September 18, 2016

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit

Old Testament Lesson; Amos 8:4-7

Epistle Lesson; 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Sermon Text; Luke 16:1-13

The Word of God we look at for today is taken from Luke, chapter 16, looking at verses 1 through 13. This is in Jesus' name.

Jesus also said to His disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and the charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' And the manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' He said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' He said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And 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. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


So remember, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. He has followers that are going with Him, comprised of His disciples, and a group of people, including the Pharisees. Jesus, in this portion of scripture, is telling a lot of parables. (A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.) Right before this, Jesus told the parable of The Prodigal Son. The word 'prodigal' means 'wasteful'. It was the son who received the inheritance, while his father was still living. He wasted it. He squandered it. He asked himself, “Now what shall I do?” All he wanted to do was go back, and be a servant in his father's house.

When he returned, remember what the father did? He didn't just restore him to being a servant, but he restored him to being a son. He forgave, and restored his son.

Right on the heels of that, Jesus tells this parable of The Shrewd Manager. Another way of talking about this parable is The Parable of the Dishonest Manager.

Well, what is Jesus teaching us in this parable for today? Remember, it is an earthly story, but there is a heavenly meaning involved in it. There are two things that really come out.

       -Jesus wants us to be faithful (we will look at that at the end).

       -But, He also wants us to be 'shrewd'. What does it mean to be 'shrewd'? During the course of this past week, I have said the word 'shrewd' in my head, many, many times. It is a very fun word to say. Go ahead, and say it!

Well, what does that word mean? We use it sometimes, but what does it mean? In the dictionary, if you were to look up the word 'shrewd' it would mean, 'to be cleaver', 'to be astute', 'to be wise'. And so, every time I say the word 'shrewd', think in terms of God wanting us 'to be wise'.

Be wise with what God has given to you.

To that point, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who has a manager, who manages things for the debtors he has. So, there are the rich man, manager, and debtors in the parable. It has come to the rich man's attention that the manager has been dishonest. He has been unfaithful in being the middle man between the rich man, and his debtors. The rich man calls the manager in, and he basically says, “You are fired. I will give you just a little bit of time to turn in the account books, because you need to make an account of how unfaithful you have been.”

The manager doesn't contest that. He knows he is guilty. He knows he is wrong. So, he asks a very good question, “What shall I do? I have been unfaithful, so what should I do now? There are two things I can't do. I am too weak to dig.”

Now, someone once told me, if you know how to use a shovel, you will never be without a job, because everybody is looking for somebody to dig. But, he said, “I am too weak to dig.”

He also said, “I am too proud to beg.” He is not like one of those people here in Madison, at stop lights, and stop signs who have pieces of cardboard, begging for money. He says, “I am too proud to do that, so what shall I do?”

So, before he turns over the accounting books to the rich man, he says, “I am going to go to these debtors. I am going to act favorably toward these debtors, so that when I am fired, don't have an income, don't have a house, and my reputation has been destroyed, it will be those debtors who will look favorably to me and they will help me out in the situation I am in.”

The parable gives two examples of debtors who owe something to the rich man. The first is a debtor who owes 'one hundred measures of oil'. Now, the Greek word there for that measurement is 'bath'. He owed one hundred baths of olive oil. In doing some calculations over the course of this past week, that is nine hundred gallons of olive oil. In your kitchen at home, you have just a little bottle, don't you? Nine hundred gallons of olive oil! Commentators say that is like, in Jesus' day, three years wages. It would take about one hundred and fifty olive trees to make that much olive oil. That is a lot this debtor was indebted to the rich man.

The manager told him to slash it in half. “All you owe is fifty percent of that, which is 450 gallons of olive oil.”

The debtor was happy about that. His debt was slashed in half.

The second debtor owed 'one hundred measures of wheat'. Now, the Greek measurement here is 'a core'. The amount I figured out this past week was one, full semi-tractor trailer full of wheat. That is a lot of wheat!

He was told to slash his bill to 80% of that. That debtor was happy that his debt to the rich man was slashed, as well.

Remember the manager was still doing this on behalf of the rich man, even though he had been fired. He had not turned in the accounting books, just yet.

When the rich man heard what the manager had done, even though he was dishonest, as a rich businessman, he commended the manager for being shrewd. He commended the manager for being wise.

Jesus went on to say, “It is the people of this world, it is the unbelievers who know how to be shrewd, who know how to be wise, with earthly things. I want you to be shrewd, and I want you to be wise, with heavenly things. I want you to be wise, with spiritual things.”

I am going to date myself a little bit by using this example. Back in the early 1990s there was a movie that came out. It was called Schindler's List. Schindler's List chronicled Germany, during World War II. It talked about this rich businessman, by the name of Oscar Schindler, who had an industry. He was very wealthy.

During the course of the war, he heard about the Jews who were being sent to Auschwitz, and going to concentration camps. And, many Jews were being put to death.

Oscar Schindler started to use his own personal finances to buy Jews. He would buy Jews, so they would come, and work in his factory, in his industry. He would save them from death in those concentration camps. But, he was also using them to sabotage the ammunition he was making for his own German people.

