Grace mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.” Dear managers of God’s gifts; the same Greek word is used for this wasteful and dishonest manager as for the Prodigal Son who squandered his father’s property. It was a sobering charge – like embezzlement or committing fraud or misappropriating. The word indicates a single-minded devotion to himself, his needs, his pleasure, his profit. His office as manager implied loyalty to his master but his service in that office revealed self-centered loyalty to himself. He wasted on himself that which was given him to administer and use for another.
TEXT: Luke 16: 1-15
WHAT MERCY!
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Grace mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.” Dear managers of God’s gifts; the same Greek word is used for this wasteful and dishonest manager as for the Prodigal Son who squandered his father’s property. It was a sobering charge – like embezzlement or committing fraud or misappropriating. The word indicates a single-minded devotion to himself, his needs, his pleasure, his profit. His office as manager implied loyalty to his master but his service in that office revealed self-centered loyalty to himself. He wasted on himself that which was given him to administer and use for another.

Then came judgment day! Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager. Just like that, the game was up! The words meant “you’re fired.” As soon as he complies and turns them in, the books will be opened. His wasteful deeds as manager will be fully revealed. What a mess of a manager!

Dear Christians, one day soon you will fly away to the judgment seat of God. There the books are open on your management of God’s gifts. He who created the eye has seen every greedy gaze, every lustful look and every condescending stare of the eyes you manage for Him. He who formed the ear has heard every hateful word, every word of gossip and every complaint that has proceeded from the mouth you manage for Him. He who shaped the hands knows what the hands you manage for him have done in worry and waste and left undone in laziness or apathy. Before Him nothing is hidden. He who said You cannot serve God and money knows every corner of your heart and mind in regard to the dollars you manage for Him, the portion you return to Him, the joy and cheerfulness you have in giving to Him. What shall you be like on that day when the books are opened? Oh, what people we are! What a fix we’re in! You and I will be just like the unjust steward.

Too weak to dig and too ashamed to beg, he acted shrewdly (craftily) to plan for his future. He reduced the bills of the rich man’s debtors. At his order, a hundred measures of oil is rewritten as fifty. A hundred measures of wheat is rewritten as eighty. With speed and shrewdness he used his short time in office to make friends for himself by banking on his master’s mercy. While in that office he was still acting with another man’s wealth and still looking out for himself. Yet The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

Dear sons of light, that’s the first point! Jesus is not encouraging corruption or dishonesty. Rather He plainly states that the people of this world evidence better management of the things they posses for temporary earthly reasons, than the management God’s people evidence of their resources for eternal, heavenly purposes. Jesus nails us with what the open books of God’s judgment will show. If we want our management of His gifts to be judged by comparing it with others, good heavens! Even the children of this world, that is unbelievers, are wiser than the children of light.

Consider how devoted human hearts are to acquiring more things. In business people grab for wealth, many legally and some illegally. In government one scandal seems to follow another by those elected to serve us. Pork barrel is a phrase we know all too well. Every day millions of people listen attentively to numbers we call lottery numbers. Every day millions of hearts rise or fall with numbers we call stock market numbers. The world pays close attention to and expends first-rate energy on accumulating more, more things, more money, more security.

While the sons of this world strive mightily for these things, those confessing Christ are often neglectful and slow concerning God’s things. Daily use of the Word of God, weekly worship as the source of our life, contentment and patience in loving the people God has placed in our life, seeking first the kingdom of God, none of that comes naturally or easily. We, also, are sorely tempted to be more concerned with earthly retirement and security than with eternal dwellings. An honest look acknowledges the truth that rings out in Jesus’ words. The sons of the world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. Jesus continues, And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal dwellings.

Fellow-redeemed, it will fail – all that we accumulate on this earth, all our special things, all our security, will fail. Benefits, retirement plans, investments and real estate holdings may have their place, but they cannot secure for us an eternal place. We brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of this world. Earthly possessions are powerless to provide us with eternal dwellings. It is not a question of “if” they will fail us, only “when” they will fail. I tell you, make friends…so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal dwellings.

