9th Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Luke 16:1-9 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
1. Today´s sermon is a lesson taught by Christ about good works, and particularly against stinginess; it also teaches us that we are not allowed to misuse money and property, but to use it in order to help the poorand needy. That´s what the Lord means when He says at the end of this parable, "Make friends through the unjust mammon", which means help the poor people with your money and your property. The word "mammon" translates to wealth.
2. As usual, the Lord teaches us by giving us a parable. (He likes to do that, because He knows that we are able to remember His lessons better this way.) He says that we should do like this unjust steward. This steward knew that he would be fired, loose his position. Also he knew that he would need the help of others, and so he misuses his management posititon to make friends with other business people: here he reduces a debt, and there he reduces another customer´s debt and so on... He hopes they will remember these acts of friendship and help him in return once the time comes that he needs their help.
3. Of course the the Lord´s teaching is not that we should betray one another like this unjust business steward did; no, we should not betray our employer and from the profit give to the needy or the church. No, no, that´s not what the Lord teaches us here. He tells us that we need to be careful how we spend our money and use our property wisely, so that we may be able to enjoy it later, in another life. He tells us to make friends through the wise use of mammon, just like this steward did.
4. Let´s look first at the expression "unjust mammon". Why does the Lord calls it unjust? We are taught, as you all well know, that money we don´t have a lawful right to must be returned to it´s rightful owner; and not given to the Lord, or to help poor people with it. Just as Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 61:8; "For I, the Lord love justice; and I hate robbery and iniquity." That´s like saying: Whoever wants to give sacrifices, and alms, and wants to serve God with his money only should do so with the money he has honestly earned. If you have some money, or some goods which don´t belong to you, you need to return them to their rightful owner. How is it now that the Lord says here, we should all learn from the example of this unrighteous steward? He says we shall make friends with the unrighteous mammon, which means we should to give it to the poor, giving alms from it. The Lord doesn´t call the mammon, or other possesions unrigtheous because it was unrighteously obtained(remember: no-one should give away money or things which he doesn´t own); the Lord means, with that expression, that no one uses mammon in the right way anyway -- except true and pious Christians. The others use theirs just for themselves anyway in showing pride, becoming ever prouder, in feasting, living in debauchery, and at the same they don´t give a penny to the poor. That´s the reason why possesions and mammon are called unrighteous.
5. God doesn´t like it if we misuse what He has given us. Let´s hear what Ezekiel 16:49 says about that problem: "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." See, here it comes together: peace and to be satisfied with the things you have go hand in hand. Don´t use your money unresponsibly, but help the poor with it. This is great misery, and an evil habit in our world: mammon is unrighteous, it´s called damned and stolen -- not because it´s unrighteous in itself, but because of the people who use it unrighteously.
6. And so today´s lesson is basically aimed at learning not to be stingy, but rather that we learn to use the things we have in the right way; and with it, make friends God´s way: so that when we die and we leave everything behind, we will find friends in our new habitation, they then will take us into their eternal habitations. Remember: the good we do poor people, and the acts of friendship, and of kindness, and the brotherly acts of love which we do now, will not only testify for us, but we will also be rewarded for these acts. Once we are in the heavenly realms someone will come towards us and start praising: "Lord, that person has given me a coat to wear, he also gave me some money to buy food with, also he gave me some bread, and a drink of water in my time of need." It will be as Christ said in Matthew 25, He will testify for us His heavenly Father, all the angels, and the other Christians. He will tell them what kind of good we have done during our lifetime, and how He has proof of our faith because of our Christian deeds of mercy. So, you see: these friends will help us once we leave everything behind.
7. Whoever would follow the teaching of Christ, and would use the, and the money he has to help the poor who are not able to work for their own their food, will create righteous mammon out of unrighteous mammon because he doesn´t misuse the mammon he has, but uses it for righteous purposes. That´s how it shall be amongst Christians. It isn´t right if they spend all their money and use all the possesions they have just for themselves, for their own honour and glory, their lust and pride. Just look at the freemen, the noblemen and the farmers. They say, "I have enough grain and bread for myself; if you also want some bread you have to grow your own wheat." To act like this way means to have unrighteous bread and wine; it means to have created unrighteous mammon from what God has given in His grace and mercy. They use it sinfully, and for their own ruin, instead of using it to serve and please God with, and for the help of their neighbor.
