Monday, August 27, 2012

Sermon for 8/5/12--Trinity 9

Unrighteous Mammon
Luke 16:1-13

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This servant is ripping off his boss, and he gets caught. He's about to lose his job. So he does the only thing he knows how: he rips off his boss some more, but this time to the benefit of his boss's clients. Then his boss praises him? And Jesus tells us that Christians can learn from that? Just what exactly is Jesus trying to teach us from this? The answer is this: the people of this world know how to spend what belongs to others better than we Christians know how to spend what is the Lord's for the benefit of others. Jesus is teaching us to stop being stingy with what is His and to spend it like there's no tomorrow. Because of what Jesus has done, we have been given unrighteous mammon to spend lavishly—unrighteous because it's not ours.

The steward knows what God's people seem to have a hard time grasping. He takes what belongs to someone else and uses it for the benefit of others. Do we do that with what belongs to the Lord? Jesus is talking about a currency that isn't earned but that is given—the forgiveness of sins. Think about what our Lord does. He's Lord of heaven and earth, but He lives as if all the glory and righteousness the Father has given Him is His to give away! On the cross, He is so free with that righteousness that He even forgives those who nailed Him there! And by that death, Jesus piles up such a treasury of forgiveness for you that it will never run out. The debt of your sins has been paid in full. Your death has been overcome.

Through baptism, like young Carter, you have been made dead to sin. You have nothing left to lose. You can live by spending what is the Lord's to make the lives of others better. That means you can dish out forgiveness as if it's yours to spend! When someone wrongs you, sins against you, hurts you, goes against you, then you forgive them. The forgiveness for your sins that is given by your Baptism, which you receive in Christ's body and blood, is for you to give away to others. It’s an embarrassment of riches that you can share by refusing to hold the sins of your neighbor against him, by refusing to hold grudges, by treating him as if he has not sinned against you!

That's what it is to live by spending what belongs to Jesus. You see, when you think the forgiveness is yours, you hoard it for yourself. You might, if you thought they were worthy, give a little bit to your neighbor, like you might to a charity. This is why Jesus says the sons of this world are more shrewd than the sons of light. The world knows how to spend other people's money, but we Christians can be really stingy with the Lord's forgiveness, withholding it from those who don't deserve it in our sight. It's not your forgiveness; it belongs to Jesus! Spend it foolishly! Dole it out like it costs you nothing. After all, it didn’t. The Lord has more forgiveness than the world has sins.

Jesus says that His people can't serve both God and mammon. By dying and rising for you, by washing you and feeding you, He replaces the mammon of this world with the riches of His forgiveness. He rescues you from the idolatry of worldly mammon by dishing out His forgiveness. He rescues you from a life lived for yourself to a life in which you have His goods to spend on others, to better their lives with the forgiveness that was first shown to you. Jesus knows that the world is good at spending what belongs to others. So He gives you something even better to spend on others: His forgiveness. And with such a gift, you will be more shrewd than any of the sons of this world. 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.

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