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God’s Word for You

Luke 16:10-12 true riches

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, October 17, 2018

10 “One who is trustworthy with a little is also trustworthy with a lot, and one who is dishonest with a little is also dishonest with a lot.  11 So if you have not been faithful with dishonest wealth, who will entrust you with true riches?  12 And if you have not been faithful in what is someone else’s, who will give you anything that is your own?”

We are right to think of the Seventh Commandment when we read a passage like this, but God added the Ninth and Tenth Commandments to be sure we would understand that God considers us guilty not only for committing a crime, but also for plotting it; for turning it over and over in the mind ahead of time. For example, with regard to the Sixth Commandment, Jesus says: “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). And with regard to Second Commandment, Jesus says: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be “Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ Anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). So also with stealing and being trustworthy with what is not ours. If we covet, we have sinned. This runs so contrary to the way many people think of their possessions that God saw fit to expand the Commandments from the first Eight to include two more, both about coveting. The Ninth covers those possessions that are not living or are inert: His estate, his trees, his inheritance, his library, his vehicle, and so forth. The Tenth systematically covers all the living things that are under the care of one’s neighbor: his wife, his workers, or his animals. This isn’t the place to quibble about when a spouse is a possession, but my wife uses the possessive pronoun when she calls me her husband, and I would never question her about it. “Belonging to” and “the property of” are related ideas but not identical, and those who are uncomfortable with the one probably don’t understand the other.

Jesus divides what he is saying into four categories, yet he so very elegantly only uses two different adjectives. He says “dishonest,” and he also says “true.” But dishonest is simply one side of worldly wealth, and true is simply one side of spiritual wealth.

Worldly wealth is, on the one hand, honest gain. Jesus and his disciples had a treasury. Several women took care of the Lord’s needs (“among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Salome,” Mark 15:40). Some of this care was undoubtedly financial, since the Lord had a purse which Judas looked after. This money came from gifts or from begging, and perhaps a little income from the trades of the disciples. The income we receive from our jobs or from our investments is this kind of wealth. Dishonest wealth comes when we follow the “first come, first served” or “every man for himself” mentalities. “The world does not consider this wrong,” Luther says, “and it does not see that the neighbor is being taken advantage of and forced to sacrifice what he cannot spare without injury. Yet no one wishes this to happen to himself” (Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, para. 304).

On the other hand, Jesus also speaks about the difference between true riches and something else. The “something else” is of course both of the previous forms of wealth. Neither dishonest nor honest wealth will follow you into eternity. As one pastor put it, you never see a hearse pulling a trailer. “Wealth,” Eliphaz said, “will not endure” (Job 15:29). The monks or whatever the men were who squirreled away the Dead Sea Scrolls also hid away a scroll made of copper with twelve columns of directions for finding hidden treasure, all of which is lost today. There is line after line of such sad instructions as this: “Between the two buildings in the valley of Akon, right in between, dig down three cubits (four feet six inches), and there are two pots full of silver” (Col. IV, lines 7-8). It’s all just dust today.

“True riches” amounts to the gospel, the knowledge the Bible gives to us about Jesus Christ. This is the wealth we share with the world while treasuring it for ourselves. An amazing truth about the gospel is that the more you give it away, the more you have for yourself. The more you build with it, the more with which you have to build. Jesus testifies to this when he gives the man who turned his one mina into ten the rule over ten cities (Luke 19:16-17). The thing possessed and the reward for its use are identical. The gospel of forgiveness gives us comfort and the certainty of eternity in heaven. This is the true wealth which we work to share with the world.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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