In our culture today, one might begin to believe that dishonesty pays. If you knew that one day you’d ultimately have to give an account of your crooked ways to God, would it be worth it?
~ View copy of sermon – (Luke 16: 1 – 14)
Sermon Title: RISKY BUSINESS / Luke 16: 1 – 14
Sunday, September 22, 2019
Luke 16: 1 – 14
Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
“He also said to His disciples: ’There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can now be steward.” – Luke 16: 1-2
The background of Luke 16 is that it is part of a Saturday afternoon conversation Jesus was having with his disciples in the home of a Pharisee. The Lord had been invited to break bread with the invited rulers, no doubt Scribes and Pharisees. This invitation came not because they truly welcomed Jesus, but that they might examine His teachings and find fault against him. Some of you might recall that we began with this narrative of Jesus being invited into the home of a Pharisee on the first Sunday of this month: A Sabbath Day Dinner Party.
And so Luke 14 – 16 is Jesus using many parables to communicate the spiritual truths concerning the kingdom of God in relationship to our discipleship. Truths designed to reach the hearts of a mixed multitude. This message was meant for those Scribes and Pharisees, who had opposed Jesus seeking to build discredit him, as well as those who were considering becoming disciples of the Lord. Amen.
A summary of this parable is that a certain people came to a rich landowner and accused one of his stewards of having wasted his possessions and making crooked deals. By his continual actions, he was crooked, unethical, and someone not to be trusted. This parable is commonly referred to as the Parable of the Dishonest Steward. In that this steward used his master’s property for his own selfish gain and comfort. As in the parable of the Prodigal Son, this dishonest steward also wasted what his master had given to him.
And we are reminded that in its biblical usage; a steward simply means one who has been given and entrusted with oversight over the possessions, business affairs, property, servants, training of children, of an owner or master.
Stewardship in the bible carries such themes as giving up as well as giving back. Restoring. Returning. Rendering what is due. Giving freely and graciously. Giving an accounting, give a share of, and to show favor or kindness. And in whatever sense it is used, the basic notion is that what we have oversight of, really does not belong to us, but to God.
This rich landowner did not investigate these charges, which he should have done, concerning the misdeeds of his servant, but he simply ordered the immediate dismissal of this dishonest steward. In fear of being unemployed, note that the steward was not fearful that his master had discovered that he was not trustworthy, but he worried about his continued survival without this job. So what he did was go to all his master’s debtors, and make deals with them.
“How much do you owe him? Eight hundred gallons of olive oil? Take your bill and make it 400. He went to another, “How much do you owe him? A thousand bushels of wheat?” Take your bill and make it 800. He did this, Jesus tells us, in order to find welcome in the homes of those debtors whom he had struck a deal with. The actions of this steward reveal, says Jesus, his true inner heart. That he was destitute of integrity and trustworthiness. He was a dishonest man.
And when the rich landowner found out what his dishonest steward had done, he called him shrewd. Vs. 8 saying, “He praised and commended the dishonest steward because he had acted shrewdly.” In other words this steward was frugal in his dishonesty. He knew how to be responsible in his irresponsibility. He was good at being bad. He had outfoxed the fox. And the landowner kind of took some pride in this, in that his stewards cleverness reminded him of his own ways of doing business. Evidently, he himself knew how to pull a fast one.
And the moral of this parable as Jesus tells it, is that the same sincerity, and faithfulness that this steward exercised in being unfaithful, should be the same sincerity and faithfulness the children of light should demonstrate in our service to God. Amen.
Let’s be sure and certain that Jesus in telling this parable was not condoning the cunning dishonesty, or lack of integrity where his word was his bond, in the actions of this steward. Jesus does not condone him being a crook. But the Lord was lifting up the example of his astuteness and resourcefulness. Astuteness and resourcefulness are words to found in the Christian vocabulary of stewardship as well. This parable is timeless and timely, because we live in a culture today that would suggest that dishonesty pays. As long as you can get away with it. But the parable reminds us that dishonesty never pays.
The parable reminds us that one day no matter if one gets away with their dishonesty with other people, ultimately, they still have to give account of their crooked ways to God. As did this dishonest steward with his master. And are we at times trying to take God’s place in being judge and jury. Because when we get to the root of the matter, every sin while it may have been committed against us, or maybe we were the one who did the wrong, is actually a sin against God. “Declared David in that 51st Psalm, “against thee only have I sinned and done this great evil in your sight.” Too many people in this world are trying to get revenge when God says, “revenge is mine.”
Dishonesty never pays because the parable opens with the narrative that sooner or later, a day will come when one must give an account of one’s stewardship. Amen. We are stewards not only of money, but of the mysteries of the Gospel. Rightly handling, amen, the Word of Truth. We are stewards of our bodies. Paul says it this way, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus, Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” ( 1 Cor. 6:19)
We are stewards of God’s justice and mercy, amen. “For what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Yes, the privileges and opportunities we receive are also gifts from God for our enjoyment but as well for our responsible stewardship. And in all of these says the Lord, we must someday give an account of our stewardship. This parable is rich in application because it also lifts up how this dishonest steward went to all of his masters’ debtors and though corrupt and for his own gain, sought to ease their burden of debt. How much do you owe? 800 gallons of olive oil? Take the bill and right down 400.
And the application is, how much more should the children of light use what God has given us to help the poor and needy, to assist those who are less fortunate than we are? If the dishonest steward knew how to use his master’s goods for selfish gain, while relieving the burden of others indebtedness. How much more then should the children of light use our Master goods. Jesus Christ, for the blessing of this world. Jesus further says,
“I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, then when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. He and she who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and he and she who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” What do you mean Lord, by this statement?
Use what is at your disposal in this world, our possessions, our resources, our life experiences, our social network, our finances, our positions, to make friends in Christ with others. Possessions are not an end unto themselves, if that becomes the case then they have become our idol gods. But possessions can become a means by which we promote, proclaim and bear witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ. I wish I knew how to make it plain.
Listen to what Jesus says in Verse 8 “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation that the sons of light.” Jesus is drawing a contrast. In other words, if only the believer was as eager and ingenious in his or her attempt to attain the fullness of life in Christ, as the person of the world is in their attempt to gain money and comfort. “If only some who are called by My name”, says Jesus, “would give as much attention to their souls, and their relationship with Me, and My church as they do with their time and energy on their making money, their golf, their material possessions, their hobbies, their gardens, their fine houses, they would be would be better disciples.” And Jesus says, in vs. 9 if we use our earthly possessions to gain friends in Christ, then we will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. But Money alone, does not exhaust the meaning and mission of being stewards for God. Our stewardship includes but is not limited to our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, friends, the aged, the disinherited, the dropouts and the drop-ins, the push aside, as well as rich and the famous. Our stewardship covers our influence, our personality, as well as our commitments.
First Corinthians 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy, or in other words, faithful.” God is not so much concerned about our success as He is our faithfulness. Not so much with how much we can amass and keep, but with how much we can give away in the name of the Lord. God is not so much concerned with building bigger buildings, but in our building better lives in the Lord.
In this way we make ready ourselves for giving an account to the Lord of our responsible stewardship. And to hear Him say, Say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, because you have been faithful in a few things I will now make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” “You may build great cathedrals large or small, You can build skyscrapers grand and tall, You may conquer all the failures of the past, But only what you do for Christ will last.”