Sermon for Sunday, September 18th, 2022, the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Lessons: Amos 8:4-12; Psalm 138; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13

The Text: Luke 16:1-13

The Topic: The Parable of the Dishonest Steward

INTRODUCTION

The steward in today’s Parable of the Dishonest Steward was an estate or farm manager who was accused of squandering the estate owner’s goods. Nothing that the steward says or does in this parable prevents him from losing his job as steward.

After his master summons him and tells him to give and account of his stewardship and informs him that he can no longer be his steward, he realizes the end of his employment is near. One step lies between his present situation and unemployment, and that is his giving an account of his stewardship, which means an account of how he has defrauded his master of income and resources. The two alternatives he first contemplates are both untenable. He does not have either the strength to do hard labor or the brazen confidence to beg for money. He would be ashamed to do the latter.

The course of action the steward then decides on at first sight seems to be an extension of his dishonesty. The steward oversaw the keeping of bills of all that his master’s debtors owed, and he simply tells each debtor to write a new bill for his debt, reducing the debt. This would deprive his master of money owed him by his debtors and was dishonest. From the steward’s perspective, however, it endeared him to each debtor, as each would feel obliged to return the favor somehow. They would at least temporarily give him accommodation in their homes until he could find better work. Though the estate owner is the one who suffers from the steward’s dishonesty, he commends the steward for acting wisely (Luke 16:8a). The unrighteous steward knew what to do to provide for his future, and according to the wisdom of this world, acted wisely.

Now the Lord is not commending dishonesty but using it as a means of comparison. He concludes that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8b, KJV). Just as the dishonest steward made use of his master’s money, and not his own, to make friends who would benefit him later, so Christians must make use of “the mammon of unrighteousness,” to make friends for themselves, so that when it fails, those friends may welcome them into eternal habitations in heaven (Luke 16:9). What does this really mean? The money that Christians earn is from the Lord’s perspective entrusted to them so that they may be good stewards of it. God’s will is for us to be generous to the poor with the money that we have, so that in a way our future in the next life will be better provided for, and that souls who have benefited from our generosity may give thanks to God for us and pray for us. God expects us to be faithful in sharing some of what we have with others, whatever our resources, whether little or much, since faithfulness in a little means one will be faithful when one has much, just as one “that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10b, KJV). Now in vv.11-12, the Lord asks two questions: if you have not been faithful in what God calls the unrighteous wealth of this world, who will trust you with true wealth? If you have not been faithful in that which belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?

What, then, in God’s perspective does a faithful use of money entail? Obviously, one must not waste it, or be dishonest with it. One must use it wisely and well, save it, but also give to those in need, since then one is using it to benefit those who have few resources of their own to help themselves. Here is an example – one might donate money for an orphan girl to take a course in making clothes. When she has completed it, she will be able to earn an income to support herself by making clothes.

The Lord’s saying at the end of today’s Gospel Lesson illustrates another principle of the faithful use of money – one must not idolize it. If one worships God, one cannot also worship wealth, since no-one can serve two masters (Luke 16:13).

St. John Chrysostom (347-404) , wrote:

Things themselves do not remain, but their effects do. Therefore we should not be mean and calculating with what we have but give with a generous hand. Look at how much people give to players and dancers – why not give just as much to Christ?[1]

CONCLUSION

As individuals and as a church, let us be concerned to make wise and generous use of the money that God has entrusted to us, laying up treasure in heaven by helping the poor.


[1] Quoted on p.98, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

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