He bought 1,000 Jews, before the war came to an end. When the Germans surrendered, he had gone from a rich businessman, to a man who was broke, and penniless. He told all of the Jews who were his workers, “You are free to go”. He had saved 1,000 Jews.

Near the end of the movie, as he was talking to the financial manager, who was a Jew, himself, he said, “Here is my car I could have sold, and bought 10 more Jews from death. Here is this other little possession I have. I could have sold that, and bought one more Jew, so the Jew would not have died.” Then he asked this question. “Why didn't I do more?” He had saved 1,000 Jews from death, but he still asked the question, “Why didn't I do more?”

At the end of our lives, we are going to have to give an account to God, just like the manager had to give an account to the rich man. Will we be like Oscar Schindler at the end of our life, and ask, “Why didn't I do more?”

“Oh Jesus,

Teach me to be shrewd, and teach me to wise, with what you have given to me, so that I can save people, not from an earthly perspective, but so that I can save people from a heavenly perspective.”

Jesus wants us to be shrewd, and wise, with heavenly things, with eternal things.

So, what can we do with what God has given to us? Last week, and this week, as we are kicking off The Anniversary Thank Offering for our synod, for the 100 years our synod has existed, and the 500 years since The Reformation, that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, we are really looking at ways we can be shrewd and wise, with eternal things.

Last week there was a brochure of this Anniversary Offering, that was handed out at the end of the service. Pastor Bartels had us look at the little girl in the orange dress, and how you have been shrewd and wise with your offerings so that she can know Jesus is her Savior.

We can be shrewd and wise, as our synod is taking this offering to open up new home missions, here in the United States. It costs 1.5 million dollars to open a new mission site.

Another thing our Anniversary Thank Offering is encouraging us to do is something known as A Vicar in Mission Program. Just as I was a vicar here, at Holy Cross, once upon a time, (that is the last year of your seminary training), we are encouraging Vicars go to mission sites. It cost about $30,000.00 a year for a vicar to be in a mission setting.

We are also looking at Cross Cultural Ministry. We have a congregation in Bell Gardens, California, where 83% of the people's primary language is Spanish. How wonderful it would be to send a Spanish Missionary to do that work in Bell Gardens California.

What was the question Oscar Schindler asked? He asked,

“Why didn't I do more?”

Well, we can be shrewd, and we can be wise, as we give to our Anniversary Thank Offering, so that from a heavenly perspective the offerings we give will in ministry help others know Jesus is their Savior.

I also want to commend you this morning for the offerings you gave for the current Relocation Campaign we are in, and the wonderful building we have out at Holy Cross Way!

       -Already, your offerings are being used for heavenly things. There are kids in our school who never would have come here to Milwaukee Street, but they are out at Holy Cross Way, sitting at the feet of our teachers, learning that Jesus is their Savior.

       -Already there are families in our Early Learning Center, who never would have come here to Milwaukee Street. But, they are now in our Early Learning Center. Some have gone through our New Member Class.

       -Already babies have been baptized, and ministry has been done, sharing with these families and youth, that Jesus is their Savior.

So, we can be shrewd and wise with what God has given to us.

But, not only does God want us to be shrewd, but He also wants us to be faithful, as well.

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States. Before that, he was the police commissioner of New York City. Before that, he was an author. He was a soldier. And, he was a land owner. He had staked a claim in North Dakota. One day, he and a cowhand were out roaming their fields, and their neighbor's fields, when they came across a stray calf. They were getting ready to brand that calf.

Now, here is the thing, back in those days. When a stray calf was found, it became the property of the landowner on which it was found. That stray calf was found on the neighbor's property, Gregor Lanes. The cowhand was getting ready to brand the calf, and Theodore Roosevelt said, “What are you doing?”

He said, “I am getting ready to brand this calf, with your brand on it.”

Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not my calf. It belongs to Gregor Lang, because we found it on his property.”

The cowhand said, “Well, I am going to put your brand on it.”

That is when Theodore Roosevelt told that cowhand to go back to the cabin, get all of his possessions, and get out of there. He said, “If someone is willing to steal for me, that same person will be willing to steal from me.”

Jesus, today, is not only teaching us to be shrewd and wise with what He has given to us, but He is encouraging us to be faithful and honest. If you are faithful and honest with a little, then you will be faithful and honest with much.

Which gets me to ask this pointed question (and it is a good one for me to hear, as well). “Have we always been honest? Have we always been faithful?”

The answer is, “No, we haven't always been honest. We haven't always been faithful. We are guilty, because of that.”

But, it is Jesus, our Savior, who has been faithful in our place. Remember, right now as our text is happening, Jesus is resolutely set His sight on Jerusalem. He has resolutely set His sight on Mount Calvary.

What was Jesus getting ready to do?

Jesus was getting ready to be faithful,

even to the point of death.

It was at the cross that Jesus showed His faithfulness to us, forgiving us of our sin, so that we may have everlasting life with Him, in Heaven.

The possessions we have are not our own. They are the Lord's. May we be shrewd. May we be shrewd and wise with what God has given to us. May we use those possessions to, in a sense, 'buy' people for eternal life in Heaven. We can do that through our Thank Offering. We can do that through our Relocation Offering. May we be faithful managers, faithful stewards, of what our Lord has given to us.