Being Shrewd with Possessions Comes rrom a Merciful Master
Ninth Sunday After Trinity - July 24th, 2016
Text: Luke 16:1-13; 1 Cor. 10:6-13; 2 Samuel 22:26-34
Vicar Jonathan P. Jennings


In the name of Jesus!  Amen.


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the parable from our gospel reading today is one that makes you scratch your head.  It’s not as easily understood as say the Parable of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, or the Prodigal Son, all of which come prior to our text today.  Here, we see what appears to be at first glance, Jesus commending an individual for being a thief.  Ultimately, He’s not.  With parables it’s important to remember that the meaning is intended to be hidden.  “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven’” (Mark 4:11-12).


Parables are like codes that reveal the kingdom of God to believers.  They’re used to teach and catechize.  Take for example the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Where the world primarily hears a story of how we should reach out to those in need, and while we should, Jesus ultimately intends for us to see how he’s the Good Samaritan.  He’s the one that has mercy and compassion on humanity.

 

As for our parable today, the world would say that Jesus wants us to be thieves and to steal from the rich.  Yet, that’s not correct.  God’s law reveals to us that we shall not steal.  To say that Jesus wants us to steal would be contrary to the law of God.  What this parable really showing us is that the Master has been wondrously merciful to us, even in our unrighteousness!  The mercy shown by Him is generous and freeing!  It’s so full that it even frees you to be shrewd with unrighteous possessions to extend His kingdom.

Being Shrewd with Possessions Comes rrom a Merciful Master
Ninth Sunday After Trinity - July 24th, 2016
Text: Luke 16:1-13; 1 Cor. 10:6-13; 2 Samuel 22:26-34
Vicar Jonathan P. Jennings


In the name of Jesus!  Amen.


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the parable from our gospel reading today is one that makes you scratch your head.  It’s not as easily understood as say the Parable of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, or the Prodigal Son, all of which come prior to our text today.  Here, we see what appears to be at first glance, Jesus commending an individual for being a thief.  Ultimately, He’s not.  With parables it’s important to remember that the meaning is intended to be hidden.  “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven’” (Mark 4:11-12).


Parables are like codes that reveal the kingdom of God to believers.  They’re used to teach and catechize.  Take for example the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Where the world primarily hears a story of how we should reach out to those in need, and while we should, Jesus ultimately intends for us to see how he’s the Good Samaritan.  He’s the one that has mercy and compassion on humanity.

As for our parable today, the world would say that Jesus wants us to be thieves and to steal from the rich.  Yet, that’s not correct.  God’s law reveals to us that we shall not steal.  To say that Jesus wants us to steal would be contrary to the law of God.  What this parable really showing us is that the Master has been wondrously merciful to us, even in our unrighteousness!  The mercy shown by Him is generous and freeing!  It’s so full that it even frees you to be shrewd with unrighteous possessions to extend His kingdom.


THEME: AS THE MASTER HAS BEEN MERCIFUL TO US EVEN IN OUR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, WE CAN BE SHREWD WITH UNRIGHTEOUS POSSESSIONS TO EXTEND HIS KINGDOM.

(I. Even in our unrighteous squandering of the possessions we have given, the Master is still merciful.)

(II. We shrewdly use the riches we’re given to bring others into eternal dwellings.)

 

I.
Possessions, or unrighteous wealth as it’s called in today’s pericope, at its core are not bad.  We all have them: cars, clothes, house, books, and even money.  And as long as we walk this earth we will continue to have them.  It’s essential to remember that each of these possessions is a gift from God.  Through them God richly and daily provides you with all that you need to support your body and life.  He wants you to put them to good use.  The issue is when they become your god, that is when you desire more, grow anxious over them, or even squander them away instead of fearing, loving, and trusting in the one true God.  For ultimately, “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” (Luke 16:13).


In our parable today a steward has been entrusted with the possessions of a certain rich man.  Yet, due to his love for money, is unfaithful and squanders his master’s wealth (Luke 16:1).  This word “squander” is the exact same word used in the parable of the prodigal son to describe what happens to his property through his extravagant living (Luke 15:13).  The fact that it’s used in that parable helps give us an idea of the extent to which the steward wasted these possessions. 


Upon hearing the steward had been unfaithful with his possessions, the master confronts the steward and fires him on the spot.  The master tells him to surrender the accounts he’s managed.  From this point forward everything the steward does is illegal and not binding on the master.


