Skip to comments."Faithful Stewards" (Sermon on Luke 16:1-15)
Posted on 09/20/2007 3:21:13 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
Faithful Stewards (Luke 16:1-15)
In the Holy Gospel for today, Jesus tells the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. This story is also known as the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward. The terms are interchangeable: dishonest or unrighteous; manager or steward. But keeping the titles straight is the least of the problems with this parable. This text from Luke 16 is, on its surface, a difficult one to understand. It seems that Jesus is commending the dishonest manager, the unrighteous steward, for his unrighteousness! And what does Jesus mean by, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth? Whats that all about? This Parable of the Unrighteous Steward presents us with some difficulties. But since Jesus is the one who tells it, it must be important. And it is. For in this text Jesus is teaching his people what it means to be Faithful Stewards.
Jesus teaches us about being faithful stewards by way of a story about an unfaithful steward, a certain manager:
There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.
So this rich man had a manager. A manager is a steward, someone who is entrusted with and manages something that belongs to someone else. The manager, the steward, is not the owner. He works for the owner, managing his property and possessions--his household economy, if you will. That is the stewardship that has been entrusted to him by his master. But in this case, the steward was not managing his masters possessions well. And word got back to the master. So he calls the fellow in and says, Turn in your books. Im dismissing you from your position.
Well, this presents the manager with a crisis. He soon will be out of a job--no income, no place to stay. But for some reason, the master doesnt have him turn in the books right then and there on the spot. Theres a little delay of time. This gives the manager a chance to think:
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.
The manager has come up with a plan. He knows his time is limited, but he thinks he can work it so that hell have a place to stay when he gets booted out of where he is now:
So, summoning his masters 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.
So heres his plan. The manager goes to his masters debtors and reduces their debts. Now whether he was sacrificing his own commission, or the debtors thought the master was showing generosity toward them, or they were going along with the managers crookedness and taking advantage of it--we just dont know. The text doesnt tell us. Be that as it may, the bottom line is that by reducing their debts, the manager was making friends for himself for the future. These people would feel that they owe him one. And soon he would need them to return the favor. When hes out looking for work and needing a place to stay, these people will be more likely to help him out, to open their homes to him.
Well, somehow the master got word of this, that the steward had changed those debts so as to look out for his own future, and--somewhat surprisingly--this was the masters reaction:
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.
Notice that the master didnt praise the dishonest manager for his dishonesty or his crookedness. No, he commended him for his shrewdness, that is, his clever thinking in the midst of a crisis, his prudence, his foresight, that he could come up with a sensible way to solve his problem.
Now all of this is in the context of unrighteousness, in the ways of this world--shrewdness or prudence in solving a problem in this age, using whatever means might work or that someone could get away with. Again, its not that Jesus is commending dishonesty or unrighteousness. Quite the opposite. But he is talking about prudence, wisdom in a time of crisis, taking advantage of the opportune moment in making provision for the future--for the eternal future. Christ would have us look beyond this age to the age to come, and to so arrange our affairs in this life with that long-range future in view.
And so now Jesus makes his application from the parable he just told:
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.
In other words, use the worldly wealth that is at your disposal--use it now in this life with an eye toward eternity. Use your money and your possessions now in a way that is pleasing to God and for the good of other people. Realize that there is going to come a day when your life in this world will end, and your money is going to come to an end, too. But then you are going to be welcomed into your eternal home in heaven.
Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth. Unrighteous wealth is money, possessions, riches, but with a negative connotation. Money is commonly used by the people of this world in ways that are not pleasing to God--hence, unrighteous wealth. But you, you are a Christian made righteous by the righteousness of Christ. You are able to use this unrighteous wealth for righteous purposes. As a faithful, wise, shrewd steward, you can use your wealth, such as it is, for Gods purposes and for the good of others.
You and I can use our money to help our neighbor in need. There are individuals and families, at home and around the world, with serious financial needs. How are we going to help them? These are some of those friends who will be welcoming us into heaven when we get there--our brothers and sisters--and we can help them here and now.
Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. You and I can also use our money to support the churchs work of preaching of the gospel. This is our neighbors greatest need--the good news of the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus our Savior. You and I and everyone else in the world--we all need that precious gospel.
Here is whats so wonderful about it: The gospel says, not only is your debt reduced--from a hundred to eighty, or from a hundred to fifty--not only is your debt reduced, its taken away! Erased, wiped out, paid in full! Jesus paid it all for you! He paid the price you could not pay. Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all. The Son of God gave himself to redeem us, to set us free. His death on the cross paid the debt we owed, the whole debt of all our sins.
Thats the gospel, the good news, the testimony we have to bring to people. This is how we make friends for eternity. And our money can be used to help spread that message, to preach it and teach it. As faithful stewards, you and I want to support that gospel ministry. We can do it right here, in and through this congregation. That is a faithful and wise use of our money. That is using unrighteous wealth for a righteous purpose, Gods purpose--God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come the knowledge of the truth. There is no finer use of your wealth in this world than to give it for the work of the gospel.
And this is the gospel I bring to you today! You may not have been as faithful a steward as you should have been. Perhaps you have not been giving as generously as you could to support the work of this congregation. But the good news today is that God forgives you. He forgives you not because of anything you have done. Or anything you will do--its not because of how much better youre going to do from now on. No. God forgives you and saves you and receives you into his heavenly dwellings purely and simply out of his incredible free grace in Christ! Its all a gift. You have an eternal dwelling waiting for you because Christ has gone to prepare that place for you. Its a gift. Christ has earned it for you. The Holy Spirit is working, through the gospel, to strengthen the faith you have in Christ. And that same Spirit will make you into the faithful steward you are meant to be.
Yes, God is at work to make us his faithful stewards. He owns it all, everything there is. And out of his fantastic grace, he gives us all the good things of this life to enjoy, he entrusts them to us to manage for his good purpose. To be a steward is a high calling.
Our true riches are in heaven, yes. And there is no price tag we can put on them--forgiveness, life, eternal salvation, righteousness before God. All the wealth of the world cannot buy any of those priceless gifts. Christ has purchased those treasures for us with his holy, precious blood. And God gives them all to us as a free gift.
Money cannot buy the eternal salvation we have in Christ. But now, here in this life, we can use the riches of this world for a heavenly purpose. Faithful stewards use their wealth for Gods purposes and for the good--especially the eternal good--of others. And the God of all grace will make us into those faithful stewards who are making friends for eternity.
He also said to the disciples, There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager. 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 masters 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. 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.
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 anothers, 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.
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
Posting the sermon for this Sunday earlier than usual, since I’ll be busy out of town the next couple of days.
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