8. My dears, the ones who just use their mammon for themselves, and in that way use it unrighteously, already heap up judgement on themselves. Now just imagine how they will be judged who not only use their mammon unrighteously, but even steal and betray others for unrighteous gain! Almost all of the craftsmen and dealers do this, also the servants and servant maids who think they have to betray and take advantage of each other and lie to one another. This way they won´t be able to make friends with many people; no, they will make enemies. Not only that: in the life hereafter many will come, and accuse them on Judgement Day for having been so stingy and using their mammon so unrighteously; and in spite of acting so un-Christian having called themselves good Christians.
9. On that day, though, nothing and no-one will help them. Their accusers will point at them and say, " There were hard times and he had his cellar and his storage barnes full of wheat and wine, but he didn´t to share one drop of his wine, not a single grain did he gave away, and he sold his goods only for the highest possible price." And another one will be accused of having been a landlord constantly who betrayed. And another one who sold fish, bread, and beer will be accused of having used wrong measures, and of having been really rude and mean to his customers. Yes, my dears, the day will come when the ones who are using mammon unrighteously will have to pay for their misuse of what God entrusted to them. Not only the Lord Christ and not only the Christians who suffered need and persecution will accuse them, no, also all the poor people who have been betrayed, and suffered from the hands of these unrighteous people will accuse them, and complain about their unrighteous behaviour. This will throw them into eternal damnation. You servant of unrighteous mammon -- and with that you are an idolator, how do think you will survive this judgement? Not only those steal and betray won´t survive this judgement day, but also those who are not giving to the poor, and with that are using mammon unrighteously. Now, if they don´t survive that terrible day of judgement, how do you think those who not only do not give, but also steal, cheat, lie, and betray their customers, and the poor will survive? They who do this want to become rich quickly, and to be able to live in all luxury and wealth, but they don´t care for the poor and that is evil.
10. You see, this is a sermon against stinginess. Someone who feels he is a Christian shouldn´t only open his hands in order to take, no, he should open his hands in order to give and to do good to the poor -- wherever he can be of help. Helping the poor means serving God; in the end, He will repay you. However, these usurers and stingy people who don´t do anything else, but who in their greed collect everything they can and don´t give away the least, don´t serve God - they serve the devil; he will give them their reward one day.
11. On that day, especially the Christians will testify against them and say: "this farmer, or this freeman, or this merchant, or this nobleman didn´t do anything but collect, scratch,and maltreat the common people. I needed his help badly, but he didn´t help me at all, neither with advice nor with money nor with any other help." Very clearly the Lord paints a picture in front of our eyes. On that Day of the Lord, when we will stand in front of our Lord and will accuse these rich, close-fisted and penny-pinching people they will get their reward. 12. On the other hand the rich who have helped many with their possessions will be greatly honoured and will find that they have made many friends for eternity, their best friend being Jesus Christ; and these friends will all praise them. We learn from this that we all need to get serious about being pious, friendly, kind, and charitable, and prove that we are followers of Christ. Again: If we do that, we will have friends in eternity who will testify for us in front of the Lord Christ. They will testify for us that we refrained from being stingy and greedy and that we cared for the wellfare of the people around us.
13. It is very amazing for us to read in today´s gospel text that the Lord has praised the unjust steward, but He doesn´t praise the betrayel; what He praises is the caution and the speed with which the stewart executes His plans. The stewart knows what´s coming, and plans ahead; and the Lord praises his planning ahead, and wants us also to plan ahead, but with one difference: we shall not use crooked ways. The plans for our future are not to fool or hurt anyone.
14. Just look at a lascivious, loose woman who adorns herself much with silk, gold, and silver for her business as a whore: it is not the fault of the silk, the silver, and gold that she uses it. Even though I detest what she does, I can praise her for using so much care in order to find favour with her customers. Now I must ask you, "Why don´t you use asmuch caution in order to find favour before of the Lord?" I´m not praising prostituiton, but I praise the care with which she attires herself; and I want you to use the same care in regard to eternity.
