Making Friends of God with Unrighteous Wealth
The Ninth Sunday after Holy Trinity
August 18-19, 2019
Luke 16:1-9 The Dishonest Manager
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Victor Hugo may have had the parable of the unjust steward in mind, when he wrote the famous candlestick scene with the bishop and Jean-Valjean. The main character of Victor Hugo’s famous book had just been released from prison and was unable to find work or a place to stay.
When he was finally invited to eat and then spend the night with the kindly old bishop. Early in the morning full of bitterness Jean stole silver plates and utensils as he left the house. He was caught by the police that same morning and brought him back to the bishop. The bishop pretended that he gave Jean the silver as a gift. And on top of that the bishop gave him a pair of matching silver candlesticks which he had not stolen to add to the gift.
Les Miserable Means We Need Mercy
It is quite a picture of mercy. And that by the way of the word miserable. It means in need of mercy. That is what we mean when we confess that we are poor miserable sinners. We need mercy.
In any case in the novel this event re-birthed Jean Valjean and drives the whole story.
The parable of the unjust steward portrays a similar surprise. It is not unlike giving silver candlesticks to a thief who has already stolen plates and silverware. The steward or manager in our translation had stolen from the rich man. He had wasted his property. When called to give an account he stole even more. Using bribes to win friends.
We expect the rich man to be outraged. To be infuriated and frustrated. We expect that justice would require this man who wasted property and then stole more. Instead, the rich man commends the thief for stealing.
God Is Not Like Us
This is not a parable to show us how much God is like us. God is not like us.
The fruit of the parables is in the distinction, in the surprise, how God is not like us.
This is not the way we behave. Justice wants those who steal to pay it back. It doesn’t commend them for it. But here is how God is different than us. God wants to give His kingdom away. However it was that the steward was wasting the rich man’s property it was rectified when the rich man’s debtors were forgiven the debt, not when they paid it back. Here is the point: God wants to give His goods away to those who sought to steal from Him. He wants as sons and daughters the very people who murdered His beloved Son. And He wants to bestow His kingdom upon rebels who plotted against Him. We are not worthy of such mysteries and joys but God bestows this Good News upon us in His Holy Word.
But Those Who Have Ears To Hear, Hear This:
Our Lord interprets this parable when He says “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal blessings. This is the key. For who can receive you into an eternal dwelling?
Therefore our Lord tells you to make a friend for yourself of God through unrighteous mammon and wealth that you might be received into eternity. What unrighteous wealth could you use to bribe God? Stolen wealth. Only that which belongs to another. Which is not yours by right. That which you cannot buy or earn so it must be stolen. The innocent die for the guilty. That injustice is the very foundation of the kingdom and of creation.
The Shocking Character of Grace
And this is the shocking character of grace. God wants to give away His goods to the very people who stole from Him. To the very people who murdered His beloved Son. And He wants to bestow His kingdom on rebels guilty of treason who plotted against Him. The father forsakes the son in order to have you. He declares that the guilty are innocent. And he accepts payment from the son for your debt.
Then He goes so far as to say you were never guilty. And He has even more to give. More than you tried to steal. He adds candlesticks to plates and spoons. It is not “write down 80 when you owe 100.” It is not even “write down 0.” He takes the pad and He adds a credit. You end up with more than you sought to steal. You are not less in debt or even with God but you are actually rewarded for trying to steal from Him. He pays more than justice demands; our cups overflow.
And that is the unrighteous wealth. The stolen wealth that makes God a friend of sinners. It is the blood of Jesus Christ from the cross and the chalice that welcomes sinners into eternal dwellings as God’s own friends when this creation fails.
What Are We Supposed To Do Now?
Our Lord also says that we are to be faithful with unrighteous wealth. That is we are to be faithful in thievery. To be faithful in this thievery is to recognize that the blood of Jesus Christ is desirable to want it to honor it to love it and to keep on taking it.
The blood of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection. His innocent, substitutionary suffering is the currency of heaven which is given in perfect generosity to thieving sinners who receive even more than what they sought to steal.
The Psalmist asks what shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits of the Lord to me. And he answers, “I shall take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. What shall I give to the Lord for all the things He has done to me. The Psalmist says, I will take more.
I Will Take More.
God wants to give away His goods. He wants sons and daughters declared out of the very people who murdered His very son. And he wants to bestow His kingdom upon rebels guilty of treason who plotted against Him; in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, guard and keep you in body and soul through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.