1. This text has been called the most difficult of Jesus' parables. But it is not so difficult if a person carefully studies the words. Vss. 1-13 are addressed to Christians, the disciples, vs. 1. These vss. tell Christians to use their earthly possessions wisely, always with the thought that all things belongs to God and that they will live forever, vs. 9. Vss. 10-13 keep us from interpreting wrongly. Then vss. 14-18 describe the money- loving, Christ-hating Pharisees who refused to listen to God's Word and who wanted to be considered righteous without changing their hearts. Then another parable, vss. 19-31, tells us how not to use our earthly possessions.
2. This is our parable: A wealthy landlord hired a manager who managed the laborers on his land. The manager was accused of mismanagement and was fired immediately and told to turn in the record books. Before the manager turned in the books, without the consent of the landlord, he shrewdly but crookedly called in several laborers and made settlement of debts which favored the laborers. In this way the crooked manager made friends with the laborers so that he could live with them after he had turned in his books. Vs. 8 must be handled very carefully. The first half of this verse tells us that the landlord congratulated the wicked manager for shrewdly, though wickedly, looking out for himself. The second half of this verse tells us that the children of this world, unbelievers, are wiser in worldly matters than Christians are. Then, vs. 9 tells us that we should use the money which is usually used for unrighteous purposes to make friends for ourselves so that when we die we may be received into heaven.
3. This parable does not say that people earn heaven by their works. It is talking about the proper use of earthly goods (money, house, wife, family, car, work) in the interest of other people and the kingdom of God.
4. Luther often said: "Faith alone justifies but faith is never alone." Works never save us but where there is saving faith there are always works. James said: "Faith without works is dead." Jesus said: "Every branch in Me which does not bear fruit He cuts it off." "If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown out as the branch and is withered and people gather them and throw them into the fire and burn them." Jn. 15:2.6. The parable of the talents at Mt. 25:14-30 tells us that God expects us to use everything which He has given us to His glory and the benefit of our neighbor.
5. Our text, Lk. 16:1-9, is a parable of opposites. Just as the wicked manager shrewdly used everything in his own interest for this life only, so the believing child of God should shrewdly use everything as God wants him to use it in his own interest for the life to come. In vs. 9 "they will receive you" means "the Triune God will receive you.
6. Vss. 10-12 keep us from wrong interpretations. A person's use of his temporal things is a clear indication of his use and victory of spiritual things. Then vs. 13 warns us to serve the Lord whole-heartedly because no person can serve two masters at the same time.
7. How does a Christian pursue stewardship correctly? By simply doing his God-given duty faithfully at all times. Col. 3:2 says: "Seek the things which are above, not the things on the earth." One theologian has commented: "In the right use of earthly things given to us, we really mind and seek heavenly things."
8. Both believers and unbelievers live for the future. The unbelievers live only for this life. The believer always keeps his attention on eternal life. Jesus has already given the believer eternal life. But now the believer must live wisely and faithfully, always remembering that at the end the Lord will welcome him with the words: "Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter the joy of your Lord." Mt. 25:21.
THEME: What A Persons's Use Of Temporal Things Reveals About Him
People cannot look into our hearts. But they can see our life and works. That's why Jesus said: "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and thus glorify your Father in heaven." Our life should show people that we are heaven-bound.
I. THE USE OF TEMPORAL THINGS REVEALS GOALS
A. The goal of the worldling. He is like the unjust manager of our text. He was thinking only of the joy and security of this life. He cheated his master. He cheated the laborers. He was very dishonest. His only goal was the joy and security of this life. Jesus says in our text that the people of this world are shrewd in these things.
B. The goal of the Christian. He is the opposite of the unjust manager. His primary thought is the joy and security of eternal life. Ps. 16:11; Php. 1:21-23; Jn. 14:1-3; Heb. 11:13-16. He longs to be welcomed into the mansions of his Lord.
II. THE USE OF TEMPORAL THINGS REVEALS WISDOM
A. The wisdom of the worldling. Even the master of the manager admired the selfish wisdom of the manager. Even Jesus admits the shrewdness of the worldling, vs. 9. But it is a selfish shrewdness which does not care about other people. See I Tim. 6:9-10. Also Lk. 12:16-21.
B. The wisdom of the Christian. He is wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. II Tim. 3:15. Christ Jesus became for us wisdom from God. I Cor. 1:30. He seeks the things which are above, not the things on earth. Col. 3:2. He knows that he cannot serve two masters at the same time. Lk. 16:13. He is faithful. Rev. 2:10.
III. THE USE OF TEMPORAL THINGS REVEALS VALUES
A. The values of the worldling. The unjust manager had only one value, himself. He cheated everyone to get everything for himself. He cares nothing about the Gospel, forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.
B. The values of the Christian. He knows that if you can trust someone with unimportant things, you can trust him with valuable things, vs. 10 He knows that if you cannot manage your money (which belongs to God), how can you responsibly handle the Gospel and its forgiveness? Vss. 11-12. For the Christian nothing is secular or worldly. It is all spiritual, gifts from God for time and eternity.
IV. THE USE OF TEMPORAL THINGS REVEALS WHO YOUR MASTER IS
A. The master of the worldling. In vs. 13 Jesus says: "No man can serve two masters." That is an axiom which everyone understands. Who was the master of the unjust manager? Not the landowner. Not God. Only himself and his earthly desires. He wanted earthly security after he lost his position. He found that in a wicked way.
B. The master of the Christian. Like Paul, when he was converted Acts 22:10, the Christian asks: "What shall I do, Lord?" When the Baptist said that the whole Bible can be summarized in two commandments: "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind." "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." Mt. 22:34-40. The Christian has faith in God and love for his neighbor. Thus he serves only one Master.
You are like Paul, like Zacchaeus, like those who asked the Baptist what to do. You are sinners. You did not come to church to tell God how good you are. You came to confess your sins. And I Jn. 1:9 says: "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And Jesus says: "The Son of man came to seek and save that which is lost." Lk. 19:10. You are forgiven. Turn now from your selfishness and serve God by loving your neighbor. Your Father in heaven is waiting for you at the door of everlasting life.