Sermon for Pentecost 15 – 9.18.22

+15th Sunday after Pentecost – September 18th, 2022 +

Series C: Amos 8:4-7; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:1-15

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA


“The Unjust Steward and the Merciful Master”


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Jesus’ parables are like puzzles. Sometimes Jesus’ parables are easily understood, like a children’s wooden puzzle. That was week’s parable of the lost sheep and lost coin. Other times, however, understanding Jesus’ parables is a bit more like piecing together a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle.


That’s today’s parable from Luke 16, the parable of the dishonest manager, or better translated, the unjust or unrighteous steward. Jesus seems to be teaching us several things all at once: the proper place of possessions and wealth in the life of his disciples, what true wisdom is, and through it all, to lean on the mercy and grace of our Master, Christ himself.


So Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.” 


We’re not told what this steward or manager did wrong, only that he squandered the master’s possessions – like the prodigal son squandered his father’s inheritance. Whatever it this guy did, it was bad enough to get him sacked. “Clean off your desk. Pack your stuff. You’re fired.” So what does he do? He does a little soul searching. Too weak to work. Too proud to beg. It would seem that he’s got nothing; nothing, that is except his master’s books.


So before word gets around town that he’s been fired the steward quickly calls his master’s debtors and starts discounting loans like Oprah giving away stuff on her TV show. “You owe 100 measures of oil; make it 50.” “You owe 100 measures of wheat; make it 80.” Mind you, these are no small amounts either. We’re talking somewhere between 800-900 gallons of olive oil. That’s a lot of EVOO. And roughly a semi-trailer full of wheat.


At this point of the story, we’d expect that when the master finds out about this he’ll be blowing steam out of his ears like a looney toon character. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to jail. But that’s not what happens. Instead, the master commends the unjust manager for his shrewdness.


Shrewdness here is street-smarts. Wisdom. It’s not his actions that are being praised. He’s still an unjust steward. It’s his wisdom that is honored. Why? Think about it.


In the face of certain judgment, what does the fired steward do? He banks everything on the master’s good name and reputation. If the master, refuses the deal he looks like a jerk to his debtors. If the master takes the deal and goes ahead with the steward’s debt reduction plan, not only does the unjust steward look good, because he helped out some people in debt, but the master comes across as being gracious, generous, giving, and merciful. In fact, this steward’s plan only works if the master is actually a gracious, generous fellow. If not, the steward is off to McNeil Island. But instead, the unjust steward threw himself entirely on the merciful, giving, generous, gracious nature of the master.


Jesus closes the parable with his own commentary. “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.”

“Now what does that mean?” we’re all thinking.


Jesus is using an old rabbinic teaching method. Arguing from the lesser to the greater. If this thing is true, how much more then is this greater thing true. If this steward, facing judgment and an uncertain future, threw himself on the mercy of his master and was later received into the homes of his friends –how much more ought you to act with greater wisdom: to throw yourself on the mercy of God, and to act wisely even with worldly goods/possessions by not putting your trust in them.


Remember that Jesus is also teaching this parable in ear-shot of the pharisees, of whom Jesus says, “You are lovers of money.” “You cannot serve two masters,” Jesus warns. It’s a warning for us too. Think of this parable as an illustration of Jesus’ words, “where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


All too often our hearts are not fixed where true joys are found, but on things that falter, fade, and fail. It’s not that earthly stuff is bad – quite the opposite, all good things are gifts from God. It’s the love of those things and the trust of those things more than the mercy of Jesus our Master that we become like the unjust steward, squandering the master’s gifts.


Jesus is teaching us the proper place of possessions and earthly stuff. We can hold onto it all with a death grip, but in the end, as good as the gifts of God’s creation, possessions, etc. are, they won’t save you. They won’t forgive your sin. They won’t raise you from the dead. Only the generosity, grace, and mercy of the Master, Jesus, can do that.


And when we come to our Master, Jesus, we find that the judge is also our savior. That Christ came into the world not to condemn you, but to save you. That the hands of Jesus the judge hold not a gavel that hammers out judgment over our sin, but nails that took the judgment in our place on the cross. Where all our sins of placing our hearts, minds, and love in our earthly stuff – that he took all of those sins and paid our debt. Not 20%. Not even 50%. But all of it. Every sin. Every selfish moment. Every self-centered thought, word, and deed. It is paid for by the precious blood of Jesus crucified for you.


You are free from sin and death, and free to live in his mercy, to live in his grace; you are free to hold your possessions with the open, dead hand of faith. This is what Jesus is teaching us when he calls us to make use of unrighteous mammon (stuff).

To be “faithful in unrighteous Mammon” is to handle your money and possessions full of faith, trusting in our good and gracious God who has given all He has in His Son Jesus in order to save us from our bondage to sin, to death, to the Law and to anything that would enslave us.

To be faithful in unrighteous Mammon means that we are free to use our money and possessions to serve others, to do the goodness and mercy of God for our neighbors, to share our goods with a generous hand.

As stewards, you’re in the hands of Christ, your generous, merciful, and gracious Master. “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” He says, “Be anxious about nothing, but look at the birds and the lilies and how God takes care of them and how much more God cares for you, bought by the Blood of His Son.”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

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2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
(253) 922-6977
(253) 922-6977