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Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity




The Ninth Sunday after Trinity, 2011


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson




The Hymn # 628            Shepherd of Tender Youth               3:74
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #283            God’s Word               3:90

Faith and Works

The Communion Hymn # 175            When I                        3:93
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 50                    Lord Dismiss Us                3:86

KJV 1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

KJV Luke 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5 So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Ninth Sunday After Trinity

Lord God, heavenly Father, who hast bountifully given us Thy blessing and our daily bread: We beseech Thee, preserve us from covetousness, and so quicken our hearts that we willingly share Thy blessed gifts with our needy brethren; that we may be found faithful stewards of Thy gifts, and abide in Thy grace when we shall be removed from our stewardship, and shall come before Thy judgment, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Faith and Works

This parable can be misunderstood and often is. During the Reformation, the Roman Catholic leaders used it to promote salvation by works, and that is still done today by many Protestants. One could easily say that all religions are converging on a scheme of salvation by works, which is what the natural man (unaided by the Word of God) understands.

Adding to the discomfort is the strange example of the unrighteous steward, who is admired for his shrewd behavior. Thus it is easy to bypass this lesson and find something less jarring.
If anything, this parable proves what Jesus meant by teaching parables as riddles, lest “they see and be saved.” Casual listeners cannot grasp this one and believers need to study it in the context of the entire Scriptural message.

The Parable
KJV Luke 16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.

The phrase “a certain rich man” is used to show this is a parable, a short story with a lesson. The rich man had a manager for his estate. We no longer say “steward” but that was once a term used for those who took care of property and kingships, having responsibility but not ownership.

The manager was in trouble because he was accused of being wasteful. Perhaps he was lazy or corrupt.

Luke 16:2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.

This means there was no room left for the steward to plead his case and ask for mercy. He has to bring the books up to date, give an account of his management, because he was no longer trusted.

KJV Luke 16:3 Then the steward said within himself, “What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.”

At this point the manager was in deep trouble. He cannot live by physical labor and he does not want to be a poor beggar in the streets. He has been able to live in great comfort because of the owner’s wealth. So the parable sets up the main action quickly, with most of the details reserved for what the manager did.

KJV Luke 16:4 “I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.”

Knowing he must be fired for bad management, he hatched a plan so that he can be a manager somewhere else. He will make the business partners indebted to him rather than his master.

Certain details give this away. The olive oil and wheat are large amounts, so the wealthy man is undoubtedly a commodities broker. Large amounts are involved, like when the Skakel family got into coke (from coal). They bought and sold trainloads.

KJV Luke 16:5 So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
Only two examples are given, but the text literally says that he called “every single one.” The words suggest a large number of business partners, all owing a large sum from previous transactions.

KJV Luke 16:6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.

Here are two signs of shrewdness. One is that the manager had the partners rewrite the bills. As Lenski noted, he is not going to defraud his master (openly), but he will engage these wealthy men in fraudulent paperwork. The partners will owe the steward far more than the owner, because the steward will be able to put them out of business and throw them into prison.

I dealt with an insurance agent like that. He was breaking all the rules to take a client away from me. That led to an application that was clearly illegal for that particular contract – against company policy, due to a conflict in disability coverage. Suddenly he did not want to sign that application.

KJV Luke 16:8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

The wealthy man praised his dishonest manager, because the steward found a way to get a job with another firm, rather than dig or beg for a living. Doubtless the wealthy man had engaged in a number of sharp deals himself, so he saw the survivor’s instinct in his servant.

The ending perplexes many for good reason.

KJV Luke 16:9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations

The Catholic Church teaches that this parable reveals the necessity of works, because this statement seems so obvious. They emphasize faith formed (or perfected) by works. Thus they can say “justification by faith” without qualms, because they practice mental reservation. They are not alone, because many Lutherans will do the same thing. I have a WELS meditation, which is labeled “justification by faith,” but its content is justification without faith.

Numerous Biblical passages teach justification by faith and others emphasize good works. Most people resolve this paradox the wrong way.

The Word of God does not contradict itself. That is why people need to know the basics of the faith and not be dazzled by someone’s stellar performance on one particular text.

The Bible teaches faith and works, as represented by the Ten Commandments. The first three Commandments show us our relationship to God, which is one of faith. This is the most important part of the Ten Commandments, because spiritual problems lead to sins against our neighbor. False doctrine is not trifling, because it argues against the truth of God’s Word and the majesty of the Holy Spirit. Those who play games with God’s Word will invariably end up damaging themselves, often fatally. They are like the men who broke into a power substation to steal copper. If they had thought about the danger of interrupting major electrical circuits, they might have gone somewhere else. One died. The other was injured and arrested. The painful pun in the news story said the accomplice “may face additional charges.”

