PENTECOST 18, C – September 22, 2013

SCRIPTURES – Ps. 119:137-144; Amos 8:4-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-15; Luke 16:1-15 

I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. Luke 16 

You have said some incredible things this morning: “I believe in God the Father almighty… I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord… I believe in the Holy Spirit…” By saying, “I believe,” you made your own the words of the Apostles’ Creed. What great things you said about God: about who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing and will do in the future. “I believe this.” How wonderful!

Ok, now: WHY? Why do you believe what you believe about God? What are you seeking from Him? This is, in essence, what Jesus is asking you in the strange story He told of the dishonest manager. He knew that the rich man he served was exceedingly merciful and kind. This is why, when he was going to be removed from his position, he called in the rich man’s debtors and reduced their debts. He believed that the rich man would allow these transactions to stand, and in gratefulness the debtors would take care of him. What he believed about the rich man prompted his self-serving actions. What about you? Why do you believe in the Triune God? What are you seeking from Him?

Many pray to and worship the Triune God because they want to be blessed here and now. They count on God’s goodness to help them prosper, as the dishonest manager counted on his master’s goodness to allow him to prosper. Don’t we all want good, happy lives? Well, when it comes to the things of this life and world, the Triune God can certainly give them! You think the rich man in Christ’s story was rich? How incredibly rich is “God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth”! God made and owns everything!

And yet, even though wealth and possessions can be said to come from God, such things – what some translations of the Bible call mammon – are simply things. Wealth and possessions are neither good nor bad. It is no sin – but also no blessing – to be rich… or poor… or just somewhere in between.

We all know, however, that worldly wealth and possessions are very attractive and desirable. For this reason, Jesus has some very important words about them that we need to remember and take to heart.

  • He calls worldly wealth and possessions unrighteous: “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth.” What He means is that they do not bring the true righteousness we need from God, namely, His love and favor and the forgiveness of our sins. Worldly wealth and possessions are temporary things that both good and evil people can have. But, when we die we will stand before God without them, naked before Him who “knows our hearts,” Jesus says. No amount of worldly wealth will help you then! 
  • “You cannot serve God and money,” Jesus warns. And, money needs to be served. It is gained with our labors and protected by our efforts. The more we have of it the more we worry about it. Only Christ can free you of this! 
  • “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God,” says our Lord. People exalt wealth, or an important job, or athletic skill, or intelligence. Seeking people’s approval and acceptance through such things is an abomination to God, repugnant and disgusting in His sight. If you so are wrapped up in earning money and making yourself secure that you don’t make time to listen to God or follow what He says; if gaining people’s acceptance and approval keeps you from following the Lord’s Word; then you are making yourself an abomination to God, His enemy!

Don’t make the wealth and favor of this world your focus. They are not the blessings God most desires to give. They may even be a danger to your faith and salvation.

We must also remember something else that Jesus says: worldly wealth is not the true riches. God has given us His Son. Jesus is the true riches. 

  • He is rich without measure with the love of God, for He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit and is the visible expression of God’s love for you. 1 John 4:9-10 says: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 
  • He is rich with the forgiveness of your sins, for He took all of them upon and within Himself. In His holy body and by His death He condemned our sins. Romans 3:23-24 says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and [all] are justified” – forgiven! – “by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” 
  • He is rich with eternal life. Even though our sin and death brought about His death, He is the eternal Lord over whom death has no power. Three days after He died He rose bodily from the dead to ascend into heaven and live forevermore!

If you have Jesus, then, you are truly wealthy. Every sin of yours is forgiven, and none will ever be remembered or held against you by God. And, God loves you as His own dear child. He loves you with an eternal love and gives you eternal life in Christ, so that you will triumph over death and live forever! These riches of Christ are what we should seek above all, for they are the true riches. They are also God’s free gift to you. He gives them to you in His Word, which tells you of Jesus and puts His hope and love in your hearts; He gives them to you in Holy Baptism, in which God puts His name upon you and takes you to be His child; and He gives them to you to you in the Supper of Christ’s body and blood, in which Jesus Himself, with all of His gifts, enters into your very flesh and joins His living body to your dying body.

Jesus, then, is the riches you should seek and rejoice in above all. When it comes to the far lesser riches of worldly wealth and possessions that God gives you. Use them to show God’s mercy and love. Like the rich man in Jesus’ story, use them generously, sometimes even in ways that seem foolish, to draw people to see Jesus as the true riches, that they may praise Him and be friends in Christ who will “receive you into the eternal dwellings.” To the praise and glory of Jesus, our Savior!