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)

“We know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love. Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this we have confidence for the day of judgment. Love is being perfected in us. As He is so also are we in this world. That is, there is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out fear. Fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (cf. 1 John 4:16-21).

I don’t know how often you deal with sins against the Fifth Commandment, murder, summarized by Jesus as anger towards or hatred of brother.

I don’t know how often you deal with these sins, summarized even further, in the last few weeks, by basically everyone on the planet, into the one word “racism.”

I don’t know how often you deal with the heartfelt hatred of man, but the world has no clue how to cure anger, hatred, or racism, because the world—and, in general, even Christians, Lutherans, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, you name it, we fail to assert the truth of the word of God: that racism—like murder and hateful speech—is a symptom of the first problem of unbelief.

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20). He doesn’t love God. No one should hate his brother, that’s true, but the first problem is unbelief.

If you want to fix racism, anger, hatred, coarse speech, and the like, stop hating your brother.

If you want to stop hating your brother, love him.

If you want to love your brother, forgive him.

And that’s why the world is completely incapable of fixing anything. That’s why the world is dazed, lost, damned, and confused—they think there’s such a thing as love apart from faith in the One True God.

And there’s not.

“We know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love. Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16).

Love, true love, exists only in, with, and under Jesus.

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

And this is the love of God: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

His love forms and informs ours.

Love gives of and from self.

It hurts.

It takes what’s dear to us and gives it to another.

But it goes to help our brother, our neighbor, our friends—and even those who hate us.

The rich man did not love Lazarus.

That’s clear because the rich man goes to hell.

He may have known Father Abraham, but he disagrees with him.

The rich man spoke with the parabolic representation of the presence of God—and said, “No.”

In his life, I’m sure the rich man, at his sumptuous feasts, would boast of his love of God, but he had no love for his neighbor—so he had no love of God.

Nor did he know the self-effacing, self-sacrificial love God has for us in Christ.

The rich man was a liar. The truth was not in him.

He was of his father the devil, and deceit was his mother-tongue.

Jesus tells us of the rich man and Lazarus so that we would be warned against the first problem, unbelief.

So that we would know that apart from faith in Christ, apart from the Gospel, apart from the forgiveness of sins earned for all in the crucifixion of Jesus and given to you in, with, and under the Word of God proclaimed, apart from God coming to you, helping you, making you His own child, feeding you from His own side, apart from the work God accomplishes in you, to save you, there is no hope, only hatred.

The rich man loved not Lazarus, because he loved not God, and he went to hell for it.

But Jesus tells us of the rich man and Lazarus—also—that we would hear the Word of God, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

That we would hear and know and believe the love God has for us in Christ and have confidence for the day of judgment, which is coming.

Lazarus died at the rich man’s door, but he held no hatred in his heart—for the rich man or, if we can assume, the activists that supported him but did nothing or worse.

We know Lazarus held no grudge because Jesus says, in the Parable of the Wicked Servant, that the master summoned the wicked servant and said to him: “‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. [Then Jesus concludes:] So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:32-35).

You want to fix racism? Stop hating your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your friends, your Facebook friends, and the poor man at your door.

You want to stop hating your brother? Love him.

You want to love your brother? Forgive him.

As you believe that God has forgiven you in Christ, believe that God has forgiven your brother.

As you know all the sins that everyone else commits, all the foibles, all the failures, all the faults in everyone else’s family, so you also know, sinner, that among them, you are chief.

And God has forgiven even a wretch like you.

Lazarus means “One Whom God Helps.”

It’s a beautifully faithful name, because it confesses the complete inadequacy of the individual before God—and it confesses a merciful, helpful God.

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t—you can’t. But our gracious God comes to help, save, comfort, and defend you.

Fix the first problem.

Believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Teach others to do the same.

Know and believe the love God has for you.

Abide in the love of God, the Gospel, the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

And He abides in you—unto life everlasting.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Trinity 1 Sermon, 2020
Luke 16:19-31
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt