Luke 16:1-15 The Shrewd Steward
Vicar Paul Rockrohr


Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen


Dear children of the light, this story of the shrewd manager has caused many Christians great distress in trying to understand what Jesus is saying. It has been used against the Church to claim that Christ commends and encourages thieves and robbers. Julian the Apostate, a Roman Emperor, used this passage as a justification for persecuting the Church. For those outside of the faith, who do not have the Holy Spirit guiding their understanding of Scripture, this story is outside the realm of possibility. Sure, one might save one’s enemy just like the Good Samaritan. That would seem to be in keeping with the so called Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Unlikely, but still possible. But to have a man steal from you twice over, and then say, “You were very wise to act in this way.” What would the average business owner say if he caught his accountant embezzling funds after having fired him?


It is also difficult for us to hear exactly what Jesus is teaching. “Christian piety” has been and continues to be offended by this story that Christ uses to compare sons of the world, sons of unrighteousness, to His own. “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” This shrewdness can also be understood as more intelligent, prudent, sensible, or wise. The unrighteous are more intelligent, more prudent, and more sensible than the righteous in dealing with their own generation. “Christian piety” is offended that it is inferior to the unrighteous in the worldly realm. Surely if they are God’s people He will exalt them over all those sinners out there! You have heard it said, “If you pray hard enough God will give it to you.” But what is this false piety truly seeking after? It seeks to make God our source of unrighteous mammon, worldly possessions. For what purpose are these things sought? For our own comfort, or for the benefit of God’s kingdom?

Sermon For The 18th Sunday After Pentecost
Luke 16:1-15 The Shrewd Steward
Vicar Paul Rockrohr


Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen


Dear children of the light, this story of the shrewd manager has caused many Christians great distress in trying to understand what Jesus is saying. It has been used against the Church to claim that Christ commends and encourages thieves and robbers. Julian the Apostate, a Roman Emperor, used this passage as a justification for persecuting the Church. For those outside of the faith, who do not have the Holy Spirit guiding their understanding of Scripture, this story is outside the realm of possibility. Sure, one might save one’s enemy just like the Good Samaritan. That would seem to be in keeping with the so called Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Unlikely, but still possible. But to have a man steal from you twice over, and then say, “You were very wise to act in this way.” What would the average business owner say if he caught his accountant embezzling funds after having fired him?


It is also difficult for us to hear exactly what Jesus is teaching. “Christian piety” has been and continues to be offended by this story that Christ uses to compare sons of the world, sons of unrighteousness, to His own. “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” This shrewdness can also be understood as more intelligent, prudent, sensible, or wise. The unrighteous are more intelligent, more prudent, and more sensible than the righteous in dealing with their own generation. “Christian piety” is offended that it is inferior to the unrighteous in the worldly realm. Surely if they are God’s people He will exalt them over all those sinners out there! You have heard it said, “If you pray hard enough God will give it to you.” But what is this false piety truly seeking after? It seeks to make God our source of unrighteous mammon, worldly possessions. For what purpose are these things sought? For our own comfort, or for the benefit of God’s kingdom?


“No servant can serve two masters, for he will either hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The shrewd manager chose a different master than the one he was bound to serve. Instead of serving the one who owned the possessions, the manager focused on the possessions themselves and how he might benefit from them. He despised his master and found himself to be without a livelihood. Do we not do the same? Do we not focus on the material, the bank account and house but forget where it came from? Do we not despise God who gives these things for us to manage and use well, and instead use them largely to our own benefit? Why have we received them? To manage them well, to extend the kingdom of God. We have been given the privilege to work alongside Christ in His kingdom, to build up the Church. He gives us many gifts in this life, yet to what end do we use them? Each of us has cried “Mine!” when it is in reality His. Each one of us has set up a new god to serve, despising the true God.


“If then you have not been faithful in unrighteous wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” How little we desire, how insignificant the things that consume our attention are! The true riches of God’s mercy and grace, the promise of eternity with Christ, are put on hold to gain that which passes away. But meanwhile countless numbers die outside of the Faith, ones that we have been instructed to reach. Christ commands us to use this unrighteous wealth, unrighteous because it is not eternal, for the sake of the eternal. He says, “make friends by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails (when it perishes) they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”


This is the primary purpose of our stewardship, our use of money and goods, to bring more into the kingdom of heaven by supporting the proclamation of the Word. What kind of managers are we? We are most certainly unfaithful managers, because we do not at all times keep the perspective correct. We fascinate on the temporary goods, and thus abuse them. Since we are unfaithful in this very little thing, what about real treasure? Should we be trusted with true riches?