15. We need to pay attention to Christ´s words when He says that the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of the light. This saying doesn´t call for much interpretation; we see it daily displayed in front of our eyes. The children of this world take all precaution and care in order to gain an advantage, to become rich and independent, no matter how much energy and pain it costs them. How much care and energy do the robbers execute? They don´t rest day or night and are constantly in danger of the sword or the rope of the hangman; they even love their devilish life. You see, a thief, an adulterer, a paramour --they all live a laborious life; they have to use all kinds of cunning, and deceit, and take advantage of others in order to get what they want. They are not happy until they have served the devil again and again.
16. On the other hand, we see the children of the light, the pious Christians, being lazy, sulky, careless in the matters concerning God, in spite of their knowledge of God, and how to please Him, and knowing that they will eternally enyoy that they have done right in God´s eyes here on earth. They are sulking because they have to do good. It´s like the old saying goes: it takes twice as much effort for the godly to earn heaven, as for the godless to earn hell. It´s almost lias if God has to pull the Christians their hair to do His will.
17. That´s why this is such a good example the Lord gives us here. If we are Christians and want to do what God wants us to do, we shouldn´t look into books, but rather look into our own houses where bad children and servants use all their diligence to do bad, to steal, to betray, and to be rogues, and do everything bad they are able to think of. The devil is happy with what they´re doing. Learn from them to use the same diligence, and effort to do God-pleasing things. Do things according to His Word; they will count for all eternity. Just think: This farmer, or freeman, or merchant, or master, or mistress, or maid servant -- they all use so much energy serving the devil, and don´t get tired doing this. We need to muster this same amount of effort, and dilligence, and energy to serve our Lord God, and later on we will enjoy what we have done good for all eternity. See how these crazy evil-doers run after their own eternal destruction; why are you -- a godly Christian -- so sleepy and lazy in doing good? Don´t forget: it concerns your soul´s eternal blessing! Look at yourself, shame on you, you just crawl to heaven while others run into hell!
18. Yes, the children of this world truly set an example for the children of light. Just look at one who is possessed by stinginess: day and night he thinks about how he can multiply his possessions. He finds no rest; all he does is think about his wealth. Every little corner and niche in his house is rented out; he´s whealing and dealing in order to multiply his bank account. Every little penny is most important to him; no work or effort is too much for him as long as it means gain on his side of the deal.
19. And so you see, as a stingy person cares for his wealth, so we should care for eternity with all seriousness. However, where do you find a Christian who does that? A Christian who is happy if he can give a poor person some money, a Christian who is happy lending a helping hand, a Christian who is as happy giving money as a profiteer is when he receives money? It is sad to say that even Christians are more happy about making money than giving sulking2 it away.
20. Remember: the money we give away to help the poor brings a lot more profit than the money we keep. It is as Solomon says in Psalm 73:13, "He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy." God would surely repay us if we would only be giving people! God will repay us faithfully every penny we have given to the poor! The devil doesn´t want us to believe that and to be giving people! The result of being stingy, instead of giving generously according to God´s will, is that we not only experience grave sin, but also all kinds of bad luck, and other evils.
21. Now you see why Christ says that the children of this world are so much more smarter and more industrious in their ways than the children of the light. And so we find that the devil is served by hundreds of people but Christ by only a few. What can we do about that? We can´t change it because the world doesn´t want to listen to us. It might help to preach, threaten, punish, admonish, and with that save some of the children of the world out of the fangs of the devil. This truth also needs to be preached to lazy, careless Christians. We need to tell them that we must muster all of our strength to be as industrious and inventive in our Christian way of life as the children of the devil are in their ways. As the children of Adam muster all their strength to do evil, so we should muster all of our strength to do good in our Lord´s eyes. Let´s not forget that we are the children of light and through that have great advantage (even though sometimes it is very hard for us to be obedient to God´s call to be giving).
22. As long as we continue as "children of the light" everything will be all right, even though we so often are not as inventive and industrious in our ways as the children of this world are in their ways. The main thing for us is to be among the children of the light, and not among the children of this world.
23. Don´t plan to advance in this world as the children of this world plan their advancement. Actually, we should be much happier as we go through life because we have the promise of an eternal crown, even though we find one obstacle after another in our way. Still we need to seriously try to grow dayly in all decency, and patience, kindness and mercy, and other Christian virtues. Only if we stay on the right track, and continue there we will move ahead -- even when our steps are very small. We probably won´t even notice that we advance, but we are advancing, and that is the point.
