daily biblical sermons


USE YOUR WEALTH TO MAKE FRIENDS FOR YOURSELVES BY HELPING PEOPLE WITH IT
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, 31st Week of the Year, November 08, 2019
Romans 15:14-21, Psalm 97, Luke 16:1-8


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence; for the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations” (Luke 16:8-9).

 

 

This is a very unusual parable that many people find difficult to understand, since it seems to praise a dishonest steward for defrauding his master of his goods by dishonestly lowering the debt of his debtors. Some commentators have tried to explain it by saying that the steward was only cutting off his own commission. Others maintain that the steward was just cutting off his master’s usurious commission, which was too high. Still others say that the steward was simply out right cheating his master out of his money.

 

 

Personally I think the third explanation is the best one. He is a dishonest steward who was accused of wasting his master’s goods. So his master decides to fire him. Now the steward is in big trouble. How is he going to support himself once he is fired? He is not physically up to digging ditches. He had an honorable and prestigious job, and so he now is ashamed to go out into the streets and beg from people. He finally hits on a way to support himself once he is fired. He will do what he has always done, namely cheat people out of their money, as he cheated his master out of his money.

 

 

But he will do it in such a way that he will make friends for himself at the expense of his master, for he decides to call in all his master’s debtors and reduce their debt by as much as half – and these were huge debts that they had. You can imagine how grateful these debtors will be for all the money that this steward will have saved them. Then once the steward is fired, he can visit his master’s debtors and tell them that he was unfortunately fired and is now wondering how is going to survive and find money to live on; and surely these debtors whom he has so greatly helped financially at the expense of his master will welcome him as a guest in their homes and may even give him a job.

 

 

So that is what he does. When his master finds out what he did, “the master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence; for the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8).

 

 

Then Jesus gives the moral to the parable, “And I tell you [he is talking to us now], make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations” (Luke 16:9). Remember that this dishonest steward said earlier, “I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship” (Luke 16:4). His plan was to make friends with his master’s debtors who would receive him into their homes once he is fired.

 

 

So Jesus tells us that we should do the same. We should make friends with people by helping them financially with our money, and then these friends will “receive you into the eternal habitations” (Luke 16:9). In other words, you will be welcomed into heaven by the very people you made friends with by helping them financially with your money.

 

 

Parables usually make only one simple point. Not all the details of a parable will necessarily apply to us. So the part about this man cheating his master out of his money by reducing the debts of his debtors is simply part of the story, part of the parable, but not part of the lesson that we are supposed to learn. We are not to imitate the steward’s dishonesty and go around cheating people out of their money. The point that we are to learn is to use money (mammon) to help other people and make friends for ourselves among them by helping them. That is the point. That is how we are to use our worldly goods and money, beyond what we need for basic things like food, shelter, clothing, and other incidental expenses like ink and paper for our computer etc.

 

 

This is the opposite of the way that most people today would want to use their wealth. If they are very successful in their business, they want to have a large, beautiful, impressive home in a high-class area amid other beautiful homes and trees and lawns. They want to have several of the nicest and most expensive cars, have the most delicious food, and the most exotic vacations, perhaps on tropical cruises etc. Jesus is telling us today, “Don’t do that, because if you do, you will fail to serve God in the way that he wants to be served, for you cannot serve God properly and also spend all your money on luxurious living,” for Jesus concludes this parable, saying, “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 mammon” (Luke 16:13).

 

 

What does this mean? Most people today, it seems, either only serve mammon or try to serve both God and mammon. Jesus tells us that serving God and mammon is impossible, because if you try to do this, you will not be serving God in the single minded, single hearted way that he wants to be served, for you will be divided between luxurious spending and simple living in the service of the Lord, and God will not be pleased with your life.

 

 

Trying to serve mammon alone is obviously wrong, for God created us to serve him with all our heart and soul, mind and strength; not mammon, which is a false god, and we should serve the Lord alone, not false gods.

 

 

So how do we serve God alone? What are we to do with our money, once we have used it for food, shelter, clothing, and the basics of life? What if we still have a lot of money that we don’t know what to do with – what should we do with it? Jesus tells us today that we should use it to make friends for ourselves by helping people in need.

 

 

So the use of our money is really a litmus test that will indicate whether we are properly oriented or not. If we do not use our money properly, we are not properly oriented toward God. If we do use our money properly, we probably are correctly oriented towards God. So Jesus says, “He who is faithful in a very little [with money] is faithful also in much [in spiritual matters]” (Luke 16:10). If we are faithful with our money, which is very little, we will also be faithful in much, namely in our devotion to God. So if we use our excess money to help those in need or to promote the preaching of the gospel and in the service of the Lord, we have used our money well, and we will also be faithful in much, that is, in spiritual matters, which are far more important than money matters.

 

 

“And he who is dishonest in very little is dishonest also in much” (Luke 16:10b). So if we are dishonest in our use of money, using it in a way against God’s will, namely for our own worldly pleasures, then we will also be dishonest in more important things, that is, in spiritual matters, and we will have an improper relationship with God, for we will be improperly oriented.

 

 

Jesus next says, “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you true riches?” (Luke 16:11). So if we are not faithful in our use of money (mammon), using it for our own worldly pleasures instead of for helping those in need and in the Lord’s service, “who will entrust to you true riches?” (Luke 16:11b). In other words, who will entrust to you grace, the gift of righteousness, and the joy of living in the Lord’s favor, declared and made righteous by God through our faith, because of Christ’s atoning death for our sins on the cross? The answer is: nobody! We will not be given these greater true spiritual riches if we fail to use our money (mammon) properly, as God wants us to.

 

 

So having heard this word of God today, what should we, then, do? How should we, then, live? We should live in a radically new way, radically different from the world around us, radically different from the secular culture in which we live. We should live for the Lord and his service. We should live for the preaching of the good news of salvation now available in our Lord Jesus Christ, because of his atoning death on the cross for our sins, inviting people to put their faith in him so that God may credit their account with his suffering and death as payment of the punishment of suffering and death that they owe God for their sins, and declare and make them righteous (justify them).

 

 

We should also use our money in the service and love of our neighbor, helping those in need, as our means may permit. If we do this, we will make many friends for ourselves with our money so that they may welcome us into the eternal habitations, that is, into heaven. And how could we best help people with our wealth? The answer is: by preaching the gospel to them – by supporting a ministry of preaching the gospel – which will renew their lives and grant them eternal salvation if they repent and put their faith in Christ.

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