After the manager is fired, where does he focus? We hear about the manager, his thoughts and his actions. But who is the central figure for him? It is the master, the man who fired him. The manager does not deny the accusations that he has wasted the master’s possessions. He instead schemes how to provide for himself when he is out of a job. He will take advantage of his master one more time. But in order to do that he needs to know exactly what kind of man this master is, what is his character? Everything depends on the master acting in accordance to his own nature. That nature which the manager bets the farm on is that the master is merciful and generous. The manager goes and changes the accounts in the name of the master, making him look incredibly generous and merciful to his clients. The master can either recoup these losses while denying his nature as a generous and merciful man, or live up to his reputation. And the manager was right, the master did not deny his nature but lived up to the promises of illegal documents. The manager is commended because he had absolute trust that the master would be generous. This story is all about what kind of man the master is, not about the manager at all.


Who is this master? It is none other than God. We know that we have a gracious and merciful God, one abounding in steadfast love. We also know that He cannot lie, that He cannot deny His own nature. Because of His nature, as one who does not desire the destruction of the sinner but that he would turn and live, He sent His Son. Our God sent His only begotten Son to redeem us by death on the cross because He cannot deny His nature, our Creator that loves His creatures. Our Lord Jesus humbled Himself to leave the kingly halls of heaven to be born of a woman, take on our flesh and our infirmities. He cannot deny His nature of being our bridegroom, His great love for His bride the Church lead Him to the cross to buy her out of slavery to sin death and the devil.


This is the true point of the story of the shrewd manager, to depict what kind of God we truly have. We have one that cannot deny His reputation, which has been revealed to us in His Word. He will absolutely and without question pay the price that was renegotiated. The former contract that you had was in accordance to the Law. You were guilty and deserved death and damnation. The new contract that you have been given is according to the generosity of Christ. The former demanded that you make atonement for your own sins, that you become holy of your own accord. This new one declares you holy for the sake of the innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ your Lord. The focus is not on your actions, it is on Christ’s own work, His own gifts to you!


The shrewd manager betted everything on the nature of the master in order to gain unrighteous possessions, earthly goods. You do not deserve heavenly treasure any more than the shrewd manager deserved to have the master continue acting according to his nature. But the faith that has been given to you trusts in the nature of Christ to gain righteous possessions, a heavenly treasure. For when you consider Baptism and what it does, you look to what Jesus has promised concerning it. You see God himself doing it, though you see the hand of pastor put the water over the forehead. This One who overcame death and the grave Himself gives the gift of new life. With the sprinkling of water and the Name put upon the forehead and upon the heart we see God stamp paid in full. All sin is washed away, the true righteousness of Christ is given here. Every time we make the sign of the cross, every time we return to our Baptism, we see again the guarantee of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that the cost of salvation has been paid in full. It was paid on the cross in Jesus’ own flesh, and is given out here in the font. It is a gift, and we hear the promise of God that He desires to work and to give in this way, that He Himself attaches forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to the Baptism in which we were baptized. He cannot deny Himself, the gift is truly there.


The manager was concerned about his daily food, where it would come from. But you come to the Lord’s Table to receive His heavenly food. You come to eat His true body, to drink His true blood. Christ Himself has said “this is”, and it is for your benefit to come! For what do you receive? In eating our Lord’s body and drinking His blood you receive the forgiveness of all of your sins. This is not simply just to sustain your body with nourishment, but to strengthen your faith against the assaults of the devil. Through the hands of His under-shepherd Jesus Himself ministers to you, giving you these things.


The shrewd manager was commended because he truly believed that the master would be generous according to his nature. We truly believe that our God will act according to His nature as He has revealed Himself in Jesus. We look to Jesus, because He alone has done it all, He alone is the center focus. It is His deeds and gifts that makes us righteous. It is on His account that we will be called good and faithful servants worthy of being trusted with earthly and heavenly treasure. The holy lives that we now live, we live in the Lord according to His grace. Even in the shadow of death, Christ remains our focus, as we remember His gracious promises that He has defeated it and will bring us to everlasting life with Him. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a