The Shrewd Manager + Luke 16:1-13
A little recap over the past four weeks in the church year. The last Sunday in July, the sixth Sunday after Trinity Sunday, Jesus told us that He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. Therefore whoever thinks the Ten Commandments are not important and teaches others to not be concerned about them either will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever does the Ten Commandments and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven. We must love God above all things, this is the greatest commandment. We must fear, love and trust in God above all things. He has created us and given us life. He humbled Himself by coming down from heaven and becoming man. He suffered and died and rose again from the dead, purchasing and winning us from sin, death and the power of hell. The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life in the world to come is ours because of what God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost has done for us. Because of this, we love our neighbor as ourselves. We love our neighbor because God loves us. We love the same way God first loved us, humbling ourselves for the good of our neighbor. We see the sin that is in us, the plank that is in our eye and we remove it with repentance and turning away from evil. We show our neighbor the sin in his eye and help him remove it. In realize our sin, we and all those who believe and are baptized, turn to Jesus for grace and peace through the forgiveness of sins. This is what the Ten Commandments demands of us. This is the righteousness of God.
The first Sunday in August, the seventh Sunday after Trinity Sunday, we see that a great crowd had gathered around Jesus, and they had nothing to eat. Jesus had compassion on the crowd, because they had been with Him three days and had nothing to eat. If He had sent them away hungry to their homes, they would faint on the way. Jesus’ disciples wondered, how they could feed these people with bread here in this desolate place. Jesus fed the four thousand with seven loves of bread and a few small fish. Jesus directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. He took the seven loaves, He gave thanks for them, He broke them, He gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they distributed them to the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, Jesus said that these fish should be eaten also and they were set before the crowd. And they ate and were satisfied. The disciples picked up seven large baskets full of bread that was left over. And Jesus sent them away. Jesus, the Bread of Life, gives the bread which He gave thanks for, blessed and broke and gave it to His disciples, that they would distribute it to the crowd. The same is true in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives us Himself, the Bread of Life that we would not grow weary and faint along the way. Jesus feeds us Himself, with His blood, the Cup of Salvation, that we would taste and see that He is good, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love toward us forever. As with the feeding of the four thousand, Jesus has us depart in peace. We depart to live before God in righteousness and purity all the days of our life. As we have eaten and drunk and are satisfied, we are strengthened to fight the fight of faith, turning away from evil, repenting of sins, loving our neighbor. In the Lord’s Supper, we are invited to lie down in green pastures and sent out as people of God, teaching those who do not know about Jesus, praying for those who are in need, sharing the goodness of God’s mercy with those in need, forgiving those who sin against us. The goodness and mercy of God go with us and we richly bless those whom we come into contact with.
Last Sunday, the eighth Sunday after Trinity Sunday, Jesus told us to beware of false prophets, who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. We will recognize them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are figs harvested from thistles. Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. We know a true and faithful prophet by what He teaches and preaches. We know a faithful shepherd, it is he who proclaims the Word of God in all of it truth and purity. The way of faith is to hear and learn the Word of God, holding it sacred. The Word of God comes from the servant of the Word’s very mouth, proclaiming peace to a people and a world that does not know peace. The Word of God proclaims Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This is what every called and ordained servant of the Word desires to do. This alone is the Rock and Foundation, upon which we build our faith, anything else is sinking sand. When we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this Word of God, good fruit is produced in us. The Word of God is where our help comes from. The Word of God brings about in us, prayer, worship and the giving of thanks. We desire to regularly receive God’s gifts and share it with those who are in need. This is the good fruit that is produced in us.
Today, the ninth Sunday after Trinity Sunday, Jesus tells His disciples that there was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought against the manager that he was wasting the rich man’s possessions. The rich man called his manager to have him give an account of his management. The manager did not know what to do, he was not strong enough to dig, and was ashamed to beg. The manager decided to lower the bills of those who owed money to the rich man. The rich man 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. We are to make friends by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive us into the eternal dwellings. We know that we are unfaithful with what God has given us, richly blessed us with. We do not use earth mammon, the created things of this world for the mission of the Church and the good of our neighbor. Like the manager, we trust in mammon, the created things of this world rather than the Master, the Creator of heaven and earth. We are selfish, thinking that we have earned what we have and that we deserve it for ourselves. We think that because we have been blessed with so much, we deserve even greater treasures from heaven. We think that others can take care of themselves. This is true for earthly mammon. We don’t give or take care of the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the naked, those in prison. We take care of ourselves and expect those in need to take care of themselves or find someone else to take care of them. This is true for heavenly treasures. We don’t share the Word of God with our family or neighbors. We don’t invite our friends and neighbors to come to church with us, to pray, praise and give thanks to God. We don’t forgive as we have been forgiven. We don’t love as we have been loved. We don’t desire for our neighbor to be baptized, that they would be delivered from sin, death and hell. We don’t desire to have our neighbor join us at the Communion rail to join with all the saints and angels in heaven and on earth in the great heavenly banquet of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Of this unrighteous and unholy way, we must repent. We must be like the manager, who used earthly mammon, the created things of this world, to help himself and the people around him, his neighbor. We must use water to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In Holy Baptism, we are clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness. We must use bread and wine, to make us participants in Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. In the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim the Lord’s death and resurrection until He comes again. We must use all our earthly treasures, which we have received so generously from the hand of God, to extend His kingdom, that together, we would be welcomed into the heavenly home that Jesus has gone to prepare for us. Amen.