What’s astonishing is the fact there’s no argument from the steward.  He doesn’t say, “It wasn’t my fault,” or, “I was falsely accused.”  He remains silent.  He doesn’t try to justify his actions.  This is strange since man’s sinful flesh loves to self-justify.  It started the moment Adam and Eve fell into sin and continued with the Israelites as they wandered through the desert.  It ultimately falls upon you today.  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man (1 Cor. 10:13).  There’s no denying that your sinful flesh loves to self-justify.  You make excuses for the times you squander money on the latest gadget, or when you misuse your time and energy on sexual immorality and service to countless idols.  You blame others or look for loopholes when confronted with sin.


Yet, God’s law doesn’t allow you to do this.  In it you won’t find a single loophole or a way out.  Just like the steward stood before his master guilty of squandering his possessions, you too stand before God guilty of squandering the possessions he’s entrusted to you.  God’s law is clear. “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? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? (Luke 16:10-12)  Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).


God’s law shows us for who we truly are.  And like the steward, we have few redeeming qualities.  Like him we say, “What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg” (Luke 16:3).  It’s at this point where the steward must look outside himself.  He looks to the mercy of the master.


The master had every right to throw the steward into prison until the debt had been paid off.  Yet, the master, in his mercy, only asked him to hand over the accounting books.  The steward, in his shrewdness, takes advantage of the merciful nature of the master by quickly calling upon the master’s debtors, and acting on behalf of the master, cancels huge amounts of the debt.  The debtors were surprisingly not taken aback by this for they too realize the master is merciful and to act in this manner is not outside his character.  In the end, the master praises the steward for his cleverness, for his entire scheme was built on his evaluation of the merciful nature of the master.


Is this not how God deals with you?  On account of the times you’ve squandered His possessions, you owe a debt that could never be paid off.  It’s far too great.  You deserve to be imprisoned for all eternity.  God has every right to do this.  Yet, you have a merciful master that chooses to grant you forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life on account of His Son, Jesus Christ.  And unlike the steward who only cancelled half the debt, Jesus cancels your entire debt through His death on the cross.  There’s nothing left to be paid off since Christ paid it in full for you.  You no longer have to fear punishment for with the blameless man, Jesus Christ, you show yourself be blameless (2 Sam. 22:26) and have been set free from the punishment of the law.  And just like the steward banked everything on the mercy of the master, you can take comfort knowing that God follows through with his promise of mercy.  He’ll praise you for your shrewdness in trusting in Him on account of Jesus Christ the Lord, your rock, your refuge, who has made your way blameless (2 Sam. 22:32, 33).  Through Him your future is certain.  You can celebrate living in the freedom that comes through Christ paying your debt.

 

II.


As ones who’ve been set free through Christ, what happens with these possessions?  Should we get rid of them so they don’t tempt us from becoming distracted with the main focus of salvation, which is through Christ?  By no means!  You should make friends by unrighteous wealth, or earthly possessions, with the result that when it fails you maybe received into eternal tents (Luke 16:9).


The steward in the parable, upon hearing he was fired, quickly became shrewd with the master’s earthly possessions over concern for his future.  He wanted to make sure he had an earthly dwelling.


However, what’s more important than knowing your eternal dwelling in heaven with God is secure?  Nothing!  It’s why God baptized you!  It’s why He comes to you now through His word in order that you may know you are set free through His ongoing mercy.  This allows you to shrewdly use His gifts of your time, talents, and resources to extend His kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel.  It’s this gospel message that proclaims that Christ continues to cancel the debt of all people, for all times through the cross. When you come to this altar to eat this bread and drink this cup, you all together actually proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again.  It’s that very proclamation that wins friends for all eternity.  It’s that very witness that Christ strengthens in you with His forgiveness.


Conclusion


Ultimately, the world will take this parable and twist in every way imaginable, but to you has been revealed the kingdom of God.  Our master has mercy on you on account of Christ’s death on the cross.  Your unrighteousness that made possessions a god has been cleansed by the blood of Christ.  For before you are able to do good and give away unrighteous wealth, you first must be made righteous, and through Christ that’s what you are.  It’s His mercy that allows you to leap over a wall or run like a deer (2 Sam. 22:30, 34) in extending your hand to the benefit of your neighbor.


In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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