Beloved. Today’s Epistle reading from St. Paul contains a very strong warning for us. The warning is based on the example of the Israelites in the desert. The people engaged in idolatry, immorality and grumbled against the Lord. These are the very same people whom the Lord had so miraculously led out of slavery in Egypt and was leading them to the Promised Land. Didn’t they see the almighty power of God who led them through the waters that parted in from of them but which came down and destroyed the Egyptians pursuing them? Didn’t they experience the Passover in Egypt? Of course they did! But so soon after leaving Egypt and experiencing this, they grumbled against the Lord’s guidance when they didn’t like how the Lord was leading them; they fell into idolatry even though they saw and experienced both the power and the grace of the Lord. What does St. Paul say of this? All these things that were happening to them had meaning as examples, and they were written down to warn us, to whom the end of the ages has come. So let him who thinks he stands be careful that he does not fall. The point the apostle is making is very simple: do not take your salvation for granted. We dare not become secure thinking that since we have Jesus and the sacraments, the Church and God’s mercy, we need not think about or care about our salvation; that since our passport to heaven is stamped, that we can live anyway we want and do whatever our old sinful nature tells us.
It is a very important point and distinction we need to make. Yes, our salvation, because it is grounded on Jesus and His work is certain. It is certain because it depends on Jesus and His work for us, which is certain—that’s what His resurrection and ascension teach us. We need never doubt our salvation because at its root is the work of Jesus and the promise, word, mercy and love of God. This is where our faith rests—in Jesus and His work and the mercy of God. In our Baptism we have the glorious certainty of our salvation. Baptism gives us that new, heavenly birth, washes away our sin and unites us with Jesus.
But since from God’s side our salvation is most certain and sure, we dare never make the leap and think that we, from our side, have nothing to worry about. We look at the example of the OT Israelites in the desert: All these things that were happening to them had meaning as examples, and they were written down to warn us. They who had so richly and abundantly saw and experienced with their own eyes the grace and wonder and power of God fell into the sins of idolatry, immorality and grumbling against God. Are we any better than they? Hardly! We dare never take our faith and the grace of God and work of Jesus for granted. We dare never become over-sure of our salvation because that will lead to us becoming careless about our salvation and that carelessness then easily leads us into indifference toward our salvation.
Not only dare we not be negligent in living a life of good works, but let us use even our earthly goods for our heavenly benefit.
Our text: Jesus also said to his disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager who was accused of wasting his possessions. The rich man called him in and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be manager.’” Here we are introduced to a rich man and a manager/ steward. The rich man obviously had lots of wealth but he entrusted it to his manager who took care of it. The manager took care of the property and made sure the rich man’s affairs were taken care of. It was a position of great trust so when this accusation was made of the manager wasting [the rich man’s] possessions, it was a big deal.
We can see a clear picture here in this parable that the rich man is God and we are His managers. After all, God is the Creator of all things. All things are His—the earth and everything in it, the whole universe and what does He do? He entrusts to humanity the care of the world, to take care of it recognizing that it is not ours but His. And He does with each of us on a personal level something similar: He entrusts to our care the earthly/ physical blessings He has given us. Let us recognize that the things the Lord has given us—like a house or car or intellect or abilities—are His gifts to us. All that we are and have is God’s gift to us that He entrusts to our care. That will most certainly affect how we think of them and use them. If we have been especially blessed with/ in something, it keeps us humble knowing that God entrusted us with it; we cannot boast of ourselves. And if it is that way with physical and earthly gifts, how much more so with faith and all the spiritual gifts and blessings of God He gives us! We can claim no credit for our faith. It is a gift of God. He entrusted us with it. How we will, then, want to treasure it for the true gift and blessing it is!
Just like the steward in Jesus’ parable was supposed to do—look after and tend to the rich man’s property that was entrusted to him—so too are we to look after and tend to the gifts and blessings that the Lord has entrusted to us. Again, all that we have belongs to God; He has merely entrusted us with them. So that means that the things God has given us, we are to use according to His will. We use and share them according to the word of His will. As faithful stewards of the Lord’s gifts entrusted to us, let us use them to His glory; with how we use what God has given us, will He be glorified or is it being used to further our own vanity or in greed or selfishness? As faithful managers of what the Lord has given us, let us use our gifts for the good of others who are in need. As we help others in need, that is the Lord working through us to provide others with their daily bread, to help them in their various needs. And this is not just the physical blessings but spiritual—let us share that greatest gift God has given us: our faith. Let us share it with those who don’t know Jesus; let us also share it with our fellow Christian so we build up and encourage each other in the faith.
