TEXT: LUKE 16:1-13; 1 COR 10:6-13; 2 SAM 22:26-34
THE MASTER IS MIGHTY IN MERCY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To the Church of God at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


The Greek term Jesus used for the manager’s wastefulness is the same word used of the prodigal son. He had squandered or wasted his master’s resources. His misuse was fraudulent – and suddenly the game was up. What is this that I hear about you?  Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.


Do you recall what the manager said in response to the master’s accusation?  Nothing!  Not one word of protest!  In the Middle East when a servant was dismissed - excuses were often given –friends would rise to the defense – loopholes were sought to justify actions. This caretaker’s silence is as stunning confession of guilt!


He makes no attempt to justify his prodigal ways to the master, but he does begin to talk to himself about what he can’t do – dig and beg. Then he states -  I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.”  This statement is crucial to understanding the intriguing parable Jesus speaks!  The fact that the dishonest caretaker still has time to do anything related to his work is highly unusual. In business today there is a phrase sometimes related to firing a dishonest employee. It is “being walked out” of the office or jobsite. It generally happens immediately when the axing occurs. It may happen with police escort if arrest is at hand. The fired employee is given no opportunity – no alone time - to sabotage his computer or alter records or speak to others. If the Lord had “walked out” his manager in the manner common in biblical times he may have been jailed on the spot. Or to help recoup his losses, the master could have immediately sold him into slavery along with his family. In mercy this master does neither!  

NINTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – AUGUST 2, 2015
TEXT: LUKE 16:1-13; 1 COR 10:6-13; 2 SAM 22:26-34
THE MASTER IS MIGHTY IN MERCY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To the Church of God at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


The Greek term Jesus used for the manager’s wastefulness is the same word used of the prodigal son. He had squandered or wasted his master’s resources. His misuse was fraudulent – and suddenly the game was up. What is this that I hear about you?  Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.


Do you recall what the manager said in response to the master’s accusation?  Nothing!  Not one word of protest!  In the Middle East when a servant was dismissed - excuses were often given –friends would rise to the defense – loopholes were sought to justify actions. This caretaker’s silence is as stunning confession of guilt!


He makes no attempt to justify his prodigal ways to the master, but he does begin to talk to himself about what he can’t do – dig and beg. Then he states -  I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.”  This statement is crucial to understanding the intriguing parable Jesus speaks!  The fact that the dishonest caretaker still has time to do anything related to his work is highly unusual. In business today there is a phrase sometimes related to firing a dishonest employee. It is “being walked out” of the office or jobsite. It generally happens immediately when the axing occurs. It may happen with police escort if arrest is at hand. The fired employee is given no opportunity – no alone time - to sabotage his computer or alter records or speak to others. If the Lord had “walked out” his manager in the manner common in biblical times he may have been jailed on the spot. Or to help recoup his losses, the master could have immediately sold him into slavery along with his family. In mercy this master does neither! 


That’s when the light goes on in the mind of the manager…I have decided what to do…In view of the extraordinary mercy he has just received, in not being “walked out” – imprisoned or sold - the steward wisely places all of his trust and hope for his future on the generous nature of his master. 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, “how much do you owe?  And so it went. Dismissed in private - the master’s books are still in his possession. One by one he has the master’s debtors write-off huge portions of their debt. They know nothing of his being fired. They trust that he is acting honestly in his office. Recording the markdowns in their own handwriting shows they have accepted the slashing of their accounts. They would have loved the freeing effect of this lightened debt load!  Wouldn’t you?  They would have loved the master whom they thought was authorizing it!  Wouldn’t you?


Although done individually and privately, news like this would soon have exploded in the village. It would have been the talk of the town. The master would have been thought perhaps the most generous man in the village’s history. When the caretaker turned in the newly altered accounts, what are the master’s choices?  He could immediately make clear that the manager had acted without his approval. That would mean the debts must be restored to their former balance and paid in full. This action would also have crushed hearts currently rejoicing over much forgiven debt!


The other choice for the master was to remain quiet and eat the price of this clever rascal’s action. That would mean the master would continue to enjoy the reputation of the generous and merciful man that he was. And so it was!  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.


The master congratulates the manager – not for his dishonesty – but for looking out for himself by his singular trust in the mercy of his master. He is not commended for his ethics – for being a son of this world. He is commended for his accurate insight into his master’s nature. He had experienced extraordinary mercy at the beginning of this event. He stakes everything on the confidence that this mercy and generosity are at the core of his master’s identity. If he is wrong he will lose everything – including the freedom of his family. But – see how right he was!  His trust is born out.


