Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 18

"He was One Shrewd Dude!"

Luke 16:1-15

September 18, 2016

A couple of weeks ago I saw they've resurrected the old game show, "Let's Make a Deal." Once again the studio audience was filled with people in crazy costumes willing to trade something of little value for, hopefully, something of much greater value. Today's Gospel is like "let's make a deal." In this case the dishonest manager takes something of greater value and trades it for something of lesser value. In the end, he still benefits from this under-handed dealing.

The story begins with a wealthy man who has hired the manager to take care of his business affairs. Things seem to be going well but word comes to him that the manager is ripping him off. Although he begins to watch, the rich man can't quite prove the allegations. Since he can't prove anything and have the guy arrested for theft, his other option is to fire him.

Luke 16:1-15 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "A rich man had a business manager. The manager was accused of wasting the rich man's property.2 So the rich man called for his manager and said to him, 'What's this I hear about you? Let me examine your books. It's obvious that you can't manage my property any longer.'

Here's an example of "all good things must come to an end. The manager knows the employer is on to him. Although his boss can't prove the charges of theft, the handwriting is on the wall. Not only is he being fired, but his employer will make certain that no one else hires him. Ah, what to do? He doesn't want to do hard labor. He decides to use his shrewd and illegal practices for one last scheme to feather his nest.

And the manager said to himself, '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. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.' 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, 'And how much do you owe?' He said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.'

Do you see the genius in this? The guy not only recruits the employer's debtors into his scheme but ensnares them as well. How so? Because they join the scheme, they are setting themselves up for blackmail. Even when the employer discovers the fraud, he can't get the manager arrested because all those who owed him will deny they were involved lest they find themselves in jail.

The employer marvels at his former manager's shrewdness. In fact, 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. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings."

Some Christians really get upset with this story because they think our Lord is commending dishonest behavior. Ah, no. Jesus is simply making a point. It's about using the talents, skills and abilities God has given you. As I remind the confirmation students, "God gave you a brain and He wants you to use it."

Even as Christians we need to be wise to the ways of the world. Of course, the intent is that we should use our talents, skills and abilities for good, not evil. When our Lord observed that the people of the world show more shrewdness in their business dealings than do the children of the light, Jesus is encouraging us to show the same kind of wisdom and zeal in our work for the kingdom of God. Unlike the worldly wise, Christians are often anything but energetic and driven in the things that pertain to the Great Commission.

Why is it that congregations go wanting and begging at budget time? It's because the people of God don't see the big picture. Congregations become apathetic. In the end we don't practice what we preach about souls being eternally lost because they haven't heard the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are the means through which the Holy Spirit brings the Gospel to the world. Our mission money supports the work of those who go where we cannot to share the love of Jesus.

Whatever we do for the Gospel in this world will bear eternal fruits of joy. The missions we support now will bear fruits of faith among those to whom the Gospel is preached. The acts of mercy we do in the Lord's name will touch people with the love of Christ and bear fruits for the Gospel. What good we do here in time will have results for eternity.

Therefore, Jesus reminds us: "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? 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."

We have been entrusted with gifts from the Lord. These are not ours but His. Our task is to use them wisely for the benefit of many. We are encouraged to use these gifts and talents with the same enthusiasm and zeal that those in the world use theirs to make for themselves a fortune of wealth. Yes, our Lord is admonishing us to use our talents, our abilities and, YES, especially our money shrewdly for the mission of the church. When we use our wealth in acts of mercy, we will see the fruits of faith in our life together.

Sometimes our vision for the lost becomes clouded. Often our zeal becomes lukewarm. We are discouraged by the lack of enthusiasm we see around us. It's the devil at work to keep us from being and doing the things the Lord has laid before. This is why He comes to us today in love to forgive our apathy, strengthen our faith, increase our zeal and help us to joyfully accomplish all He sets before us.

Our support of the mission of the church assures us than not only are our children baptized but little ones throughout the world are also receiving the blessings of baptism. Because we send missionaries with the Great Commission of the Gospel, little ones in Africa and Asia and in Caribbean nations are also being baptized and gathered into the arms of Jesus, their Lord and Savior.

When we feel intimidated or overwhelmed, the Lord is here to renew our confidence and give us boldness to step out in faith. With confidence we will say with Paul, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." [Philip. 4:13]. By the grace of God we will be as shrewd in our dealings as the crooked manager but to the praise, honor and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


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