Based on: Luke 16:1-13
As a pastor, sometimes I hear about some of the concerns of other pastors. I have heard that there have been times that a member of the congregation will suggest to their pastor that he shouldn’t preach so much about money. I have heard of one case where a member actually told his pastor outright not to preach about money.
I have never heard anything like that here at Saint John’s. That is to your credit. You understand that if I did not talk about money and then I would not faithfully be proclaiming God’s word. Do you realize how often Jesus talks about money, whether directly or indirectly. Right before the parable for today, Luke records the parable of the prodigal son who sets a poor example by wasting his wealth. Two weeks ago we talked about the cost of discipleship. It was clear from what Jesus said that we must give up even our money to follow him. Today Jesus again talks very directly about money and the way we use our money.
Think about the parable Jesus tells about this shrewd manager. What did you think about Jesus holding up this dishonest man as an example for us? Did that seem kind of strange? Jesus tells us about a man who had the job of taking care of the possessions of a rich man. In some way this manager was wasting his master’s possessions. We aren’t told whether it was through dishonesty or an inability to do the job. It doesn’t matter. The man was going to lose his job. His day of judgment was coming.
He scrambles to figure out how old he is going to survive without this job. They didn’t have unemployment benefits in those days and so this man has to figure out for himself what he will do. Suddenly, a thought comes to him. It is a way that he can use the resources that are available to him now to provide for himself in the future. He goes quickly to each person who owes something to his master and he reduces the amount they owe. What is he doing? He is using his master’s money to gain friends for himself, friends that will help him out when he is in need. He is planning for his retirement, isn’t he? Even though it might be dishonest, it is a very creative solution to his problem. Certainly his master is not happy with the situation, but he does recognize this man’s ingenuity, his cleverness.
Jesus wants us to practice that same ingenuity, that same cleverness. Now, he is not telling us to be dishonest. But this man use the resources that were available to him and figured out a way to attain his goal. God has given us tremendous blessings. Use them to ensure that you have for yourself an eternal dwelling. You are in many ways just like that manager. One day God will ask for an accounting of your life. What are you going to do? I hope you will want to make friends with someone who can give you a place to stay after that day of judgment. I hope you are planning for your eternal retirement. But with whom will you want to stay? There are really only two choices: God or Satan. If you want to stay with Satan, that is really no problem. Use your money to serve yourself and a dwelling with Satan is all yours.
If you want a dwelling with the almighty God in heaven, then let’s talk about that. Jesus tells us, “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Jesus isn’t telling us that we can buy our way into heaven. An eternal dwelling with God in heaven comes to us only through faith in Jesus Christ as our savior from sin. But how do we use our money to ensure that we have an eternal dwelling?
This is the way it works. If heaven is your goal, if an eternal dwelling with God is what you desire, then you will recognize that the goal of heaven is more important than anything else on this earth, and you will you use your money and your possessions to make sure that you are holding on to the faith through which the blessing of eternal life comes. And how do you keep that faith growing, the faith that is your connection to eternal life? You listen to God’s Word. That’s the key, isn’t it? Jesus said it over and over again, that the only thing we really need is to hear the message of salvation thru God’s Word and the sacraments. Just like the shrewd manager, use the resources that are available to you to attain that goal of hearing God’s Word.
I have said this before, God doesn’t need your money. He really doesn’t. The whole world is his to do with what he wants. He really doesn’t even need this church to exist. But if this church ceased to exist, who suffers? Who really does need this church to exist? We do. If we don’t support this church with our money, then the church closes and we have just demonstrated to God that we care very little about him and his Word. We lose an opportunity to hear God’s Word and may even lose eternal life. If we don’t support the school with our money then that our children lose a very important opportunity to hear God’s Word and future generations will suffer. If we fail to take this parable to heart and we don’t use all are money to gain friends so that we are welcomed into eternal dwellings, as Jesus says, then we only hurt ourselves and our children and our grandchildren.
But what happens when our actions show that we understand what is really important? When faith shows itself in the way we handle our money and the way we cherish the precious gospel message, then God says, “you have been trustworthy in dealing with worldly riches, I can trust you with true riches.” You have shown that you can be trusted with a little and so God will bless you with much. You have been faithful with the property God has loaned to you in so he will give you property of your own, to keep forever in eternity. You see, the riches of heaven far out value and far of last the money you get to manage for a little while on this earth and those riches are the ones we really want. Those riches are yours through faith in Christ.
How do I know? I know because the Bible talks about money. One of the ways the Bible describes our salvation is through the very appropriate picture of the debits and credits. Think about every one of your sins as a check written against an already well overdrawn bank account. That number of entries in the debit column of your account with God is beyond your ability to count. Your debt to God is far beyond your ability to pay. Then the Son of God came to this earth and not once did he sin. His account was always in the black, never in the red. When Jesus Christ went to the cross and suffered as punishment, God was not simply forgiving the debt you owed him, but Jesus Christ was writing the check that would transfer his credit to you, making up for your debt to God, making your account with God in the positive and not the negative. “God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Paul explains to the Romans.
The righteousness of Christ has been credited to your account. You have wealth that could only be purchased for you by the blood of the son of God. The money you have in this world is like monopoly play money in comparison. Use that money to show how you cherish the real wealth he gives you. I think you would agree when I say that planning for your retirement is good, but planning for your eternity is far better.