Trinity 9 (Lk 16:1–13)

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

Jesus said, “The sons of this age are wiser in dealing with their own generation than the sons of Light.”

INI + AMEN.

((5. Oops!: Unbelievers are wiser in worldly things than Christians are in spiritual things.))

Jesus is right. “The sons of this age are wiser in dealing with their own generation than the sons of Light.” And what does Jesus mean? He means that unbelievers are wiser in worldly things than Christians are in spiritual things.

In the world it’s good to use all your smarts, to be wise. It’s better to get 80 cents on the dollar rather than no dollar at all. It’s better to restructure the debt, reduce the payment, lower the interest rate, than to get nothing at all. If you can eke out 50 cents on the dollar, well that’s better than just pennies when you close the company and sell off all its stuff.

That’s “sons of this age” sort of stuff. That’s what you do in this life. We all get it. It makes sense. The steward should be praised. He was wise, used all his smarts. There’s no problem with the steward as long as he’s that sort of picture, a picture of some worldly wisdom, but the problem is that he’s also a picture of bankrupt spiritual wisdom.

((4. Ugh!: The steward is a dead ringer for the way we forgive.))

The problem isn’t in the generation of the sons of this age. The problem isn’t with the worldly things. The problem is with spiritual things, with the sons of Light, with Christians. You’re the problem. I’m the problem. How are we the problem? Just look at the steward! He’s a dead ringer for the way you and I forgive people around us.

When someone sins against us, we treat it as if they’re indebted to us when they’re actually indebted to the Lord Himself. And even if we say that their sin, their debt is against God, we still hold it over them. We’ll say that we forgive, but not actually let it go. “I forgive, but I won’t forget.” We’ll bring it up again. Just to get a favor, a change in behavior, a final gotcha to win an argument. We can’t fully forgive because then we lose control. “But the Lord obviously uses His free and full forgiveness with me!” Now, is it wise to use a different forgiveness standard than Jesus? No, not wise. We’re selish in our forgiving or not forgiving.

Just look at the parable: “Thanks for slashing my debt. Now I only owe 80 measures of wheat instead of 100. Now I can care for my family better.” Then the steward shows up and says, “Can I stay with you for a few months till I get back on my feet? Remember how I slashed your debt? You owe me. I won’t eat much over the next few months. Maybe only about 20 measures of wheat…”

No matter how long ago it was, no matter how many other times we’ve brought it up again, “don’t you remember what you did? how I forgave you?” We’re unjust with the little we’re given, and the Lord only gives us three words! “I forgive you.” We can’t even say that most of the time, and when we do, we won’t say it without qualifiers. When we do that, we’re wasting our Lord’s possessions because the Lord delivers Himself and His entire kingdom in those three words (“I forgive you”). “If you haven’t been trustworthy with someone else’s possessions, who will give you what’s yours?” “ The sons of this age are wiser in dealing with their own generation than the sons of Light.”

((3. Aha!: IN THE MANAGER YOU SEE A PICTURE OF CHRIST FOR YOU.))

The manager isn’t just a picture of the sons of this age. A picture of worldly wisdom, of someone who was wise with worldly possessions. The manager isn’t just a picture of the sons of Light, who are unwise with the “I forgive you” the Lord has given them. The manager is also a picture of Jesus because IN THE MANAGER YOU SEE A PICTURE OF CHRIST FOR YOU.

((2. Whee!: Christ Jesus pays all debts as His own.))

The manager was toast, his career over, dead, finished. He was a nothing, a nobody—fired! But the manager out of his nothingness, his emptiness softens his master’s heart. No more, “What’s this? You’re fired!” Now, “You’re a genius! Why hadn’t I thought of that before?!”

So also Jesus from His nothingness, His forsakenness, His suffering and death, softens His Father’s heart into delighting over you. Yes, you! For you see, just like the manager would’ve borne the debt he slashed, so also Jesus bore your sins as His own, suffered their penalty, and won for you complete forgiveness. There’s no 50% or 20% forgiveness with Jesus. There’s no math or calculation or qualifiers. Complete, full, 100% forgiveness. “It is finished,” He said, and His sin-forgiving death wasn’t just for you. It was for all His Father’s debtors. His own life the penalty; His own blood the payment.

He pays it out. “I forgive you,” He says. So His payment, His kingdom, His forgiveness are made yours, just as surely as your sin, your debt was His.

((1. Yeah!: In this Jesus, you are a son of Light.))

In that Jesus, you are a son of Light. Jesus is the true Son of Light. He’s “Light of Light,” as we confess in the Creed. You are baptized into Him. You are light as He is Light because He is your Light. He is the Light no darkness, no death, no sin can overcome. Yours can’t. Your neighbor’s can’t either.

Apart from Jesus, rejecting Him and His light of forgiveness, is the way of darkness. It’s the unjust way, the un-Jesus way. It’s the way of the sons of this age. Calculating, holding back, qualifying, not forgiving selflessly. It’s the way of measuring—how much you forgive, should forgive, have forgiven the people in your life. Are they worthy of completely free and full forgiveness from you? Are you?

The wisdom of the world is that it’s easier and better to let someone else do the heavy lifting. “They’ll receive me into their homes.” Why break my back doing what someone else will do for me? Wouldn’t that be wise? Wouldn’t that be using all your smarts? Why harvest a field by hand when you’ve got a combine? You wouldn’t do that. That’s not wise.

This is why the Lord’s Supper is all encompassing for us. The Lord already did the heavy lifting—forgave all the debt. He empties His account into yours. Body given. Blood shed. Payment made. Payment delivered. There He would do for you again the heavy lifting. Body and blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins. In His body and blood He delivers His forgiveness, and there He will work within you greater faith toward God and fervent love toward one another, even the forgiving of their sin.

IN THE MANAGER YOU SEE A PICTURE OF CHRIST FOR YOU. All debtors forgiven. Blood shed. Blood given. Blood shared. “I forgive you.” His three words. For your neighbor. For you, too. And so you are forgiven.

INI + AMEN.

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