Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the ninth Sunday after Trinity 8/1/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 9:30am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity9 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, click here.
The charge against the steward, or “manager,” as the ESV goes, is that he’s been wasteful. He has failed to take care in the conduct of his duties. It’s possible that there was some malice on his part, but the text doesn’t really say that. Mostly, his wastefulness came from being careless. More on that later.
This man’s job was to serve as an agent and executor on behalf of his master; but he was acting as if he has no master at all. If he really cared about his master and his master’s interests, he would have been more responsible, more invested, and more interested in doing well. But he doesn’t care, and so, naturally, he is reckless with what does not belong to him.
When he finds out, the rich man is reasonably upset by this; but what’s remarkable is how he reacts to the accusation. He would be completely justified to fire him on the spot, but he doesn’t.
At a minimum, he should put the manager on a long weekend, have the guards escort him out of the building, seize the books immediately, and tell him that he’ll be hearing from personnel on Monday.
But he doesn’t. If you look at other parables featuring masters and irresponsible stewards, they don’t get treated so mildly. But the story needs to continue, because the most important part is still coming.
The threat of being out of a job shocks the steward and brings him to his senses. His eyes are wide. His blood pressure is up. He’s run through the possible scenarios, because he knows the jig is up.
It’s time to figure something out. After all, he has a standard of living, and he needs to maintain that. He’s smart enough to know that he can’t do real work. And he’s prideful enough to know that he can’t handle the shame of begging. He will either rise to the occasion, or he will perish.
This is where we find out something about him. The thing is, this manager was never incompetent; he was unmotivated. He didn’t care all that much for his master, and so he had no real reason to try. But now, his very life depends on him figuring things out.
And this manager does not disappoint.
I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses. verse 4
Now we see what this guy is capable of. All of a sudden, this wasteful, lazy, unimaginative manager does a total 180. Now that it matters to him, the manager becomes creative, industrious, clever, aggressive, and shrewd. He gives the first guy a 50% discount. To the next guy he gives a 20% discount.
All of a sudden, he’s a HERO! He’s like Robin Hood. What a guy! So, when that rich, mean, capitalist pig puts him out on the street, they’ll remember that he was on their side.
When the rich man sees what this shrewd, clever, dishonest manager did… He commended him for it. He looked at his secretary and said, “Would you look at that?! I guess he’s not as witless as you thought. With the right motivation, there’s no telling what he might be capable of.”
You see it, too, don’t you? Look at how hard he worked! He got on this like it was the only thing that mattered. He was serving his master well. His master, his god was his belly, his comfort, and his temporal well-being. You can tell that by how relentlessly he pursued it.
This is the example that Jesus says Christians should imitate. It’s what He means when he says,
…[T]he sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. verse 8
Where do you go the extra mile to be shrewd, clever, enterprising, and aggressive? Consider your positions, your responsibilities, and your resources. You have been given so much to work with: your bodies, your reason, your talents, your money, etc. All these things are put into your care. You are a steward, a manager of these things. How are you using them? What do you pursue? What occupies your thoughts, your time, and your energy?
The value of your home?
The content of your bank account?
What clothes you’re wearing?
What car you’re driving?
Whether you get to shop at Whole Foods or Aldi?
What matters to you, really? How do you know? You could tell what mattered to the manager by how he used his talents and energies. And it wasn’t his master.
Notice that the master doesn’t seem so concerned about these things. He doesn’t act shrewdly at all when he sees the manager’s wastefulness. If he was really worried about all the money being wasted, he would respond differently. But he isn’t.
That’s because the master is a stand-in for God Himself. Everything that exists already belongs to him. He doesn’t need more money. What He wants is a faithful steward. What He wants is to see debts forgiven.
That’s where you come in again. It’s already clear that Jesus intends for you to identify with the steward. But you should also see yourself in those whose debts are forgiven, because you also have spiritual debts and are in need mercy.
So much in the story is wrong, but the One who tells this parable is the One who makes everything right.
Jesus has been faithful with His Father’s things where you have not been. He has been faithful with righteous and unrighteous wealth alike. Chiefly, He has been faithful with these things by giving them away.
He writes not 50% off or 20% off; He forgives you your debts, which we in the Lord’s Prayer render as “trespasses.” He does not merely make things square; He gives you a credit – more than you had before. This is righteous wealth because it’s the inexhaustible treasure of Jesus’ righteousness.
If you have this treasure, this righteous wealth, then you can look at unrighteous wealth the way the master in the parable does. It’s fleeting and ultimately without meaning. So go ahead and use the unrighteous wealth well. Take care of people. Be generous. Spend and be spent. The stuff you’re giving away doesn’t really matter anyway.
Your salvation is already secure. As forgiven stewards, you will not be put out of your Master’s court. You don’t have to worry about them welcoming you into their homes in this world.
But by living in mercy, by living faithfully with the things God gives you in this world, the people you care for here may welcome you home there, in the mansions prepared for them. They learned about the truly righteous wealth, because of how you used your unrighteous wealth.