Be Wise in God’s Ways – Luke 16:1-9
Household expenses. The month to month budget. Borrowing and interest rates. Income vs. outflow. Tax laws – federal, state, and local – employed, self-employed, business taxes. Property tax. Homeowner’s insurance. Health insurance. And the myriad of retirement savings accounts. If you are managing a home or a family or both, you know you must become wise in many things.
You become wise in many things - you learn how many things work in this world and how to manage them successfully – Or, if you don’t, it’s no surprise to anyone when your money fails you. Regular family and home life makes many people very savvy and even quite shrewd in this world.
Of course, for those with little income, your money fails you regardless. Yet others become very shrewd in the ways of this world. The dishonest stewards of wealth often become the wealthiest and even the most well respected for their success.
Jesus, the Lord of all things, tells us a parable today about a dishonest steward – a dishonest manager – of a wealthy man’s goods. This dishonest manager had squandered, scattered, wasted, in some way, his master’s possessions. Now the manager is called to give an account of his management.
This dishonest steward knew he would be put out of the house for his indiscretion, and, in his shrewdness, he concocted a plan. He chose to safeguard himself through further acts of dishonesty with his master’s money. The dishonest steward made friends for himself among his master’s clients by falsely reducing their bills – by rewriting the amount they owed the master to a lower amount (for a man who owed a hundred, he rewrote the bill as fifty or eighty, and so on.)
The steward’s plan was to make friends with these debtors so that when the master kicked him off the estate, the steward would be welcomed onto the estates of these clients for whom he saved so much money by reducing their debts.
This was a clever, shrewd, and dishonest and unrighteous plan. And when the master heard of it, he was impressed. Instead of putting the dishonest steward out of his house, the master commends him for his clever actions and keep’s him on.
The dishonest steward was shrewd in a dishonest and shrewd world. He knew the terrain of unrighteous wealth well. He was clever in dealing with his own world. Our Lord Jesus laments the fact that you and I are not nearly as clever at dealing with God’s Kingdom as this dishonest steward is at dealing with this world. “The sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” If only God’s children would become as wise in the will and ways of God as the sons of this world are wise in this world.
And you, brothers and sisters, listen to this: You expect rightly that if you don’t learn the way of finances, then things won’t go well for you. So you learn, and you put effort into learning and doing. You know that if you don’t keep up on your home maintenance, it will overwhelm you and things won’t go well with your home. So you keep up on it and learn what you need to do. You learn and do because if you don’t, you expect, things won’t go well.
But then you put no effort into learning your Christian faith – you do nothing to learn and to observe your faith – you do nothing or very little to become wise in God’s will – yet, you expect that all will go well with your soul. You know that if you don’t become wise in the ways of this world and life, things will go poorly for you. Yet, when you lift not a finger to make yourself wise in the ways of God’s Kingdom, you still expect to enter it.
We casually assume that all will go well, but it doesn’t all go well for everyone. Brothers and sisters, just as you’ve become wise in navigating this life – or at least you’ve come to recognize your need to do so – so also, become even wiser in God’s will and His ways and in His Word. Be as wise in the ways of God as this dishonest steward was in the ways of his master.
Jesus once told another parable about servants who were entrusted with particular amounts of money. Some invested them for interest. Another buried his in the ground. And Jesus told yet another parable about a tree that didn’t bear fruit. The caretaker was patient. He said, “I will dig around it; I will put fertilizer around it; I will give it one more year. But then, if it doesn’t bear fruit, I will chop it down.” Don’t confuse the Lord’s long-enduring patience toward you with his approval of you or of what you’re doing. He might be waiting for your repentance.
We are indeed saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Therefore, we must receive and use and do those things which cultivate that faith. Faith in Christ is like a house plant given to you by a dear friend. It is free. It is given to you. You did not earn it or make it yourself. Yet when you neglect it and do not cultivate it, it withers.
Many people have beautiful gardens and have become wise in the ways of cultivating plants. But how many of us are putting effort into being made wise in the ways of cultivating the faith which our dear friend Christ has given us? It can wither, and even fail to sprout.
Brothers and sisters, just as the dishonest manager was wise in the ways of his world, you also should become wise in the ways of your Master and of His Kingdom. Read and learn Scripture. Pay careful attention to the words you are singing in the hymns. Pray the prayers in Church fervently and so exercise your faith. Listen to the Word and to the sermon in such a way that you carry it out of here with you. Receive the Lord’s Supper fervently, seeking what aid you need from God in it.
Examine yourselves. Pick out your sins and seek God’s aid in getting rid of one. Seek God’s aid in improving yourself.
And above all, learn. Learn the Christian faith which you believe. Peruse our Synod’s publishing house website (Concordia Publishing House) and buy a book to learn from. Take the time. Ask your pastor questions in his office. Go to bible study. Ask for more bible studies. And study your Small Catechism. Learn the explanation of the Ten Commandments – keep it in mind each day and see how well it applies. By doing these things, become wise for God’s Kingdom.
Take learning the faith and living according to what you’ve learned as seriously as you take all your learning and doing for this life. It doesn’t go well for all [1 Corinthians 10:1-6]. So learn your faith.
The master in today’s parable had a shrewd, yet dishonest, manager of his wealth. Our Master, our Father in Heaven, has One shrewd, clever, and wise manager of His treasure – a manager who alone is without sin.
Jesus Christ is the Good Manager, the Good Steward, of all of God’s treasure – especially of God’s most valuable treasure, His human creatures, you and me. Jesus Christ managed this treasure, not by rewriting a portion of your debt, but by paying all of it, in full, by His life and death for you.
Jesus Christ was shrewd. He became your sin on the cross, so that in Him you become His righteousness [2 Corinthians 5:21]. What you could not do, He has done for you as a gift. By Jesus’s death on the cross, all human sin and debt to God is forgiven, including yours.
By Jesus’ resurrected life, all that which does cultivate your faith and make you wise in God’s will is given to you here: His Word read – His Law and His Gospel preached – these hymns sung – this Supper of His Body and Blood about to be received.
Since we have all proven to be poor managers and unwise in our eternal life, we give thanks for God’s good management of us through His wise steward Jesus Christ, who both forgives us and truly aids us in getting better. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.