Pentecost 19, 2013 (September 22)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “Nothing Left to Lose”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter sixteen.
Nothing left to lose. That’s how we might describe the behavior of the manager or steward in our text. He is losing his job. His reputation could well be lost, if not for the mercy of his rich boss. What is he to do? He can’t go back to manual labor, and he is too ashamend to become a beggar on the streets. He has a life. Probably a family. What is he to do? He is backed against the wall here. There is no obvious solution. There is no “out” that seems to make sense.
This place of desperation is no fun. Perhaps you’ve been there. Trapped, stuck with no place to go and nothing, it seems, to do about it.
There are any number of picturees like this in the Bible. People with illnesses that won’t go away. Children who are dead or dying. That quiet desperation is throughout the Scriptures. Abraham and Sarah. Saul. David. Jacob and Esau. Joseph. The disciples in the new testament show it all over the place. When things are messed up and out of control, we become reactionary, fearful and unable to figure out what to do.
So you have to give the man in our text credit. He remembers two incredibly important things along the way out. First, he remembers that securing a future is way, way more important than anything that happens today or even tomorrow. The second thing the man remembers is that he can rely on the mercy of the master to cover up his wrongdoing. Now that’s a big and somewhat crazy assumption, but the steward knows the mind of his master.
So he does the impossible. He risks everything, banks on the mercy of the master more than life itself. It is a bold move. It is a huge risk. We can’t entirely understand it all. But somehow, it pays off for him. He does a fire sale on oil and wheat, and the rich man’s tennants come out loving both the rich man and his dishonest manager. Everybody wins, except for the rich man, who is out the money that was owed to him.
Jesus then goes on to make this crazy, outrageous statement. He says, “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.” (Luke 16:9 ESV)
There are several things we can take away from this parable. And they are important, because they teach us a lot about the kingdom of God, about stewardship, and about how to live our lives as children of the King of Kings.
Know What or Who to Trust
The shrewdness of the manager is not that he was a cheat and a liar. That was obviously wrong. His shredness came because he knew where his bread was buttered. He recognized what the most reliable thing is in his life. The most reliable thing in his life was the character of his rich owner. The rich man was generous and merciful. His tennants cared enough about him to tell him when the manager was wasting things. So for this manager, he could rely on the mercy of the rich man.
What this means for you is this: you can rely on the mercy of God. God will be merciful to you. He has been doing it for thousands of years. That is the most reliable thing in your life.
Don’t Let The Things of This World Intefere with What is Truly Important
The second takeaway from this parable is not to let the things of this world interfere with what is truly important. For the dishonest manager, taking care of his future was more important than anything else. For you and me, insuring our place in heaven is more important than anything else. How many of us have been distracted or led astray by things that didn’t matter, that we’re that important, or that were ultimately irrelevant to your life? What is the most important thing to you, that is what matters. And the most important thing to you is that you are baptized, that you have a place and a family and a home in Christ. Nothing else can get in the way of that.
God is the One Who Pays our Debts, Not We Ourselves
Finally, and most importantly, God is the one who pays our debts, not us. For the dishonest manager, he knew that the mercy of the rich man was reliable, and that he could bank on it. As a result, the dishonest manager risked everything, and the rich man paid it all in the end.
For you and for me, in a very real way we have nothing to lose. God has paid all our debts. He has paid the price for our sin by the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. That means you are free to live your life as one of service, not as a slave. You are free, and God has given you stewardship over everything you have. But He did not lend you these things for you to squander or waste on yourself. He lent them to you so that you would serve those around you. Family, friends, church, strangers, there are many in need all around you.
So what are we to take away from all of this in the end? First, God’s mercy is the most reliable thing in your life. Second, nothing can get in the way of receiving that mercy. And third, God is the one who pays our debts for us, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.