Sermon Text: Luke 16:1-15
Sermon Day: Sept 22, 2013; 18th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 20)
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 16th chapter.
A. A Parable for the Disciples
Beloved in the Lord,
With a heart of love for fallen mortals our Lord speaks this parable to us this morning. Gradually, the target audience for the Savior’s teaching has been narrowed. From the multitudes in chapter 14 to the Pharisees and scribes just last week Jesus has been addressing stumbling blocks to salvation. First it was family and friends, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Last week the Pharisees grumbled because this Man from Nazareth gathers with tax collectors and sinners and He even eats with them.
This morning we find Jesus specifically addressing his disciples. Here, He most directly speaks to us. He leads with His voice and we follow with our ears. Sheep know their shepherd. Shepherds watch out for their sheep. Watching out for us and our salvation the Lord teaches us to beware of another stumbling block. This particular scandalon is terribly dangerous. For it is one toward which our hearts, in their fallen state, naturally gravitate. It is one we don’t want to admit, one we secretly idolize in our hearts. It is Mammon; things, possessions, the rewards of this life, which only last as long as this life.
Like the unwise steward, we too must confess that we have squandered the many possessions gifted us from our Lord. And so the first lesson we must learn is that all which we have; “clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, animals, all we have, all that we need to support this body and life,” these are all gifts given from a gracious Lord who wills us to receive these with grateful hearts and then to wisely use them in this life.
B. Security in Mammon
Scripture compels me to shine the light of God’s word on the depths of our hearts about this. For isn’t that where most of us have hidden this idol of ours . . . deep down where no one can see it . . . where only we know it dwells? Hide all you want. Our parable teaches a day of reckoning, the day the Lord settles all accounts.
Let’s be honest with ourselves and with God. We have not been so wise with our possessions. We have lived much like the prodigal son at the end of chapter 15, squandering our Father’s gifts upon ourselves while ignoring the needs of His church, His people, and our many neighbors outside the church.
Why is this? Why do we hide this sin so deep within us that we won’t allow anyone to talk about it? Why do we squirm and wriggle and twist and writhe in the pews whenever money is brought up in a sermon? Why is it that more people get upset over a sermon on tithing than on abortion or homosexuality? You know the answer. It’s because we have our idols. And there is no idol closer to our heart than our wallets.
The Large catechism says that the heart must have a god, either it’s the true God or some idol. That which the heart trusts, looks to for security and peace, and salvation becomes our God. Now, Jesus would have our hearts fixed on Him. That He may be our God and we live and move and have our being in Him as His dear children. But that is contrary to the way we think, feel, behave, live, etc. Faith in Christ is not natural. Faith is contrary to our old Adam, against our old Adam. For deep within every one of us is the lust, the desire for more of the possessions of this world. You see we’ve been taught over the years to believe that possessions give us security. But if we’re looking to mammon for security, then mammon becomes our god. And mammon is a god which cannot save, cannot truly give joy, and peace, happiness and fulfillment. Mammon can do nothing but lead to exhaustion, despair, selfishness, and loneliness.
Look at our society today. See how the world worships work, plays at its worship and works at its play. Is it any wonder that our world is confused, disordered, tired, stressed out, anxious, lonely and lost?
Beloved, Mammon is a wicked task master constantly striking the conscience with the cords of uncertainty. Serving mammon will only lead to death. For you cannot serve both mammon and God, either you will love the one and hate the other or you will be loyal to the one and despise the other. Who among us has not tripped over this stumbling block when putting our offering in the plate? Who among us has not withheld from the bounty of the Lord when our neighbor was in need? Who has not blindly driven by the man near the side of road holding a sign that says, “will work for food”? Where is your compassion, your love, your mercy? Where is your God and how will you abide when He comes to settle your account?
C. A gracious Lord
Hearing these words, a sword pierces our heart. And we’ve been shown the depravity of our own selfishness and greed. Like the unwise steward we say within ourselves, “What shall I do? My Master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig. And I am ashamed to beg.” God is calling me to account and I am losing my life, for my life has been caught up in things that rust destroys and moths consume. I cannot work my way out. Pride forbids me to beg. I have been an unwise steward of God’s gifts. What shall I do?
What does the steward do? He quickly changes the books. You see, beloved, there must be a change in the books! For God calls us to account. The steward changes the books because he is counting on his master’s grace. And here we find the crux of our parable. Disciples of Jesus are to trust in, depend on, count on the master’s gracious heart. For Jesus is a gracious Lord. He is kind and compassionate. Rather than cast us away or throw us into prison until our debt is paid, He allows for the books to be changed. And what changes those books? It is not us, but it is the grace of our Lord.
The Lord in His graciousness wipes out the writing that was against us having nailed them to the cross in His flesh. There on the cross all sin, debt, death and devil is destroyed. The stumbling block is cast aside. The idols of our hearts are put to death and laid in the tomb, which is their glory and merit. These do not rise, but Jesus does. He rises from the depths of death, rises full of life and eternal glory! He rises that He may be for us our eternal security. Through His blood all accounts have been cleansed. Sins are forgiven. The books have been changed. His grace is outpoured.
B’. Secure in God
His means of grace are my eternal security. For through these holy treasures I am given the riches of the king’s heart. Through these I am blessed. For blessed is the man whose God is the Lord. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him. Indeed blessed are all whose heart clings to the Word of the Savior in baptism, absolution, the Holy Gospel, and the Supper. Blessed are all who believe. Their joy is fixed on Christ and with grateful hearts they receive from Him not only the gifts of the earth, but of heaven as well. Receiving heavenly gifts from a gracious Lord the soul is at rest in this life. True joy and peace, happiness, and fulfillment well up in the heart like a mighty river flowing from the throne of our God. With certainty, by faith, you receive life, a life secured by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is your eternal treasure and no moth or rust can destroy Him. Sin could not end Him. Satan couldn’t bind Him. Decay did not overtake Him. This world can’t overcome Him. Not even the gates of hell can prevail. The cross has become His glory and the empty tomb is the seal of His Father’s approval. Christ is risen and poor stewards like us have been ushered through a watery grave and into a kingdom that has no end!
A’. Treasures for the Disciples
Therefore, beloved, we Christians are not be found attempting to serve mammon and the Lord. We cannot have two masters. Rather, we are to be found receiving from our true Master the gifts he has given us with joy and gladness and gratitude. We are to be wise stewards with the Lord’s heavenly gifts. We are to strive with all that we are to hear the Word of God, to receive absolution, and to feast at His table. We are to live in our baptism and work out our salvation with fear and trembling, putting our faith into action. For faith without works is dead. And a working faith includes being faithful stewards with the Master’s gifts.
Thus we also shall put the fruits of the earth to work for our King. We, Christians, are generous, compassionate, merciful, and loving towards friend and foe, family and neighbor, to any who are in need. We return a tithe of our income to the Lord. Regular and faithful tithing according to God’s Word disciplines the heart and restrains us from the vices of greed and selfishness. For you see, our God has given us a bounty, not that we may serve ourselves, but that in love we may serve our neighbor and provide for the increase of His kingdom.
A wise and faithful steward heeds these words. He trusts the gracious heart of His Lord. And rejoicing in God our savior he responds with love. God grant us all such wisdom. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!