These eternal friends are made only through the Gospel. We can’t purchase their salvation with money. We can’t pick who our friends will be, who will believe in Christ crucified and risen. But, we can manage the money God let’s us use to publish the Gospel. As the dishonest steward used His master’s possessions to win short-term friends, so we should use the blessings God gives us to make friends for eternity. God is the master and owner of all that we use. Here He teaches us that even as the unjust steward overflowed with concern for his own earthly welfare, so we are free to liberally and big-heartedly use our master’s goods for the eternal welfare of others.

Such a purpose does not come naturally. Such a purpose is not shrewd in the eyes of the sons of the world. Our old Adam also thinks it stinks. But the sons of light see things with wisdom of a different kind. The sons of light see also the second point that Jesus conveyed in this parable. That point is an absolute trust in the master’s mercy.

The unjust steward recognized that judgment was at hand and that he was totally unprepared. He staked everything on the belief that his master would honor the words nullifying a debt that he spoke in the master’s name. He was still in an office appointed by the master. His last act in that office was to forgive debts in His master’s name. The dishonest steward looked out for his future by trusting the mercy of his master.

That’s amazing trust! And the master did not disappoint. He was unreasonably merciful and forgiving. That’s the second and core point without which we can only misconstrue Jesus’ words. The master acted in keeping with His own honor and the word spoken in His name by another. The debts were reduced by the master as promised by His steward. He didn’t have to, but He did! As a by-product the dishonest steward’s earthly security was achieved. The astounding reason for it all is the mercy of the master whose goods we manage.

Beloved, one day soon, you will fly away to the judgment seat of God. There the books are open on your management of God’s gifts. Your hope then is not that God has closed his eyes to your mismanagement; your hope then is not that your good deeds outweigh your misdeeds; your hope then is not comparing your management with that of another. Your only hope is the very one who sits in judgment on you. Your only hope is to throw everything on the mercy of the master.

And what mercy He has! He who said You cannot serve God and money was sold under our sin for thirty pieces of silver. So deep was His love for the souls of us who are lovers of money! What mercy! He who shaped human hands had His own hands driven through with spikes to the cross. He still speaks peace through those nail marked hands on this side of His grave. What mercy! He who created the ear and has heard all you’ve said, His are the ears that hear your cry for mercy and will not hear the accusations of the devil against you – not one of them. What mercy! He who created the eye and has seen all you’ve done, His are the eyes that closed in death and opened in new life on Easter morning. He sees you now as His beloved Bride, without spot or blemish. What mercy!

In His office as Redeemer, Jesus speaks a word of forgiveness to this whole world of sinners. He completely changed the status of our debt. “He wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us…having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:14).

Do you see the magnitude of His mercy for you? Do you really see His mercy? Next to Him on Calvary was a manager of God’s gifts so dishonest that he said of his and another criminal’s crucifixion, “we’re getting what we deserve”. Capital punishment and he knew he deserved it. Yet he staked everything on the mercy of the crucified Lord. “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” What mercy there is for this mess-of-a-manger as Jesus balanced the books for us sinners! “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Dear friends, on Good Friday, Jesus was making friends for eternal dwellings.
And just like the steward called the debtors one by one before him, so Jesus called you personally before Him in Holy Baptism. He called you to Himself and said, how much do you owe? Take your debt and write cancelled on it, write paid in full! Jesus trusted absolutely in the Father’s mercy for us sinners. Jesus trusted that in His speaking words of absolution to us, the Father would honor them completely. That same trust shines forth as He sent out His apostles. He who hears you hears me, He said. Risen from the grave He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; (John 20). What mercy! The absolving word of the one the master sends will be honored absolutely.

Dear fellow-Redeemed, Christ is still in His office of Redeemer. He is the one mediator between God and man. He is still speaking words of forgiveness and life. Today in the midst of you sons of light He says, “take and drink, this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”. That is, take your bill and keep writing cancelled. Our Lutheran Confessions say that this gift is efficacious (that is, it does its work) even if the steward (pastor) who administers it is dishonest (is an evil man). You still receive God’s mercy in this gift because God will honor His word spoken by another in an office He has given.

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. Dear friends you don’t ridicule Christ because He has given you a new heart. Nothing else in this passing world is really yours. You only manage what God entrusts to you for a short time. Those earthly goods will fail you and they will fail me. In the meantime, God grant us shrewdness in managing our unrighteous wealth to make friends for eternity. To that end, God grant us total trust in His profound, undeserved, immeasurable mercy. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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