Sermon 1682 Luke 16.1-13 October 13, 2019
Selling life insurance seems a no-brainer. Assuming the money’s there, the client is buying it for himself and his family. No altruism there. Looking out for Number One! But it doesn’t work that way. Why?
Sociologists answer a person visualizes two selves, a present self and a future self. He knows his present self well and does many nice things for it. His future self is remote, almost a stranger! So he cuts corners on his future self for his present self.
Today I have to convince you to be generous and disciplined for the sake of your future self and urge your present self to make some sacrifices for the future of others.
Nobody ever said the job of a preacher was easier than that of a life-insurance salesman.
Make Forever Friends
Look to the future.
Be sharp now.
The parable is simple. A king’s accountant has been stealing. The king finds out about it and demands an accounting. Before he is fired, the accountant cooks the books again. He brings in the creditors and reduces what they owe the king. He’s made friends for himself so they throw some love his way when he is unemployed. Sharp cookie. He knows what is coming and takes action. We laugh at how he stuck it to the king. Even the king is amused. That takes the cake.
The application Jesus makes, however, is where people make things difficult. Is he praising dishonesty? “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Is he talking about how we should hop to it? “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”
What’s the point? Make Forever Friends. Look to the future.
The wicked servant knew his future firing was coming fast. He would have to make a living. Ashamed to beg, not strong enough for manual labor, by cooking the books, he would have friends who would shove money his way or hire him.
What’s the future we are facing? “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
The future is heaven. Use the money we have for something that matters. That’s the “trusted with much” and “true riches” bit. That’s why Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
But heaven is in the future. It’s kind of far away. I have a hard time visualizing it, whereas I can sure visualize blowing a wad of money on a Saturday night dinner at Giada’s or hitting the wine festival on the Strip. “Only $150 per person--a steal!”
But that goes down hard with our sinful human nature, doesn’t it? Our sinful human nature will point to waste in the church, programs we don’t agree with. Our sinful human nature will even admit the cause is good and noble and we will certainly get behind it, but then we fail to show up, like Alienstock. But this is the Lord’s work in the world. A like on Facebook isn’t going to cut it.
Yes, we fall short. Sometimes it looks like we’d rather cut ties with the lost than part with those twenties and Benjamins in our wallet. When God calls us to repent, it is also a call to repent on how we spend our money, like there’s nothing after this life, like what we eat and what we wear is the highest good for our money. “You cannot serve both God and money.”
Jesus didn’t have a lot of money, but he gave to the poor. Judas was in charge of the purse and, well, that’s another story for another day. Jesus didn’t stop going to worship because he didn’t agree with the leaders. He didn’t even stop worshipping when he knew they were out to kill him! His worship and his giving were an expression of his love for God. His worship and his giving were an expression of thanks for the salvation, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting, God was giving mankind through the ministry of Jesus.
Make forever friends. Look to the future. Be sharp now.
Yes, we are talking money here. It isn’t going to buy our way into heaven. We’ve been listening to Jesus far too long to entertain that though—I hope! But it can provide the resources so that the Gospel message will go out to others and more people will be believers and more people will be in heaven. That fits in perfectly with the parable. When our money is gone here on earth, and it will be—the nursing home will eat it up or taxes, not to mention we can’t take it with us—we can still enjoy what that money has done if we have used it to promote the spread of the Gospel in the world. We will meet people who would not be there if we hadn’t funded this church, that mission, another evangelism program. Be sharp now.
My Seminary years were a lot easier because I got a generous grant from a foundation. I could study more rather than pulling extra hours to pay the already subsidized-by-the-synod tuition. I owe the millionaire behind that foundation a debt of thanks. In a way, he was responsible for me being at Green Valley Evangelical Lutheran Church.
But we’re not millionaires like that guy is! No, we’re not. But haven’t we learned anything living in America for so many years? Companies succeed not because they make a killing selling a few expensive things to the ultra-rich. They succeed because they make a little selling a lot of modest things to many people. We call it the mass market. That’s why Amazon is bigger than Mercedes-Benz.
If each of us has a firm grasp that heaven awaits all who believe in Jesus Christ, if each of us has a solid confidence that people will believe in Jesus Christ only if they have the Gospel, the means of grace, the good news in word and in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and if each of us has a deep concern for others, then each of us will scratch our heads and figure out how to get more people to hear about Jesus. The 400 or so adult members of this congregation probably will give more to promote the spread of the Gospel than several millionaires building mansions on the hill.
Yes, there are lots of ways to do get the message of Jesus out there. Invite people to church. Attend (even a service which isn’t so convenient for you) with a first-time visitor friend so they don’t feel alone. Sing in the choir. Help staff the nursery. But Jesus is talking money in our text for today, so I must talk money today in order to be the faithful preacher you want me to be. Be sharp now.
Can we take another look at the ledger of our life? Can we sit down with the sinful human nature and say, “I’m not going to let you waste so much time this year. No more water polo channel. I’m going to divert that money to the work of the Lord.” Can we cook the books on the devil? “Scratch that third cocktail on the weekly happy hour. That’s at least another $400 to go towards having enough Sunday School material so guest students can have their own.” Can we stick it to the unbelieving world? Those Teslas still are 40 miles of rough road until they get the kinks out. I’ll stick with my current, paid off, ride for another year or two until Detroit comes out with an electric car that doesn’t force me to be best buds with my repair man. I’ll put the savings into an account for a bigger down payment and I’ll take the interest I would have paid and put it in the offering plate.”
This is a different approach than “If I won the lottery I’d pay off the church’s debt!” or, “More people should remember the church in their wills.” This is the attitude of a people so sharp now they delight in sticking it to the powers of darkness at every turn as we nickel and dime the devil into the poor house! This is the thrill of the hunt as believers look for every angle possible to promote their beloved Lord.
Make Forever Friends
Look to the future.
Be sharp now.
Here’s how I picture my first day in heaven. I will be knee deep in people, a big welcome parade. Some of the faces I will know, family and friends, co-workers and parishioners I have dearly loved on earth and rejoiced to be in their presence. But a lot I won’t recognize, not at first. They are the people the Holy Spirit brought to faith through ministries I supported with my offerings which funded the spread of the Gospel throughout my country and world. And the next day will be your parade. Make forever friends. “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”