Sunday, August 5, 2012

Homily for The Ninth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 9)

H-63 Trinity 9 (Lu 16.1-9)


Luke 16:1-13; 1 Corinthians 10:6-13; 2 Samuel 22:26-34

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We are all managers and stewards of God’s possessions. All that we have is truly His, from His gracious providence. Whether it be physical possessions of money, food, shelter, and clothing, relational possessions of husband, wife, children, family, and friends, or spiritual possessions of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness – all is the LORD’s who graciously provides us all that we need for our bodies and our lives, with overflowing abundance to manage, to use, and to distribute for the benefit of ourselves and our families and for the benefit of our neighbor in need.

However, we, like the manager in Jesus’ parable, are guilty of wasting our Master’s possessions. Sometimes we are selfish and greedy, fearfully guarding, protecting, and hoarding for ourselves what we think we need and lusting after what we think we want. But, more often than not, we are simply lazy, careless, and foolish in our stewardship, thinking only of the present, our present needs, wants, and desires, and thinking only of ourselves because those are the needs, wants, and desires we know the best.

Your LORD and Master would have you receive and recognize all things as His good and gracious gifts to you and, therefore, trusting in Him, in His goodness and love for you, use them to His glory and praise, for yourself and your family, and in service of others in their need. But fear is the very opposite of love, and the fruits of fear are selfishness, greed, envy, and hatred. Love and fear have no fellowship together because perfect love casts our fear. Thus, in truly loving God, trusting in Him, in His goodness and loving providence, all those fruits of fear may be driven away. That is why the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A right relationship with your LORD will drive away the fruits of sinful fear and you will truly live in freedom without fear. You will be able to manage your Master’s possessions without fear of losing or going without, without fear of need or someone else having more, but you will find contentment, peace and joy in what you have, and you will be content and at peace and in joy in doling out your Master’s goods to others.

The manager in Jesus’ parable realized his predicament. He held no illusion that when he turned in his account of his management that he would not be out of a job and utterly on his own. The problem for us, however, is that we are too often not willing to confess the same about ourselves. We try to blame someone else for our failings and we try to rationalize and explain away our mismanagement. But the manager in Jesus’ parable doesn’t do that, but he knows that he is guilty as charged. He offers no excuses, and he blames no one but himself. However, the manager does something that is unexpected, something that his master will later call shrewd and will commend him for. Knowing that he has no excuse and has no one to blame but himself, he places all of his faith and all of his trust, he commends his entire livelihood and life, unto the goodness and mercy of his master.

Though he was already fired and out of work, the manager went to each of his master’s debtors and he slashed their debts by twenty and fifty percent. Needless to say, the debtors, who didn’t know that the manager had been fired, were very pleased with the master, whom they assumed had been so gracious and merciful with them. Likewise, they were pleased with the manager who delivered this good news to them. However, what would the master say when he discovered that his manager had let his debtors out of their debts? Would he not have his manager thrown in prison, or worse? And here, Jesus’ parable takes yet another unexpected turn, for not only does the manager do the unthinkable, but his master does the unthinkable as well – he commends his dishonest manager for acting so shrewdly.

Though this unexpected turn of events is surprising, it should not be confounding to you. Jesus is not praising the dishonest manager’s dishonesty, but rather He is painting for you a portrait of faith. The dishonest manager never dreamed that he might somehow get away with short-changing his master, but instead he was banking on something altogether different – his master’s goodness and mercy. When all was said and done, by slashing his master’s debtor’s debts he had won for himself favor with the debtors and also their praise and love for his master. When he turned in the account of his management, the master, recognizing that the manager had trusted in his goodness and mercy and that his debtor’s were now praising him, commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. And Jesus adds to the end of the parable the following summary: “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.” “You cannot serve God and money.”

What does this mean? Well, it goes back to what was stated at the beginning: We are all managers and stewards of God’s possessions. All that we have is truly His, from His gracious providence. Do you believe this? And, if so, what does this mean for your life? If all things truly belong to God, and they do, then the question is, what do you place your fear, love, and trust in – God, or money? If your fear, love, and trust is in money and material wealth and possessions, then that is what you serve – You serve the possession instead of the Possessor; you serve the gift instead of the Giver; you serve creation instead of the Creator. You may think that both are important, and that you can honestly serve both, but Jesus teaches you that you cannot serve two masters; you cannot serve God and money. For, either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

In effect, Jesus says to you, “Don’t use people to serve money, but use money to serve people;” “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwelling.” You are a manager, you are a steward, God is the owner and Master. He is good and gracious, merciful and loving. He gives to you so that you may live and enjoy life and praise Him, and He gives to you in abundance so that you may give to others without fear of losing, without fear of being shorted, without fear of being taken advantage of, without fear of being taken for granted, without fear…, but full of love, Christ’s love, for your brother, your sister, and your neighbor in need. To not be able to give it away is to serve money, mammon, and material wealth as a master. Don’t let money be your master. The LORD is your only Master, and He loves to give you all that you need for your body and life and more that you might make friends for yourself, and that He might make disciples for Himself through you, to the glory of His holy Name.

The dishonest manager had nothing to lose, but everything to gain by making friends for himself amongst men and by trusting in his good and gracious master. So too you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving, sharing, and blessing others with God’s gifts. For the day is coming when all unrighteous wealth will fail, when no amount of money, wealth, or possessions will be able to help you or bring you comfort. Therefore, live today as if it were that day. Be shrewd in your stewardship of your Master’s possessions now, and He will entrust you with true riches in His holy kingdom. Indeed, those riches are laid aside for you even now, sonship, righteousness, and eternal life, and no one can take them from you. For, Jesus Christ is the true Steward who has canceled all your debts. And, His Father, your Master, has commended Him and has given Him His kingdom and authority. And, even now, He transforms the unrighteous mammon of bread and wine and ordinary water into a lavish feast and anointing of grace to preserve and keep you until His return. You are His stewards and His faithful managers. He provides you all you need and more. He will never leave you or forsake you. When you face temptation, He will always provide you a way of escape. He is that Way, and the Truth, and the Life, and He is your Daily Bread.

In + the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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