Today, Jesus commends an unrighteous manager for his shrewdness, that is, for his profound judgment.
The dishonest manager wasted his master’s possessions, but it’s not his dishonesty or wastefulness that’s commended—the rich man, the master, took away his management.
Too weak to dig and ashamed to beg, he uses his vocation to secure his future.
He knows the rich man will find out.
He trusts that the rich man will be merciful.
It surprises us, and it almost seems wrong, that “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness” (Luke 16:8).
To understand this parable, we should understand these verses: The unrighteous manager says, “I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses” (Luke 16:4).
And Jesus, in explanation of the parable, says, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8).
Everything the unrighteous manager does he does to secure his future. That’s his motivation—being taken care of when he’s no longer a steward.
Jesus’ explanation helps us understand how we need to hear this:
The manager was a son of this world. Not a son of light—that part’s not commendable. But he sought, with all his ability, what was most important to him.
So—what if the sons of light were as shrewd regarding eternal things as the sons of this world are regarding temporal things.
How shrewd are we when we deal with stuff?
To what length will you go to get a better deal?
We walk onto a car lot knowing we won’t pay the sticker price.
We clip coupons. We shop online.
We social distance. Wear masks. And spray everything that doesn’t breathe with disinfectant.
We wipe down the can of Lysol with a Clorox wipe.
We go to great lengths to care about our stuff.
These are simple examples of the commended temporal shrewdness.
And—we should emulate this shrewdness—in the things eternal.
What if the sons of light were as shrewd regarding eternal things?
This is why no church should close.
This is why no church should ask a non-mask-wearing saint to come back face-covered or stay home.
If what God offers here—freely and for all—matters more than your feelings, emotions, and other false gods, you’ll be here every Sunday.
There are people who don’t go to church because they can’t cope with the many and various personalities in a congregation. Yours and mine included.
They can’t cope with being told no.
They can’t cope with finding out their golden idol is a golden idol, and they don’t want to drink that water.
Either the forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and salvation is most important and you act like it is or it’s more important for you not to sit next to someone who disagrees with you about raising godly children, which make of car to buy, or who should be president.
The unrighteous manager thought he was going to lose his daily bread. He was going to starve and die.
Every conversation, then, became an opportunity to further secure his future.
You’re not that different.
You’re a steward of a few possessions that God has entrusted to you for a set amount of time, the length of which you are unaware, but we all know the end is coming.
You will lose everything, because, when you die, you don’t get to take anything with you—though some try.
Have you heard the story of Lonnie Holloway?
He was buried in the drivers seat of his 1973 Pontiac Catalina with a $100 in his pocket, his rifles and handguns next to him. He left the house to his dog.
That’s an extreme example, but living to preserve our stuff, we go to great lengths, practicing strange and pagan burial rituals in an attempt to ease our conscience or preserve what we think important.
Imagine going to such lengths to learn and confess the faith or to express concerns toward eternal things?
Every conversation would be about how to live, and live eternally.
Everyone and all their children would come to Sunday school—not only because they should, but because they’d enjoy learning or because they’d enjoy hearing the truth simply and faithfully taught.
All possessions would be employed for the purposes of God’s kingdom.
You wouldn’t need a better car, so long as it got you to church.
You wouldn’t need a tv at all, because you’d read the Bible to learn what to think.
As a Christian, you live in the world, but you are not of the world. You have a different responsibility, a different worldview, and a different heart.
And either that’s true and you live like it is.
Or that’s not true.
Listen to how Jesus explains this:
“Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9).
Generally, Lutherans are afraid to speak this way.
Jesus teaches how you are to live, what you are to do.
And thus says the Lord, there are eternal ramifications for those who ignore this warning about earthly wealth, unrighteousness, and mammon.
That makes us uneasy, because we all like stuff.
But stuff isn’t the problem.
Comparing your stuff to the stuff of others is the problem.
The heart that beats for the accumulation of earthly stuff, that’s the problem.
With shrewdness, live and think for things eternal.
Consider the lengths to which God has gone to save the world.
He promised that the Son of Eve would crush the ancient serpent’s head.
He promised that upon that Son would be put the chastisement that brings us peace.
He promised the resurrection and the life of the world to come.
And He delivered.
He delivered His Son into the hands of sinful men, and in so doing He delivered the world from sin, death, and satan.
He delivered you—safely into this world He delivered you—and by Holy Baptism, He delivered you safely into the world to come.
By our own reason and strength, we’ve done nothing.
But the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified, and kept us in the true faith.
With shrewdness, live and think for things eternal.
Commend yourself to the God who commends such shrewdness.
Use your vocation to secure your future—temporal and eternal.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
The Ninth Sunday after Trinity, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Luke 16:1-9 (10-13)