1 Corinthians 10:6-13
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
This is merely one more sad example of how God equips you to do the tasks He calls you to; but when we reject His tasks, when we selfishly abuse the authority He gives us as husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, bosses, pastors, workers of all kinds, not only do we lose the blessing and strength of almighty God in the task He gives to you, but you gain instead His opposition! So that all you do in that calling seems cursed. And many times your sin then utterly destroys your family, your mental health, your finances, and all the good gifts that God had given. So that God who acts justly and does no wrong seems to you like a torturer!
David had a front row seat to this in Saul. He saw the descent into madness. In fact, he had been called in to fight the spiritual battle going on in Saul’s life. He had been recruited to sing his spiritual psalms to Saul to calm the tormenting spirits that afflicted him, causing his madness. So David had sung to Saul recognizing what was going on in Saul’s life. And later in his life he sang all the more in Psalm 51 when he repented of how he had abused his authority as king when he’d stolen Bathsheba, another man’s wife, impregnated her, lied, cheated, constructed an elaborate conspiracy all to cover up what he’d done, even killing her husband. And when a prophet called David to repentance he remembered Saul and cried out “Take not your Holy Spirit from me, restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit!”
When you do not repent of your sin God becomes to you a torturer who punishes, judges and destroys those who wantonly cling to their sin. He does this because it is the only thing that will drive you to repentance. And this is why our general confession is a blanket statement: I have sinned in thought, word, deed, by what I have done and what I have left undone. For those who are His are humble. They recognize that like David they were conceived in sin. They know they are filled with it from birth. Nothing they do is sinless. And so they cling to, desire, need, and must have His mercy or they will die!
For not a single one of us has been tested or tormented in any way that is worse than any other. One man’s suffering may seem worse from the view outside. But you know not what hidden struggles, what inner torment one who seems so successful and happy must deal with. You know not the brokeness of his home, the child whose mental or physical disease causes him spirit crushing difficulties, or the hidden sin that saps his strength, even his finances.
But it remains true that no one has been tempted beyond what anyone else has struggled with. Sin is the universal lot of humanity. We all are tempted. We all fall to temptation. I am not better than the man lying in the gutter. For what gifts, what blessings have I received that he would have done ten times more with had he not had the abuse and pain in his life which have hampered him and brought him where he is today? He is no less loved by our heavenly Father than I.
Which brings us to the point of Jesus’ parable. A story so strange: the unrighteous manager being commended for his evil! But this parable is only strange if we focus on the manager and not on the rich man. The parable is not about the manager, but about the rich man, the master! He is an upstanding, fine man; a man who uses wealth appropriately; a man who is generous and gracious. This is why the manager can get away with what he does for so long. The rich man had the right to put him in prison, but in mercy only says that he can no longer be the manager for squandering his wealth. His mercy is well known. It’s probably why the rich man’s tenants think nothing of it when the manager says to them, here take about a year and half’s wages off the debts you owe my master. And they gladly do so, thinking it just one more example of the rich man’s greatness. They don’t intend to steal, they’re merely filled with joy that he is so generous!
In fact, even the wicked manager knows that the master is gracious. For says to himself, “I am too soft to work hard, I’m too proud to beg. I am sunk. I have no hope, but to hope in my master’s mercy.” And the rich man who is gracious and merciful is caught by his own mercy! He can’t undo what the manager has done without damaging his own character. The manager is shrewd. The gracious rich man is not. Thus says Jesus, “The people of this world are more shrewd, and cunning in dealing with their own kind than the people of light are.”
And this is good. The people of light, those who belong to rich man’s house are kind, gracious, and merciful. They let themselves get caught in their mercy. For they have been caught in His mercy. They get abused for it many a time for they are not shrewd. Instead they, like their master, are merciful. Because you can’t serve both worldly wealth and God. If you try to you’ll always hate one and love the other. This is why Luther said, be careful when you touch the pocketbook because it is the most sensitive part of the body. People are likely to yelp, and shriek if you talk about it. Why? Because they often have some confusion about which one is really their master: their God who made them, supplies all they have, and takes care of them, even when their management of His stuff is poor OR their stuff which they think they have gotten for themselves and must watch over with eagle eyes in order to hang onto it. It is their god.
So your view of God depends on you. It depends on the faith you have. Is God merciful? Is He gracious? Is He your creator & sustainer? Is all that you have His? If you can't answer "yes" to those questions repent for God will be merciful to you! If you can answer “yes” then everything else tends to fall into place because you know His mercy in Jesus Christ. Money isn’t so much of an issue. You can be gracious toward God and man. Not because you have so much, but because its all God’s and He has been gracious to you in His Son’s death and resurrection!
He is the source of TRUE wealth. TRUE wealth flows from Jesus; from the fruit of His cross; from the food of His banquet table; from the words of His mouth. His true wealth forgives your sins, sustains your soul, and shapes your heart and mind giving you faith to see how gracious He is in everything else.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
--Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church, Thunder Bay, ON