The Second Table teaches us our relationship to others. No one can see our faith, but they can see our works. Also, we can judge our faith by our works. If we lie, steal, covet, and bear false witness, our faith must not rest in God but in ourselves.

Two false teachings about good works are obviously wrong and toxic when examined. One suggests that we should do good works for God, to help Him. Many wealthy people are told that their sins are forgiven when they donate large sums to fund another building “for the glory of God.” They usually have their names on the building. If that is too crass for a chapel, they have their names inside on a list of donations. When I visited the Schwan-funded chapel at Concordia Seminary St. Louis, I noticed his name, big and bold, in the donation tablet, prominently placed for everyone to admire.

That sort of trickery makes people think they can do anything as long as they pay for their sins by giving away large sums of money. Their motivation is not to help someone else but to atone for their sins. The church officials have no trouble loading students with crippling debt while they glory in their expensive chapels. Luther wondered why rich people put up churches so quickly, long before the old ones were breaking down and falling apart. Meanwhile, Lazarus lay at the gate getting nothing.

Compassion would have officials living frugally so students could graduate with little or no debt, worshiping in humble buildings, as the founders often did until they could afford something better. I have to wonder about academic leaders letting a student get a load of debt to pay for salaries while knowing a church vocation will not happen for that individual. There are many ways to rob and deceive someone.

A second argument for good works is that performing them for others will gain entrance to heaven. That should strike people as ludicrous – feeding and clothing the poor to obtain heaven. That is Pharisaic logic, doing good to get something good in return. Unbelievers are keenly aware of that kind of thinking.

That is the great, hearty joke in the parable, which comes into focus in one more verse.


KJV Luke 16:10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

The least is mammon. Most people measure worth in money. I used to wonder why so many mobsters were so greedy. No matter how much they made, they always wanted more and killed for more. They measure their worth in money, their so-called honor in money. That is also why the most wealthy are also unbelievers. Mammon is their god, and there is no room for the true God at their altar of holiness.

The wealthy owner loved mammon and the steward did too. So did the business partners. All were shrewd in their dealings. The owner could not keep a manager who wasted his mammon. The steward could not give up his life of mammon. The business partners were quite willing to cheat their partner to have more mammon for themselves.

This is background for the joke. God already provides for us, believers and unbelievers alike. People put all their emphasis on the least, the mammon, and often very little on the most, the Word of God.

So Jesus is saying, “Be as shrewd with the Treasure of the Word as these people were with mammon. They moved mountains for their mammon. Be as energetic in preserving and teaching the One Truth of God, the Gospel.”

Even today, people say, “This is a good church. Look at the fine buildings. They are successful.” The worst false teachers live like kings, so people admire that too. My favorite example is the TV preacher and his father who did this when a painter came to collect on a bill for the mansion. One man held him down while the other slugged him. That was in the papers. I never heard him speak on The Rich Man and Lazarus but I would have paid money to be there so I could snicker at key points.

Some think that is so clearly a problem with other churches, but they see it in their own districts, circuits, and congregations. I know many ministers who have been sent into poverty by the cruelty of false teachers, who already have plenty for themselves. But the false teachers cannot abide anyone questioning them. They substitute verbal beatings for physical beatings, because they cannot get away with fisticuffs. The results are the same. Since all turn away, falsehood is rewarded and advanced. Truth is sent packing, but God turns evil into good by moving the Gospel rain to another place.

Luther made a good point about the overall theme of this parable. The parable reveals admiration for shrewdness about mammon, but that admiration is in the eyes of unbelievers.

One might even say about a woman, “She is a shrewd flirt.” That is, she knows how to get her way. That does not commend her behavior but only states she has mastered her craft.

Or, “He is a genius at lying.” That does not suggest we should all join that person and model our behavior after his. As one factory supervisor told me, “I do not work with angels. They are crude, gross people. They are not believers. But they are disgusted with ministers who are unfaithful, who do not live according to the Word. And they know who is doing that.” Thus the factory workers look at the adulterous ministers and say, “They have no faith. That is obvious.”

The Jewish argument style is from the lesser to the greater. If people can be so keen about mammon (the lesser), then believers can be just as energetic about the pure Word of God (the greater). One is already provided by God for everyone, with extra for sharing. That is the mammon of unrighteousness. It does not forgive sins. It does not cure illness. It does not grant salvation.

The other is also provided in abundance. The Means of Grace are offered across the world in many different ways.

The Word teaches the importance of good works, that they naturally come from sincere faith. Those who abide with the True Vine, Christ, will bear fruit. John 15:1-10.

A good tree (sound doctrine) must bear good fruit. An evil tree (false doctrine) must bear corrupt fruit.

The Law recognizes sinful behavior, but the Gospel defeats and quells our sinful nature. The Law is diagnosis. The Gospel is the medicine.

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