24. Our greatest hope is that God doesn´t judge us as He judges the children of this world. They run straight into helland they don´t care the least about it, but to us God will someday say, "You should have served me more faithfull than you did, because you are a child of the light; however,I will cover this, I will cover it with my cloak with the names grace and mercy, and the forgiveness of your sins written on it." Our hope is that we spend our days here on earth under the cloak of mercy and forgiveness of God. If it wouldn´t be for God´s mercy and forgiveness it would look pretty bad for us. But because of God´s mercy and forgiveness we might even meet one or two friends in the eternal realms; one friend we will find there for sure: it is the one who is able to give heaven to us and to bless us -- our dear friend Jesus Christ.
25. This is the lesson we learned from today´s gospel text: we need to learn to handle unjust mammon in the way children of the light are suppossed to handle it. We need to learn to make friends through it´s use, which means make friends through serving others with whatever we own -- just like the unjust stewart did, but with one difference. We are only allowed to make friends by using our own possessions and money; not by using things we don´t own.
26. Making friends in heaven through good deeds -- how does this fit together with the doctrine of grace? Especially the Catholics make a big deal about earning heaven through works because they believe faith alone doesn´t do it; their doctrine is the doctrine of good works! Because Christ says, "....your friends will receive you into everlasting habitations.", they think that we have to earn our entry into heaven by doing good works. For them their "friends in heaven" would be their so-called saints.
27. Even the Catholics have to admit that these friends of whom the Lord talks live around us. If it would not be so, how then could we give to them? Also they have to admit that: these friends are human, which means they can´t give eternal habitations in heaven to us. Only God himself who is Lord of all, and of heaven, only He can grant heaven as he pleases. Why does the Lord want us to make friends through the use of unjust mammon so that when we die they will take us in? We find the interpretation of this in Matthew 25, where the Lord says that on judgement day He will praise what we have done to the least of our brethren because actually we did it to Him; therefore, He wants to give us eternal life. Christ´s words show us who our true friend in heaven is: Christ himself. The poor beggars to whom we give money can´t do that, though they can help by praying for us.
28. We can´t buy heaven, or eternal life by giving alms; that´s absolutely impossible! The apostle Paul says in Romans 14:23, "... for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." From that it follows that the unbeliever´s alms don´t please God or much less earn them heaven and eternal life. However, God loves the good works of the ones who have faith in Him. God will repay such works. Carefully pay attention to what I have just said: eternal life is not given for good works, no, it´s only given to those who believe in Christ -- just as Christ testifies with the following words (John 14:6), " I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.", and in John 3:15-16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
29. This account is the truth of God, again let Paul speak to us, "... for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Therefore: if alms giving is to be a God-pleasing deed, faith must exist already. This faith brings eternal life, and forgiveness of sin. However imperfect, and intangible our Christian conduct is, God will reward us. It is as Christ says in Matthew 25, and Paul elsewhere, that the sufferings and pains of Christians in this life will be repayed in the other life.
30. Christ telling us to, " Make for yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations...", only means that if we are Christians will our good works be repaid. The apostle Paul says, that if we do good works we are only able to do them by having the right faith in God. The good works need to come from faith in Christ. Christ says it is because of our faith in Him that we receive the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. You need to believe this because it´s the truth.
31. Now, how does everything fit together? Only this way: we have the forgiveness of sin and eternal life if we believe in Christ. God is pleased with our good deeds because of our faith in Christ, not because of our good deeds, and He repays us for them. Let´s remember that even though at times it is very hard to do good works and to serve God, we should be able to enjoy life and be happy about doing good works because we have a certain hope that someday God will receive us into heaven and repay us. To receive us into heaven -- that alone is enough. Paul writes in his letter to the Collosians, "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel." This means our hope is not in good works, but in what Christ has done for us, and waits for us in heaven.
May God give us His grace and may He, through the Holy Spirit, renew our hearts so that this wonderful promise creates in us much fruit, so that we live our lives according to His grace. May He bless us forever and ever. Amen