this brief period of time in which he knows he is about to be judged, but just happens to have the books. The rich man knows what the manager is going to do - one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much - but this is what He wants him to do. He wants the manager to cheat Him. The rich man wants His mercy to go out to all His debtors, even if it happens at the hands of this dishonest manager. So whether the manager realizes it or not, what he is really teaching to each of the debtors is that this rich man, his master is merciful and for this he is commended. However, the manager is still fired. He is still out. But on his way out, the rich man was able to use him for good.
So what does the parable mean? Contrary to popular opinion, the parable is not about you, or about what you need to do. The parable is a picture of what is about to happen to Jesus. Remember that whole stop looking at yourselves, start looking at Christ thing. Well, here it is in all its craziness.
The manager who was dishonest with a little, when he realized it was going to end, was dishonest with much. This describes the Pharisees, the spiritual leaders at the time, to whom Jesus had been speaking all these crazy parables. Up until this moment, the Pharisees have been dishonest with the mysteries of God, but now that Christ has come and is going to take their management from them, they are going to be even more dishonest. In fact, they are going to kill Him.
But the rich man knows this. Christ knows they are going to kill Him, and crazily enough, this is what He wants them to do. He wants His mercy, the blood that would be drained from His body, to go out to all His debtors, and He says it is going to happen at the hands of evil men. The Pharisees are done. They are out. But on their way out, Christ is able to use them for good - for the Good that happened on a dark Friday, on a lonely hill, where He faced the Judgment that we deserve.
The only true wealth there is - is not gold or silver, but the holy, precious blood - the innocent suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. His blood is the only thing that will last, the only thing worth anything in this brief breath of death we experience on this earth. And the craziest thing about it, is that He gives it to you for free here in His Supper. He pours it into your mouth that you may know how great His love is for you, and how desperately He wants to save you from yourself.
But everything else, He says, all the things you've worked for - is unrighteous wealth. Your reputation, your money, your health. All of them are mixed with dishonesty. They mean nothing before God. Sure, your neighbours may think you are a really nice person, a good person. But God knows your heart. What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. You have no part in your salvation. The blood of Jesus is your life.
And so, Jesus says, because I am your righteousness. Because my blood is all you need. Use your unrighteous wealth, that wealth which will not last, to help others hear this. Use these earthly things you have built up for the sake of my kingdom, that others may be received into eternal dwellings. If your neighbours think you are a really nice person, a good person, then use this good reputation I have given you to get them to hear preaching. If I have blessed you with material blessings, which everyone in North America can happily say, then use that money to support the preaching of the Word, whether it is the preaching here in your local congregation, or the preaching happening elsewhere through what we call mission givings. All these blessings you have belong to me, Christ says, and you have used them dishonestly. But I forgive you by my blood, so cheat me. Give my stuff to others, that they may benefit.
When Jesus was finally done teaching His disciples, they were blown away. All they could say was, "Lord, increase our faith." The quality of my faith isn't there Lord, take it there! To which He responds today, "Take and drink. This is my blood." It is time for our comfort level to decrease and our faith to increase. It is time for us to take our eyes off ourselves and gaze upon God's eternal reality. Come, and drink true wealth - for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. For although you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, Christ is here to give you true riches. In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr