He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 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.’ 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 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 of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. 10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
The musical poet Bob Dylan once wrote “But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
You’re gonna have to serve somebody Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Dylan’s lyric accurately reflects Jesus’ words in our text this morning and call on us to recognize the god whom we serve. Yet Jesus goes even further pointing out that money is often the “god” that we serve, yet this “god” is not to be served but rather is to be used to serve the true God alone.
The context of our Gospel reading can be found in the fourteenth verse, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.” The Pharisees were lovers of money, the word there in greek implies avaricious: “greedy of gain : excessively acquisitive especially in seeking to hoard riches.” In other words they LOVED money, it wasn’t just that they were wealthy, or that they were ambitious. These Pharisees had violated the first commandment, making money the god in whom they trusted. And their love for money caused them to do whatever was needed in order to gain more, even at the cost of those around them. It was this attitude that caused Almighty God to proclaim to their fathers through the Prophet Amos,
“4 Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, 5 saying, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel[a] great and deal deceitfully with false balances, 6 that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?” 7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.”
Now this same God stands before them in the person of Jesus and proclaims, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Here Almighty God challenges their claim that they are righteous, challenges their obsession with their gilded god, and calls them to repentance.
Jesus states 10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? Almighty God had chosen Israel to be his people in order that they might proclaim the coming Messiah, yet the religious leaders in Amos’ day and the Pharisees and the religious leaders of our text had sought to use this not for Eternal Life and Spiritual gain, but worldly wealth and reward. So Jesus calls them out! He demonstrates not only have they been faithless with unrighteous wealth, indeed worshipping it rather than God, because of this faithlessness, they will lose the greater riches of eternal life itself.
To illustrate this point Jesus tells his parable of the dishonest steward, speaking of one who was called to be a steward of the riches of his master, yet who squandered and wasted these very gifts. This is precisely what these religious leaders had done, having been stewards of the gifts of God’s mercy, whose purpose was to ensure their proper distribution. Yet we see even in Jesus’ parable the exorbitant mercy of the master, who now has come to call the Pharisees to account for their sin, just as the master in Jesus parable. In his parable it is precisely this mercy on which the steward depends, certain that the master will allow him the opportunity to prepare for his dismissal. Then Jesus speaks his own words calling the Pharisees to repentance saying, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” But the Pharisees miss this point, they are unconcerned at their obsession and ignoring their master’s call to repentance. Therefore Jesus pronounces sentence on their sin saying, “If then you have not been faithful with the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?”
But what about us? I’m sure that there are a few who would direct Jesus’ parable toward the CEF scandal. There are probably many others who would point out the prosperity preachers as little different from their Pharisaical counterparts. But are WE any different? We might be tempted to say no, but consider if you will what takes priority in your life? Whom do you serve Money or God? Are you more concerned with your financial well-being that your spiritual well-being? If so, REPENT! Plastic will melt and become worthless, coins are easily lost, bank accounts these days are little more than computer information. Their value fluctuates with each passing day. For this reason then Jesus called the Pharisees then, and you and I, “to make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” He calls us to use this unrighteous wealth not for our good but for the good of our neighbour; to bolster our congregation’s bottom line, to God’s ministry among his people, to care for the poor and need in the congregation and then our community, to support missionaries home and abroad. This is what is means to be faithful in little.
Your Lord, however, is faithful in much! And He is merciful! For he has true riches far beyond dollars and debit cards, and on these there is no transaction limit! Beloved in Christ, Jesus riches are forgiveness, life and salvation. This riches have been won by Christ himself, who on the cross poured out himself to pay for your sin, not to lessen your debt, but to erase it completely and perfectly in his death! Having done this Jesus has given you his guarantee in the Holy Spirit. In your baptism the deposit of faith has been given you, just as St Paul states, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” And if this were not enough, Jesus lavishly pours out his riches every time he says “I forgive you all of your sin.” He lays out for you his riches at his own table where you are called to take and eat, take and drink, that which he has given and shed for you! Jesus makes for you, friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, as you support his ministry in his congregations, whereby those gathered here and those gathered abroad may hear again and again his gracious mercy.
Dear beloved in Christ, thanks be to God that while we are unfaithful in little, our Lord is faithful in much, in order that he entrusts you with true riches! Amen.