And, finally, let us use our gifts for ourselves as God intended. He gave them to us to provide us with what we need.
“There was a rich man who had a manager who was accused of wasting his possessions. The rich man called him in and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give an account of your management...’” The time will come when we, too, as managers of the things of God will hear Him say to us: Give an account of your management. Here is the call for us to examine how we use the earthly things God has entrusted to us. Are we using them to His glory, for the good of our neighbor and for our earthly needs? Just like in the parable, the rich man’s goods were squandered; so, too we can squander God’s blessings, what He has entrusted to us. In the parable, the manager is careless with what is not his property. We, too, are often careless with the things God entrusts to us—not only earthly blessings but also His spiritual gifts and blessings. That’s why we have the warning from St. Paul in today’s epistle: So let him who thinks he stands be careful that he does not fall. God’s love and grace can be lost—by us, by carelessness and indifference, by willfully living a life of sin and so driving out the Holy Spirit from our hearts and lives. That’s why treasuring the treasures that God’s has given us— faith, forgiveness of sin, eternal life, we will make faithful and diligent use of the other treasures He has given us—His word and sacraments—for through these He works to strengthen and preserve us in the faith.
God has entrusted us with many earthly goods, so let us use them for our heavenly benefit. Here is where we can learn from the dishonest steward in the parable. When he was about to be let go, he used his master’s possessions to look out for his future. “The manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, since my master is taking away the management position from me? I am not strong enough to dig. I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from my position as manager, people will receive me into their houses.’ “He called each one of his master’s debtors to him. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘Six hundred gallons of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write three hundred.’ Then he said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘Six hundred bushels of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and write four hundred and eighty.’” The manager here looked to the future and used his master’s goods to secure himself a place. The manager’s seeming dishonesty is what throws so many people. But don’t look at the dishonesty; instead look at what is behind it—his concern for his future. That’s what we as Christians are to emulate—looking toward our future, toward heaven. The interesting thing is that the dishonest manager used his master’s goods to secure himself a future. But don’t we as Christians do the same thing? By living a life of faith and good works aren’t we using God’s wealth and blessing? After all, our faith is His gift to us; the ability He gives us to help and serve someone is His gift to us; the money or goods we give to someone in need is really God’s money and goods that He entrusted to us to use. And in particular when we use our money/ wealth/ possessions in works of charity, according to the will of the Lord we are turning the table on the devil and spiting him. What does Jesus say in our text? I tell you, make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings. He calls money and goods unrighteous mammon. We spite the devil when we use for good and for heavenly purposes what he so often uses as a false god—money and possessions—to turn people away from the true God and heaven. So using your money in deeds of charity annoys and angers the devil.
We are not saved by our works—we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus—but God in grace rewards our works. Think of the scene Jesus gives us here as the lesson for the parable: I tell you, make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they [the friends] will welcome you into the eternal dwellings. Those that we helped with our deeds of charity, with using the money God entrusted us with, will bear witness about us to God. Their prayers and blessings will knock at the doors of heaven for us, testifying that the faith we confessed here on earth was indeed a true faith. They give an account of our stewardship. The good works that we do will follow us into heaven—as Scripture [Rev. 14.13] testifies—Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” In grace God rewards our good works, as Jesus tells us [Mk. 9.41]: For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
So, dear Christian, we are managers/stewards of many gifts and blessings of God that He entrusted to us. Using the example of the manager in the parable who used his master’s goods merely to look out for his future, let us rather use our Master’s goods that He entrusted to us and use them in a life full of good works and acts of charity. After all, the good works we do are all the work of the Holy Spirit in us leading and strengthening us. And where He is, there He brings the gift of faith in Jesus that receives His work, His gifts and graces. And that good that He works in us, He himself, in grace, rewards eternally in heaven. INJ