God’s Word for You
Luke 16:1-4 use whatever we have for eternal good
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, October 15, 2018
In the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, Jesus shows that worldly wealth should be used wisely for the eternal benefit of people—of course, not buying one’s way into heaven, but using the treasure God gives us to carry out the work of the kingdom.
16 Jesus also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who employed a manager, and he charged him that he was wasting his possessions. 2 He called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give an account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 The manager said to himself, ‘What will I do? My master is taking the management away from me! I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job as manager people will welcome me into their houses.’
With an irony so subtle that many Christians never notice it their entire lives, Jesus depicts a dishonest manager or steward. The thing that seems dishonest to us, changing the debts people owe his master, is shocking to many, but from God’s perspective, this is precisely what Christians do with one another. We change one another’s debts. But there is no mere lessening of a debt in eternity. Either someone owes a debt of eternal suffering, or his debt has been changed to owing nothing at all through Christ. But the point of the parable is not really the canceling or diminishing of debts. That doesn’t figure into everyone’s career or livelihood. For that, we’ll look more closely at verses 5-9.
Here in the introduction to this man, we see him as God sees us all, as a sinner. What was the sin? It wasn’t exactly stealing, the way the Apostles were aware that Judas was a thief and helped himself to the treasury of Jesus and his disciples (John 12:6). This manager was accused of “wasting his possessions.” It was mismanagement. He was not very good at his job or was sinfully wasteful. In an audience filled with Pharisees, scribes, tax collectors and other sinners, not to mention Judas the thief, this may have served as a warning: I know that you steal and commit other sins, but you’re guilty of sinning against God even if you mismanage the things God has entrusted you with. Sins of this sort are covered under two commandments. The one is the Seventh, under which we are commanded to help our neighbor “improve and protect his property and means of income.” The other is the Ninth, under which, regarding our neighbor’s property, we are commanded to “do all we can to help him keep it” (Small Catechism).
God wants us to have the attitude of love toward our neighbor, so that we can help one another be “without fault in a crooked and depraved generation (Philippians 2:15), helping one another to see our sins and to see opportunities for service, “admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). He wants us to know that we have comfort when we are troubled by those who are crooked and sinful, and that he will “pay back trouble to those who trouble you” (2 Thessalonians 1:6). Why? To “get them”? To punish them? No. He is calling them to repentance. But if by calling someone else to repentance he also removes trouble from your life and gives you healing, then you begin to see how the vast tapestry of our world and our times is managed by God Almighty, who knows and sees all things (Psalm 139:2,16).
When like the sinful manager we are called to account for our sins by another Christian, we should thank God for the opportunity to repent, to change our lives for the better, because we want to live “in order to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1), to live according to his will, and to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). Part of the lesson of this parable is to use whatever we have for eternal good—ours, and the people around us.
More about this tomorrow.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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