Sunday, August 18, 2019

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.
So, it appears that in today’s Gospel reading Jesus commends dishonesty, or at least a “by all means necessary,” “whatever it takes,” “get ‘er done” sort of pragmatism having little concern for moral righteousness. Afterall, the protagonist in His little tale is a dishonest manager of someone else’s money who, to serve his own interests and to save his own skin under-collected from his master’s debtors, essentially robbing his master of the wealth he was hired to manage and protect. That’s the way it appears, but is that truly what our Lord is doing?
No, our Lord Jesus is not commending dishonesty. However, He is making a strong point: We can be quite shrewd and wise in managing our worldly goods, which are unrighteous and passing away, to profit us. Are we, in contrast, so shrewd and wise in managing the spiritual things that are righteous and do not pass away? You remember our Lord’s teaching: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” This is the very same teaching! Your Lord Jesus is calling you to take account of what your treasure truly is and where your heart truly is: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The dishonest manager was desperate. He was very much aware of his perilous situation and that he had no hope for saving himself by his own means. Therefore, he was shrewd, he was wise, in doing what was necessary to secure help for himself by means of someone else’s wealth, good will, charity, and grace. He slashed the debts of his master’s debtors. He spent his master’s money – which is dishonest in terms of worldly wisdom and righteousness. Nevertheless, it was a shrewd plan for one in dire desperation. For, you see, that is problem with us spiritually: We do not truly recognize, believe, or confess how desperate our true spiritual condition really is. If we did, we would be just as shrewd to secure help for ourselves spiritually and eternally. But, the truth is that we do not: “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.”
We take God’s grace for granted. We take our Lord Jesus for granted. We think that because He died for us and was raised that we can do whatever we want, live however we want, and tell others its ok to live however they want because God has forgiven us all in Jesus no matter what. But, that’s a damned lie! That’s what Satan wants us to believe. And, on a day we cannot know, the Master will return and we will be called to give an account of our management: “What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management.” Now is the time to take account of your management of all the Lord has blessed you with: your wealth, your possessions, your health, even your life. These are all the LORD’s, and you have been entrusted with the management of these unrighteous things, this mammon, that is passing away. “If 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?”
It is with the merciful that the LORD is merciful. It is with the blameless that the LORD is blameless. It is with the purified that the LORD deals purely. And, it is the humble that the LORD saves. Indeed, mercy, blamelessness, purity, and humility are among some of the most important gifts you have been given management and stewardship of. But the eyes of the LORD are upon the haughty to bring them down. We must not put Christ to the test by squandering our heavenly Father’s possessions in selfishness and sin. The Old Testament provides us countless examples of those who desired evil and engaged in idolatry, sexual immorality, and grumbling and experienced the Father’s wrath against their sin.  “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
Yes, the end of the ages has come. St. Paul penned those words in the middle of the first century, but they are no less true today. The day of accounting is coming, if not today, then tomorrow. No servant can serve two masters. Take account: What master are you serving by your management? You cannot serve God and mammon, money, worldly wealth and possessions, your health, your life. If you think you stand secure, take account of where your security comes from? Does it come from your fear, love, and trust in the LORD, or does it come from your love and trust in worldly things? What do you truly treasure? Where does your heart reside? When your worldly possessions are at risk, when you are tempted to fear that you do not have enough and might lose what you have, when illness afflicts your health, your body, and your life, and the lives of those you love, remember that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptationHe will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.”
Did you catch that – with the temptationthat you may be able to endure it? Do not believe that there is a way around temptation, a way around suffering, a way around the cross. Jesus never promised that. In fact, Jesus promised you precisely the opposite: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first.” “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” These temptations are a test of your management, a test of where and in whom you truly place your fear, love, and trust. Indeed, they are little, blessed accountings that you might repent and return to the LORD whose way is perfect, whose Word proves true.
As 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. These provide us aid in times of temptation. For the Lord is our strength and a shield to all who trust in Him.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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