Summary: What's Jesus teaching us in the story of the dishonest manage? How do we use earthly wealth to gain friends? How can we be faithful with what God has entrusted to us?
Text: Luke 16:1-13
Theme: Manage the Earthly with Your Eyes on Eternity
Season: Pentecost 18c
Date: September 26, 2010
Web page: http://hancocklutheran.org/sermons/Manage-the-Earthly-with-Your-Eyes-on-Eternity-Luke16_1-13.html
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit moves us to live for Jesus is Luke 16.
"He kept speaking to his disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager. That one was accused of wasting the rich man's possessions. He summoned him and said, 'What's this I hear about you! Hand over your books, for you can no longer be manager.' The manager said to himself, 'What will I do, since my lord is taking the job of management away from me? I'm not strong enough to dig; I'm ashamed to beg. I know! This is what I'll do, in order that when I'm removed from my management position they will welcome me into their homes.'
""He called each one of his lord's debtors and said to the first, 'How much do you owe my lord?' He said, 'A thousand gallons of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill. Sit down and quickly write fifty.' Then he said to another, 'How much do you owe?' He said, 'A thousand bushels of grain.' He said to him, "Take your bill and write eighty.'
""The lord praised the unrighteous manager because he acted shrewdly. For the sons of this age are shrewder than the sons of the light among their own generation.
""I say to you: Make friends for yourself using unrighteous mammon, in order that when you pass away, they will welcome you into eternal tents. He who is faithful in little is faithful in much as well, and he who is unrighteous in little is unrighteous in much as well. So if you are not faithful in unrighteous mammon, who will entrust you with what is genuine? And if you are not faithful in what belongs to others, who will give you your own? No servant can serve two lords. For either he will hate the one and love he other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon." " (Luke 16:1-13)
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
1. How should we view worldly wealth?
Andrew Carnegie, J. D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt. These were the titans of steel, oil, finance, and rail in the 19th century. They also left a legacy of philanthropy with foundations, institutions, libraries, and schools named after them. Yet we might question some of their business practices as unethical, illegal, even immoral. So were these titans industrial statesmen bringing order to the chaos of the industrial revolution and turning America into a 20th century powerhouse? Or were they robber barons, getting ahead in this world any way they could and then buying a legacy with their ill-gotten gains?
Whichever way you want to spin their biographies, I think all would agree that they were shrewd business men. They knew the ways of this world and how to use them for their advantage.
So also the dishonest manager in Jesus' parable. He knew the ways of the world. He knew how to focus his resources to make his way through this life, no matter what the obstacles. When faced with losing his position as manager, he gets a flash of insight. He's too weak to do manual labor and too proud to beg, but here's what he could do. While he's still in control of his employer's books, he has each of the debtors comes in and tells them to write out a new IOU for a smaller amount. It may not sound ethical to us, but it worked within their business system. After he's fired, these debtors feel an obligation of gratitude to help him out. In fact, his boss even commends him for his shrewdness. Yes, the people of this world are shrewder in dealing with this present time.
So what's Jesus teaching us here? He can't be saying, "Cook the books to get ahead in this world." That would go against everything the Bible says about stealing. Listen to how Jesus himself applies the lesson. "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:9 NIV).
The dishonest manage did all he could with the worldly wealth he controled in order to ease his earthly lot. He viewed the worldly wealth as a mere tool. How much more so shouldn't we who are children of the light view worldly wealth simply as a tool? Even more so since instead of an earthly goal, we have an eternal one. For we no longer live in the darkness but have been brought into the light of Jesus Christ, radiating with his forgiving love. Manager the earthly with your eyes on eternity.