Sermon – Pentecost 15 – September 22, 2019
Text: Luke 16:1-10 – “Money!”
Everybody’s Favourite Thing
This morning, in church, we are going to talk about everybody’s favourite thing. It takes care of our body and mind. Our favourite thing clothes us, it feeds us, houses us, and gives us land to work and live on. It provides us with a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to go to work in the morning. It is often on our minds and we think of how we can have more of it in our life. It provides us with all we need to support this body and life.
Our favourite thing, of course, is money. Even if you’re thinking right now there is something bigger than money, like God, there is still no denying that money does all these things.
Money can do all of these good things for us but is money always a good thing?
The Amos reading is all just God telling His people how everything has gone wrong. God’s chosen people are consumed by money. God’s people are more concerned with getting more and more money at the expense of other people’s welfare! Instead of primarily looking out for others, they are more concerned with hurting people and taking advantage of them. God calls His people out on this. He speaks to His people calling them out for wanting God’s Sabbath to be over and done with so they can get back to selling wheat and ripping people off, buying poor people as slaves.
Not many of us are often involved in the slave trade and taking advantage of the poor and needy, but we have our own ways we are being called out by God the same way as God called out His people in the Amos text. Our modern equivalent is our thoughts of “When is church going to be over? When is this sermon going to be over? I’ve got to get to Canadian Tire before that sale is over. Somebody wants to come take a look at the boat I’m selling and they’re willing to pay my high asking price! I’ve got to get out of here! I’ve got work right away after church and I’ve got to be there early so I can make a little extra money for my new project! I’ve got to get to Winnipeg today to buy that new toy I’ve had my eye on!” Or the kid’s equivalent, “Pastor! Finish this children’s sermon so you can give me that sucker!” Meanwhile, our hearts are not on spending time with God or focused on helping out people who could use it.
Is money always a good thing? Well, sometimes maybe not. It doesn’t always bring out the best in us.
There is no doubt, though; after thinking about it this morning, that money is a powerful thing. Money can clothe you and the lack of it can leave you cold without proper clothing like shoes or a jacket. Money can feed a person and keep them alive. A lack of it can leave you hungry and malnourished. The fear of not having money to be able to meet these basic needs can drive people to do extreme things to get, and have, enough money.
Money is a powerful thing. Leaders with a lot of it can make big changes in the world. Changes to help people or changes that hurt people. Because of this big responsibility leaders have with all the money, our Epistle reading today urges us to pray for our leaders! We pray that our leaders would use their money to be like God who loves and cares for His people. We pray our leaders would be more and more like our God, our good heavenly Father who cares for His people.
It is no surprise with such a powerful thing, like money, Jesus has a few things to say about it. In fact, our Gospel lesson has a parable Jesus spoke which talks about money and wealth. Our parable today is about a manager who is wasting his master’s money. The master confronts the manager about wasting his money and says he is going to fire his manager for being such a poor manager with his money. The manager, who is about to get fired, thinks about this and says he’ll make friends who can help him out after he’s been canned by lessening the debts they owe to his master. The manager does this and when the master hears about this, he applauds the manager for his shrewdness and the parable ends. If you are confused as to what this parable is about, you are in good company. While reading commentaries on this parable I discovered there is a pretty big variety of differing opinions as to what this parable means. Can you believe it!? This parable is a tricky one.
Some of the complexity comes with all the details in the story. As with most stories, there are many details which are not important to the main point of the story but serve to add context and flavour. In this parable, there are lots of details which can make us think this parable is about a great number of things. One solid approach is to take a look at Jesus’ explanation which follows the parable. In some ways, the explanation is confusing too, but when we take the whole context in mind it is apparent Jesus is talking about using whatever wealth we have been given for a forward-looking purpose. The unrighteous, shrewd manager is commended for his forward-looking use of the money.
With that conclusion in mind, this parable invites us to ask ourselves “How am I using the money God has given me?” We, like the manager, are just stewards of the things on this earth God has given to us. The whole world is God’s so whatever things we have are what God has given for us to take care of. This is like the manager in the parable who was only given his master’s money to care for.
Jesus words in this parable, and YAHWEH’s in the reading from Amos, show us that He would have us use money for good and not evil. To help and not to hurt. Jesus would have us use money looking ahead to the life to come.
Are you, like me, short-sighted with your money? Do you use it up for immediate needs that arise in your life? Do you save it away for 5-year goals? 20-year goals? 50-year goals? Even goals that are 50-years in the future are still too short-sighted compared to what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is talking about using our money focusing on life in eternity. How is that for long-term planning?
As God’s people, He wants us to use our money, which is ultimately God’s money, to do good for others, to build other people up, to make friends, to love others as God does for us with His own power. With God’s ultimate power, which is greater than money, He gives us good things. Scripture says, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:17). God gives us good things, He builds us up in His word, He is even more than a friend to us He is our Father, brother, and helper, he loves us with a sacrificial love that is unconditional and knows no bounds. He would have us take the ‘power of money’ that He has given us, to do all of these things for Him and for others while we look ahead to the life to come. He would have us use money to spread His word and grow His earthly and eternal kingdom.
But, we don’t use our money like that. Our tithing is good, but we don’t always do it perfectly. All our money is not used to love God, love our neighbour, and to work towards goals which are in eternity. We are not using our favourite thing for whole-heartedly serving our Favourite Master. And that is not good. That is falling short of the perfection which God Himself IS and which He DOES for us with His power. That is falling short of the perfection God demands from us. That is on us.
The Best Thing
There is something greater than the power of money something we have which God gives to you and me. God’s power, which is greater than the power-of-money, cannot be bought but is freely given. The power of a blood-sacrifice, freely given, by Jesus to make up for our falling short.
Jesus died to forgive our poor use of money. Jesus died to forgive you for wrongly using money to hurt and not to help others. Jesus died for making money more than your favourite thing but making money your favourite master. Jesus died to forgive our short-sightedness and He gives us a reason to look ahead, a reason to spend our money in ways that affect, not only now, but our lives together beyond death. His forgiveness gives us a reason to use our money now to look forward to a time when the power of money is dead. A beautiful time when the power of God is the only provider and His power is the only power we will need to live in perfection.
May that peace of God, that God’s power forgives you all your imperfections, keep and guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Master.