Sunday, August 17, 2014
Homily for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 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.
Why do you have what you have? What do you do with what you’ve got? Why does the master in the parable commend the dishonest manager? These are but a few of the questions that are raised in today’s lessons from Holy Scripture. But, let us begin by acknowledging that this Parable of the Dishonest Manager (also known as the Parable of the Unjust Steward) is historically one of the most difficult and challenging of our Lord’s parables to interpret and to understand. And, as with most parables, there is more than one approach that we might take in understanding it.
Fundamentally, the parable concerns how you manage the goods that are entrusted to you by God while you live your life in this world. For, your Lord is not unlike a rich man, and you are not unlike His managers. And, Satan, the accuser, is not unlike one who has brought charges against you that you have been wasting your Master’s possessions. The Master is coming soon to require an account of your management. What will He find? What will you say? Will He not be justified in condemning you? What will you do? Shrewdly, use the Master’s possessions, over which you are given management, for the good of yourself and for the good of others; not just the money and the material goods, but use the Master’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, charity, and peace. Give to all, generously, not sparingly, that when the Master comes to require an account of your management, you will have many friends who think well of you and who will glorify the Master believing that your giving is the fruit of His generosity. “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
For, is this not what the sons of this world do? Do they not give generously to others so that they themselves might profit in the future? How shrewdly they act with the things that they love! They spend money to make money. They use their wealth to make friends. They do favors to gain favors; quid pro quo.
But, not so the sons of light! You were conceived and born into this world, this life, with the guilt of sin. You were brought into this world, this life, with nothing of your own so that all is a gift: your life and breath, your food, clothing, home and family, the Father’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. Why do you have what you have? It is the gift of God your Father’s grace. What do you do with what you’ve got? Do you use it for your own good and for the good of others to the glory of God, or do you horde His gifts and selfishly, sinfully, keep them hidden and of no use to others? “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?”
We are confounded that the Master commends the dishonest manager for his shrewdness in our Lord’s parable. It is not the manager’s dishonesty that is commended, however, but the wisdom, zeal, and shrewdness he devoted to his earthly future. How much more wisdom, zeal, and shrewdness should you, sons of light, devote to your heavenly and eternal future?
Another way of looking at this parable is to see that the dishonest manager is actually our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, it may seem difficult to see Jesus as being dishonest, it may even seem blasphemous, but is this not the way the world viewed Jesus – as a dishonest criminal, a thief to be condemned to death? Jesus “dishonestly” squandered His Master’s, His Father’s, grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness by showering it upon us poor, sinful, debtors. We, who shoulder an impossible debt to our Master, God, have had our debts, cut, not in half, or reduced by a percentage, but completely erased by our Master’s “dishonest” Manager, His only Son Jesus, our Lord. Jesus believed and knew perfectly well that His Father was gracious and merciful and that He would honor the forgiveness He dishonestly dispensed because of His sacrificial death upon the cross for all sin-debts and debtors.
Does it make you uncomfortable to think of Jesus in this way, as a dishonest manager of His Father’s grace and mercy – as a criminal and a thief? Is that discomfort not the point of Jesus’ parable? The debtors would never have dared to approach the Master to bargain and settle their account, but they gratefully welcomed the dishonest manager, and they did not think Him dishonest, but only doling out the amazing grace and mercy of their Master. They were thankful to the manager and counted him as a friend and they glorified the Master for His grace and mercy shown to them.
If the Master Himself were to have approached His debtors, they would have rightfully fled in terror; but, the Manager they did not fear or flee and they were willing to bargain and deal with him to reduce their debt to the Master. Indeed, Jesus, the man from backwater Nazareth, the carpenter’s son, regularly ate and drank, touched, and had fellowship with sinners and the unclean. They did not fear Him, but approached Him and appealed to Him for mercy; and He showed them mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness. It was the Pharisees who continually cried out, “Not for such as these!”
You sons of light are shrewd and cunning managers of wealth and goods, well practiced in the art of self-preservation. But how do you manage the spiritual gifts you have, grace, mercy, love, charity, and forgiveness. Your Master and Father, God, would have you manage the spiritual gifts with the same shrewdness, cunning, wisdom, and zeal with which you manage your wealth, even more so. For, your life in this world will end, and then you will know the true worth of those things that you value now. But, the spiritual gifts, given you sons of light, bear fruit unto eternity.
“Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth,” Jesus teaches, “so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” The dishonest manager was shrewd in using oil and wheat to provide for his earthly welfare. So also do these earthly elements aid us when pressed into heavenly use in the anointing of baptism and the wheat of the Lord’s Supper. Those who have the Sacraments will have an eternal home when their earthly home fails.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.