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The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 22, 2019 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Luke 16:1–16:15

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Luke 16:1-15
Date: September 22, 2019; Pentecost 15; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • The parable Jesus told in our Gospel lesson for this morning is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to understand.
  • It’s a hard one to figure out.
  • Jesus told a parable of a crooked money manager who was wasting his master’s possessions. 
  • Charges were brought against him and the man was called in to give an account and hand over his accounting books and keys - and he was fired on the spot.
  • This left him unemployed and in a terrible jam - who would hire him once everyone found out what he had done? 
  • So what does he do? 
  • Before word gets out about his being fired, he quickly calls in the rich man’s debtors and starts discounting the loans. He knocks off fifty percent here, twenty percent there, collecting what he can at deep discount. 
  • In other words, he’s cashing in on his master’s good name and reputation. 
  • It’s dishonest.  It’s theft.
  • But it’s a shrewd move. 
  • The master is cornered. If he refuses the deal - he looks bad. 
  • If he takes the deal - the crooked money manager looks good and has a lot of friends. 
  • The master knew shrewdness when he saw it, and he commended the dishonest manager for it.
  • This is why it’s a difficult text!
  • It seems to come across in this parable that Jesus is saying that we should be like the dishonest manager.  That we too will be commended if we scheme and lie and steal.
  • But that certainly doesn’t line up with anything else that Jesus teaches.  
  • So how can this be?
  • This parable is often titled the Unjust Steward or the Shrewd Manager in various translations of the Bible.
  • And just so you know - the titles that you see aren’t actually part of the original biblical text – but are names that have been picked up through the ages.
  • And this one has become known as the Unjust Steward or the Shrewd Manager.
  • Unfortunately many of the names for the parables in the Bible are focused on the wrong main character. 
  • They put the emphasis on the wrong syllable.
  • The parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, would better be called the parable of the Gracious Father for how gracious and merciful he is to his wayward son.
  • The father is the main character in that parable - not the son.
  • And so it is with this parable. 
  • It shouldn’t be called the Parable of the Unjust Steward or the Shrewd Manager – it should be called the Parable of the Merciful Master.
  • The main character is not the manager – it’s the Master!
  • The Master shows that he is gracious and merciful. 
  • The Master could have had the dishonest manager beaten and thrown into prison.  This would have ruined his and his family’s life.
  • But instead the Master had mercy.  He set him free, released him from his just imprisonment.
  • Grace is receiving what you don’t deserve.
  • Mercy is not receiving what you do deserve.
  • The dishonest steward deserved to be found guilty and imprisoned - but instead the Master had mercy.
  • He had mercy because he is the Merciful Master.
  • So to understand this parable correctly – we have to get the emphasis on the right syllable.
  • First, it should be noted that the Master doesn’t approve of the managers theft - but he commends him for being clever.
  • But that’s not the main point. 
  • Above all, the main point in the parable is not how clever the manager was – but how merciful the Master is.
  • And that’s why it is misnamed - the parable is to show us, and give us, a picture of the merciful character of God.
  • So many people picture God to be a harsh task-master - an angry judge who is out to get you.
  • But that is not the true nature of who God is. 
  • In Christ, God is merciful.
  • In Christ, God is gracious.
  • In Christ, God is loving and forgiving.
  • As we heard so clearly last week – there is great joy over a sinner who repents and receives mercy.
  • The picture we ought to have of God is not one of a harsh and angry judge – but for the sake of Jesus - a merciful, patient, forgiving Father.
  • For the sake of Christ you have a merciful Master.
  • For the times when you have been dishonest, for the times when you have only been worried about yourself at the expense of others, for the times when you plotted and planned and schemed to do what you knew is wrong - Jesus took that guilt to the cross and died for it.
  • He paid the debts we owe.
  • He suffered the punishment that should have been ours. 
  • He died the death sentence we all deserve.
  • That’s the merciful heart of God shown in graphic detail - a bleeding and dying Jesus on the cross - for you.
  • And we see the power of God in Jesus’ resurrection - when Light conquered darkness, when Life defeated death - once and for all.
  • And today Christ gives you his victory and saves you through your Baptism, through the word of forgiveness and reconciliation he speaks to you, through the Bodied bread and Bloodied wine with which he feeds you. 
  • We have been set free from the debt we owe and we have been given new life by the Merciful Master!
  • In Christ, God gives love to the loveless, righteousness to the unrighteous, and eternal life to those who deserve death.
  • So live in the joy of knowing God’s love for you. 
  • Live in the happiness of knowing God’s gracious and merciful heart toward you.
  • Live in the peace that comes from knowing that God is at peace with you.
  • Live in the certain hope that your death has been defeated and you will live for eternity.
  • In Jesus name.  Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

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