Luke 16:1-15 (Pentecost 15C)

St. John, Galveston 9/18/2022

Rev. Alan Taylor

 

+ In Nomine Jesu +

 

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

As I read the appointed readings for this morning’s message, particularly from 1 Timothy and the Gospel of Luke, it became pretty clear to me that I was going to be preaching today either on the role of women in the Church, or on money. Frankly, neither option seemed particularly appealing, mainly because we all hold some pretty strong beliefs on both of these issues. 

 

On the role of women in the church, many people believe that much of what Paul wrote on the subject was culturally conditioned and therefore not applicable to today. That position, however, begs the question whether the Bible is the word of men, in this case, Paul, or the word of God? Certainly, it is the latter. While the Bible has many writers, it has only one author. “All Scripture (says the Apostle) is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be  complete, equipped for every good work.”

 

As to the other topic, money, many people are convinced, somewhat cynically, that the Church’s main purpose is simply to collect more of it. And, I suppose, with what passes for Christian preaching and teaching over the airwaves and social media these days, that view is certainly understandable. That said, we can’t ignore what the Bible says about money because it speaks about fairly often, especially in the Gospels. 

 

Here, in Luke 16, Jesus tells a parable about an unjust manager who, though he was terminated from his job, made deals with his master’s debtors so that he would be taken care of in his unemployment. When the servant was fired, his first concern was his own welfare, rather than right and wrong and the welfare of his master. At the end of the reading, Jesus summarizes the point of the parable, saying, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

 

The servant / master imagery is a strong one and perhaps a difficult one for us to relate to. We are, after all, a free people. As such, we aren’t accustomed to thinking of ourselves as servants to anyone or anything but God. I suppose for us the question is, can we really end up in life being enslaved to money? Can money be so central in our lives that it becomes our master and we it’s servants?

 

At another time, Jesus met a man who asked Him what he needed to do to be saved. You may remember the incident. Jesus knew that the man was seeking to justify himself. In other words, he was looking to offer his stellar performance in life in exchange for a seat in the kingdom of God. Jesus said to him, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ”

 

The man was, no doubt, excited to hear Jesus’ answer to his question. In fact, he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” He was, of course, sadly mistaken, since God’s commandments are kept only out of pure and perfect love for God and for our neighbor. Still, in his mind, he had kept the commandments as they had been given. “One thing you still lack (Jesus said). Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when (the man) heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” 

 

By telling the man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, Jesus wasn’t advocating some sort of redistribution of wealth as a preferred way of life, nor was He offering the man the final thing he needed to do in order to complete his resume for entrance into the kingdom of God. Rather, He was holding the man’s idol before his eyes. As it turns out, the one thing he loved more than God, more than following Jesus, was his money. And so, later, Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

 

In his explanation to the 1st commandment, Luther reminded us that our God is whatever we fear, love and trust in more than anything else. Money can certainly be that thing, it can be our master and we it’s servants if it consumes our plans and purposes, our motives and every aspect of the direction of our lives. In the case the unjust servant, he forsook allegiance to his true master in order to protect his wealth. In doing so, he demonstrated his greater love for money than for his master. 

 

There is, of course, no shame or condemnation in wealth. Neither is there virtue or salvation in poverty. In fact, both wealth and poverty have their potential pitfalls for the child of God. Thus, the writer of the Book of Proverbs prayed, saying, “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”

 

Many years ago, God’s servant Joshua said, “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 

 

In many respects, it is a daily choice to serve the Lord, your God. He is a Master though worthy of homage and praise. He has called you out of darkness and transferred you into the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of your sins. In Holy Baptism He has washed away all of your sin and prepared a place for you in His everlasting Kingdom. He has lead you through perils unknown, always giving you the victory, if not in this life, then in the life of the world to come. He has even called you by name, adopting you as His own son or daughter. 

 

My yoke is easy, Jesus says, My burden light. Whereas a master might lay a burden upon the shoulders of his servants, this master bears the burden Himself. Only in serving this master are we truly free. Free to live before God without guilt and shame, without fear of condemnation and ultimately of damnation. 

 

“What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!

The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;

The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,

Who would not know Him.”

 

The unjust servant chose half or less of what the master would have given him. Such is the madness of serving other gods. 

 

“My hearts delight, My crown most bright,

O Christ, my joy forever.

Not wealth nor pride nor fortune’s tide

Our bonds of love shall sever.

You are my Lord; Your precious Word

Shall guide my way And help me stay

Forever in Your presence.” 

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

+ Soli Deo Gloria +