Proper 20 Series C –
September 18 2016
O Lord, Keep your Church in Your perpetual mercy; and because without You we cannot be fail, preserve us from all things hurtful and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation.
The Lord Is Rich in His Grace and Mercy
So, what’s a parable? Most would say a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Well, that’s a start. But the parables of Jesus are more. Much more! Jesus spoke in parables. He gave us these stories. But these stories. Are more than lessons with “a heavenly meaning.”
The parables of Jesus always tell us something about Himself. And about the Kingdom. When you hear one of Jesus’ parables, He is always telling you something you should know about His love, His grace, His mercy, His kindness, His character. And, when Jesus teaches a parable there is always a surprise. Something you did not expect!
Today’s parable is often referred to as “the parable of the Dishonest Manager.” Jesus said, “There was a rich man who had a manager. When we hear of the term “Manager” think, Chief Executive officer – the man who is placed in command when the landowner is not present. He has been given powers, privileges, and perks, to act on behalf of his commanding officer. Especially when he is away.
Notice the problem. “Charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ The manager is brought up on charges that he has wasted his Master’s possessions. He’s forced to turn over the books and face an audit. He’s told, “You can no longer be my manger.” Did you notice the surprise? The manager is accused. Not good. He’s told, “You can no longer be my manager.” Even worse! However he isn’t fired. He keeps his job!
Here is the first surprise! Mercy is unjust. The manager is busted for his wastefulness. He is told, “You can no longer be my manager.” The Master expects obedience. He is just. But he does not throw his manager into prison. This does not make sense in man’s economy. It makes perfect sense in God’s.
It has become common practice in business, that on your last day of employment, security will personally escort you out of the building. Even if you’ve been a faithful employee! When my chaplaincy class at Lutheran Hospital ended this past May, I turned in my badge. My user name and password were erased from the hospital computer. It was, as if, I never existed!
Immediately the manager hatches a plan. 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures[a] of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures[b] of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8
The manager latches on to the owner’s character. He gambles everything because of his Master’s mercy. And the farmers go along with it. Remember the manager acts on behalf of his owner. When he cuts the bill in half the people rejoice. Because, they too, expect the Master to be merciful.
We expect the rich man to be outraged. Instead, he commends the man for stealing. These parables of Jesus tell us that God is not like us – the surprise - God does not act as we do. The Father wants to give His Kingdom away to the very people who would steal from Him and killed His own Son. He bestows His Kingdom on rebels who sought to kill His Son. What is the greatest injustice? God forgives our debts and wants to give the Kingdom away. This makes no sense! God is wasteful in showering this upon us. He is unjust in forsaking His Son and declaring us righteous. – It makes no sense in the economy of men. It makes perfect sense in God’s economy.
What wealth can you use to bribe God –stolen wealth, that which belongs to another, that is not yours, that which you cannot buy or earn, wealth that which is stolen. That is all a part of God’s economy.
The innocent dies for guilty – that injustice is the foundation of the Kingdom. It is the shocking character of grace – the Master gives the Kingdom away. The Father forsakes the Son to have you. He accepts payment from the Son as payment for your sin. More than you stole. He adds to your account. He adds a credit. And you end up with more than you attempted to steal.
Jesus shows us the character of the Master –who does not fire the steward and the steward banks on the character and the generosity of the Master. There are not Masters in this world like that. He goes too far. A Master we can never imagine. He is pleased with the steward because of what the steward has done is give the Master’s things away. For free. This is the parable of the Merciful Master who gives away the Kingdom for free –
Jesus concludes with these words, 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth,[d] so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
Who can receive you into eternal dwellings? Only God. Thus, Jesus concludes with this thought - You cannot serve God and money. The steward teaches us a valuable lesson. Money must never to be seen an end in itself. It is only a means to an end.
Employment does not last forever. Retirement does not last forever. No matter the level of security anyone has amassed; all of us, sooner, or later, will end up in a plot of earth. Given eternity, how can any thing of a material nature have any lasting consequence?
So where do you place your trust? Trust not in princes they are but mortal. Trust not in yourself. You will fail. Trust not in anything except the mercy of God. Who loves you more than you could ever imagine. Who is content to give you His Kingdom at the price of His own Son. Deserving has nothing to do with it. It all depends on the Father’s character, His good will, His clemency, His mercy, His grace.
Passive Sentences – 8%
Reading East – 78.6%
Reading Level – 4.5