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. One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches…You cannot serve God and money.


Notice the flood of things encompassed in the phrase “one who is faithful in a very little?”  A very little includes – your property – your investments - your social security – your checkbook - your budget - all that you spend and all that you use and all that you own. It is termed “a very little” not because it is unimportant – but because it will fail you. Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal dwellings. Your wealth will fail – totally fail – even as your health will fail totally. Our things cannot help us get into heaven. Promising false security our things can distract from the reality of bodily life in the new heavens and the new earth and hinder us from receiving eternal life. Jesus is concerned about your attitude toward the possessions He puts under your care because He is wants you under His care forever. He doesn’t want your things – He wants you - heart and soul – body and mind!  He wants you to use your wealth – your money – your things to win friends for eternity. Mammon is such a miserable idol demanding to be served with worry and false trust and greed to accumulate more and more – and it will fail! 


The sons of this age know how to play the game to accomplish mammon’s goals. They put their energies and intelligence into what is most important to them – fortune – fun – family – seeking to secure their earthly future as did this manager. They have their heart set on enjoying things now and keeping their pile secure. It is in this way that those without faith in Christ are wiser than you.


The sons of light are to be wise by handling earthly wealth as a citizen of heaven. The sons of light are to be wise by recognizing that they live in the end-times. The sons of light are to be wise by focusing their lives on where God’s mercy resides. The seeking of eternal goods on your part – for yourself and for others – is to be as diligent as the seeking of worldly goods by the sons of this age.


Soon God will say to you – Turn in the account of your management. Every birthday pushes you closer to the day of reckoning when the books will be opened. Can you bear to think about your record of managing God’s resources faithfully?  In your teenage and college years – when your first job gave you a real paycheck – through the years when unexpected and net worth increases came – in alert cheerful generosity for the Gospel and Christian charity – teaching our children about God’s ownership and proportionate giving - indeed, the entire register. Turn in the account of your management of what you have done and left undone with the goods God has let you control and even now lets you control.  As the manager’s silence was a stunning admission of guilt – so our guilt is stunning. Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. What is the world to Me?  Too much – too often – even now!  Our inborn error is that we think we are the masters – just like the Pharisees did. We are unjust managers and God has cause to terminate our management of all that He now gives into our keeping and our life.    


Turn in the account of your management.   Yet our hope is the very one who sits in judgment on us – the God-Man and no other. Dear Christian, your hope is to continue to throw everything on the mercy of the Master!  That’s what is commended here!  The dishonest manager staked everything on the belief that his master would honor actions taken in His name nullifying the debt of others. That trust secured his future!  That’s the point - the mercy of this Lord – amazing mercy – perpetual mercy – undeserved mercy!  The Master acted in keeping with His honor and His word spoken through another.


In His office as Redeemer, Jesus spoke a word of forgiveness to this whole world of sinners. In reckless love He completely changed the status of our debt!  On Calvary, the one who became sin for us was in effect told – Turn in the account of their management. He took on your unbalanced books as His own and gives you His record of having no place to lay His head. He used His last hours to secure your future – not His own. He was “walked out” of His office bearing your temporal and eternal punishment. The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. This balancing of the books was done according to the foreknowledge and plan of Your heavenly Father – flowing from His mercy!


Just like the manager called the debtors one by one before Him, so Jesus called you personally before Him in Holy Baptism. It’s as if He said, “take your debt and write “cancelled” for your baptism is into my death and I have paid the debt in full.”  To this very day the risen Christ still covers you with Himself by water and the Word!  God grant you to love the freeing effect of His mercy!


Just like the manager called the debtors one by one before Him so Jesus invites those who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him for the blessed rest of His absolution. Fresh from the grave Christ breathed on His disciples and sent them out with His forgiveness!  What incredible mercy to them and to us!  We keep individual confession and absolution for this reason – for the sake of the absolution – solely because of the mercy of the Master.


Beloved, you are right to proclaim This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless. In the parable the debtors received the benefit of the Master’s forgiveness through the actions of another. So have you!  Even today the risen Christ invites you to His table – continually exchanging His righteousness for your failing. Here He continues entrusting you with true riches thereby freeing you and loosening your grip on the fleeting things of this life.


You are right to stake everything on the Father’s mercy!  He commends you as blameless in Christ!  He will receive you into eternal dwellings where there is joyful feasting forever. In the meantime, I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal dwellings.


In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

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