Commending the Unjust
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
At first glance, this is one of the hardest of Jesus’ parables to understand. What is the point of this parable? Are we to model ourselves after the unjust steward, and go cheating our employers so that we can gain benefit from others? Obviously not. The seventh commandment commands us not to steal or defraud. Are we to be wise in the ways of the world, and try and make the church more like a business that operates in the dog-eat-dog categories that we see all around us? Again, obviously not. As Saint Paul wrote in Romans, “Do not be conformed to the world.” So what is Jesus getting at? Let’s recap the story briefly. The steward of the house is accused of wasting the master’s goods. So the master tells him that he is going to fire the steward, and that he has to clear out his accounts. The steward is at a loss. He hadn’t prepared for this. He won’t dig ditches. He’s ashamed to beg. So this unjust steward does the one option left for him: he cheats his master out of money owed him, in order to curry the favor of these other people. One owes 100 measures of oil, so he cuts the bill to eighty. Another owes 100 measures of wheat, and he cuts the bill to fifty. When the master of the house finds out, he can’t help but compliment the steward on his shrewdness. Why? Because he had done the one thing that He could to insure the well being of his future. No matter the risk, this steward was so confident in the mercy of his master that he cheated him.
So why would the master commend that steward? The master commended the unjust steward, because he understood that the most important thing was to insure that he had a future, that he would be taken care of in the long run. What Jesus is saying is that the children of this world understand that you do whatever it takes to insure your future, for that is what finally matters. But the children of light, the Christians, don’t get this basic fact of life. They are deceived and distracted at every turn. Where is your future? Your future is in Jesus Christ as your receive Him in the proclamation of the Word of God and in His Holy Sacraments. That is your future, and the future of your family. This should be your greatest priority, to insure that the Gospel is proclaimed to you and to your family. That is more important than any money, wealth, house or anything else you wish to give your children.
Why is it that we Christians don’t understand this? Think of your own life and your priorities. We spend a fair amount to put a roof over our head and food on the table and clothes on our bodies—necessary things, to be sure. But then, most Americans spend exorbitant amounts of their income on entertainment of some sort. Then if anything is left over, that goes to the church. A dollar here, two dollars there, and somehow this is doing the Lord a great favor. Where is your treasure? The same may be said for time. How much time do you spend teaching your children the Christian faith? I’m not asking about time you spend at church or doing things at church, although I suppose we could ask that. I mean simply teaching your family the faith. Do you pray together? Do you read God’s Word together? Do you teach your family the great hymns of the faith? For most of us, we spend a lot more time watching television that we do teaching and hearing the Word of God. I know that this is a hard message to hear—it’s no easier for me to hear than it is for you to hear. If it’s any consolation, it’s also a hard message to preach. But the question remains: where is the one thing that is needful in your life? Think of our Epistle lesson. The people of Corinth had become complacent. They forgot that they were so dependent on God that they couldn’t make it themselves. They fell prey to temptation. They forgot that the only way of escape is through the blood of Christ.
This draws us back into the Gospel for today. Jesus says, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t say if you fail; no, He says when you fail. All things in this life come to an end. As weak, sinful human beings, your lives are frail and seem to fall apart at every turn. Jesus calls you to put your trust in Him, and not in the things of this world. Don’t be so possessive and greedy with the possessions of this world, because they won’t gain you eternity in the end. What was it that made the unjust steward go and cheat his master? The unjust steward believed in and relied on the mercy of his master, because he knew that the master was merciful.
You are that unjust steward. You squander the gifts our heavenly Father gives you left and right. Whether they are the little things, like the possessions of this life, or the big things of forgiveness and salvation, you have tossed these gifts of God aside like they were nothing. But more important than that, you also know that your heavenly Father is the merciful master. His righteous Steward, Jesus, cancels your debt. Even though you don’t deserve it, He brings you into His house and gives you eternal life. Even though you don’t deserve all of the great things He gives you, the Lord still gives them for the sake of Jesus Christ. The Father looks at the cross of His Son, and He honors the canceling of your debt which Jesus accomplished there. You are free!
Just as the unjust steward used the things of this world, oil and wheat, to further His own good, so also your heavenly Father uses the things of this world, water and bread and wine, to bring about the forgiveness of your sins. He gives you a portion of His treasure, an eternal inheritance, an everlasting home. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.