“Manage God's Resources Shrewdly” by Pastor Sommerer

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost Sept. 22nd, 2019

Sermon Text: Luke 16:1-15

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text for today is one of the most difficult parables to understand.  And I think there are two keys to getting this straight.  First, it’s important to notice that the dishonest manager wasn’t commended for his dishonesty; he was commended for his shrewdness.  God calls us to be shrewd in the use of God’s goods and resources as we use them to win friends.

The second key to our text is found in Jesus’ word: “Make friends… who will receive you in eternal dwellings.”  In other words, that use of our earthly goods and gifts should be directed toward God’s Kingdom, eternal life and salvation.  Wisely use your resources and opportunities so that people are saved.  Those whom God has helped along the way through your words and gifts and love will then be there to greet you. 

            What this text does is give us a true perspective on the things we have: we are managers, not owners.  This text also pries our eyes from the daily grind to direct us to the greater priority of planting seeds for eternity.  Everything that you have you hold temporarily, except your hope in Christ, which lasts forever!  Every penny in your pocket.  Every minute in your day.  Every ounce of strength you hold as a caretaker.  Even the children that you nurture and care for.  These things aren’t yours.  They are God’s gifts to you to be received with joy and thanksgiving while you live, and are to be dedicated to God’s purposes and Kingdom. 

Our problem is that we, myself included, fall into the habit of viewing my time and money as mine.  The truth is they are God’s.  They are a trust from God’s care for your life and your family and your support for God’s work.  But they’re only temporary.  God gave them.  God can certainly take them away.  A lifetime of saving and investing can’t follow you to the grave, but wisely planning and using God’s gifts while you live and after you die can care for the needs of your life and support the spread of the Gospel, building bridges to Christ long after your life has ended.   

As God’s people, we must distinguish between faith and works.  Christ gives salvation freely by grace.  We don’t deserve it.  We didn’t earn it.  He came into the world “to save sinners.”  Works play no part in saving us.  But we can’t separate them.  If our faith is a living one, it works.  Our text invites us to step back and ask not:  “What’s the bare minimum I can get by with and still be a Christian?” but, rather, “As one saved through faith for Christ’s sake alone, how can I do God’s work?  How can my gifts, my time, my dollars extend God’s Kingdom in this place?  How can I feed the hungry or clothe a needy family?  After I die, how can I still share God’s Kingdom work by wise planning and giving for His mission?”  How can you shrewdly use your gifts?  How can a will or estate plan help even after my life help to carry out God’s work or build His kingdom? 

            Jesus talks a lot about how we are to use our money.  He affirms the tithe of 10%, and Paul even says, “Excel at the grace of giving.”  In other words, do more with joy, not less.  But the devil tempts us to begin clutching our wallets, or complaining how busy we are.  Could my stinginess indicate a heart problem on my part: a lack of trust that God will bless my giving or lack of gratitude or recognition that it all came from God in the first place?  God doesn’t need your money to do the work of His Kingdom, and if you give it begrudgingly you’re wasting your time.  But He also attaches great promises to faithful stewardship.  It is certain many Christians fail to receive blessings God would give, because they don’t trust Him enough to part with what He’s already given them to manage. 

2 Corinthians 9 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  It should be said that as you prayerfully set apart a portion of your money or estate or dedicate time to teach Sunday school or sing in the choir or volunteer at the rescue mission… you can’t out give your Giver God.  Paul wrote: “God is able to make all grace abound to you… You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion… and your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” 

In our text, Jesus is speaking primarily about a Christian attitude toward money.  He speaks more about money than nearly any other topic, because it so easily becomes our false god.  Money is a good gift from God for us to feed and clothe our family and provide for our needs.  Like all good gifts, we should thank God for the wealth and comforts we enjoy beyond any people on the planet.  It’s not money but the “love of money” that Scripture condemns.  Do we use it for God’s work or do we selfishly horde it?  Do we hope to enrich our survivors after we die or further God’s kingdom while we live?  And the shrewd manager can do both those things through thoughtful planning. 

Give thoughtfully.  Decide on the percentage ahead, so your not tempted toward stinginess.  The Bible gives 10% as a floor not a ceiling.  It’s something to work toward.  Do it prayerfully.  Ask God to bless those gifts.  Do it cheerfully, and when it’s hard ask God’s forgiveness and strength.  Finally, remember whether its time, talent or treasure; you are only a manager.  You own nothing.  You are only discharging a sacred trust.  “The earth is mine and everything in it; the world and all who live in it,” Psalm 24 says.

How you use money is like a window into your heart.  Jesus said, “Don’t store up treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal.  Store up treasures in heaven, for where you treasure is there will your hearts be also.”  Be rich in faith, trusting the One who snatched you from poverty and death to make you eternally rich in Christ.  Of Christ, God’s Son our truest treasure, Paul wrote: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”  Completely apart from your checking account or social security, insurance policies, or estate plans God has given you the greatest security of all, and it came absolutely freely.  In Jesus through faith, yours is a marvelous, eternal inheritance “kept in heaven for you who through faith are being shielded by God’s power.” 

Stretching out His hands on the cross, Christ made you an heir of His heavenly mansions through faith.  You might hardly afford a meal here on earth, but trusting in Jesus God feeds you with the richest food of all.  At His altar, He gives Himself into your lips.  You may not be very fashionable in the eyes of the world, but the rich robes He gives to his believers are the robes of His righteousness, “for as many who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Rejoice in your truest, eternal treasures that are yours freely in Jesus, and, led by the Holy Spirit, wisely use God’s earthly blessings to build bridges connecting a lost world to Christ.  Amen.

And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.