What Do Your Words And Actions Say About Your Heart?

Text: Luke 16:1-13 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

We cannot look into people’s hearts to discern what people believe and think.  So, in a way, we can’t judge people because we can’t see inside their hearts and minds.  However, we can see and hear people’s deeds, words, and actions, because these things are visible and audible. 

And so, when people say things and do things, these actions reveal a portion of what is going on in their heart – whether good or bad.  Yes, deeds, words, and actions betray the heart and mind.  Like a bad poker face, deeds, words, and actions tell what is being held in the card-players hand.  So, for example, let us look at the manager’s deeds, words, and actions in today’s parable. 

In the Gospel reading from Luke, “The manager was accused of mismanagement and was fired immediately and told to turn in the record books. [But] before the manager turned in the books, without the consent of the landlord, he shrewdly but crookedly called in several laborers and made settlement of debts which favored the laborers. In this way, the crooked manager made friends with the laborers so that he could live with them after he had turned in his books.”[1]

The manager’s deeds, words, and actions were devious.  Smart and shrewd, but very devious. 

Now, we must pause and clarify several things at this point.  You see, Jesus is not showing us Christians that the manager is some model citizen that we should imitate.  Jesus is not advocating lying, cheating, and stealing.  However, Jesus is showing us that the way in which the manager shrewdly and wisely used money reveals something about his heart.  His actions, words, and deeds point to a deeper problem. 

So, how did he use the money? 

Well, as already stated, he cheated the landlord.  He was very dishonest.  He took the record books and used the landlord’s money to obtain future security for himself.  By doing this, the manager was proving himself to be very wise.  Not only had he been cheating the landlord in the past, but he stuck it to the landlord even after he was fired.  So, as a result, the manager obtained future security by cheating everyone. 

Let’s be honest here.  If your god is yourself, money, possessions, and the pleasures of this world, then you’ve gotta admit that the manager knocked it out of the park.  I mean, if the manager feared, loved, and trusted the landlord, he would not have done what he did.  If the manager feared, loved, and trusted in God, he also would not have done what he did.  But because the manager had no fear of the landlord, and had no god, except himself and his earthly desires of wealth and security, well… he went the way of wickedness and like a mastermind criminal shrewdly took care of business. 

But that brings us back to our previous point.  What do his actions say about his heat?  What do his actions reveal about himself?      

Well, it is quite simple.  If you find yourself lying, cheating, and stealing to secure your future and pad your wallet, it goes to show that there is something wrong in the heart.  And what might be wrong in the heart?  The answer, you are not serving God, but are serving money, possessions, and the pleasures of this world – or as they used to say in the olden days Mammon. 

Dear friends, you cannot serve two masters.  If you worship Mammon – that is money, material things, and anything that promises you security other than God – you end up acting like the crooked manager.  And as we are beginning to see, the manager lied, cheat, and stole because his god was Mammon.  Frankly stated, because the manager feared, loved, and trusted money, possessions, and earthly security, he cheated everyone.  Because of his narcissistic hungry stomach, he craved not God and His good gifts, but the things of this life.  The manager used his conniving wisdom to work the landlord over. The manager only cared about serving himself, and so his actions reflected his self-centered greediness. 

To the point.  The manager’s actions show us that he was a faithful servant of Mammon.  He was a model zealot for money.  He was the poster child, the big cheese, the numero uno, the top gun disciple and servant of money, wealth, possessions – Mammon. 

The manager was fully developed in his wickedness because of his fully developed fear, love, and trust of Mammon.  His psyche and thoughts were pinpointed on Mammon.  His thoughts bent inward on money, “Show me the money!” 

And so, the manager has shown us visibly on the outside by his words, actions, and deeds that he will do anything to serve the god of Mammon – money. 

What does this mean though?  It means that we have a comparison of opposites – we see what it looks like to fear, love, and trust Mammon (i.e., money and possessions) rather than God.  We see the opposite side of the coin; we see the opposite side of the spectrum.  The parable from today is showing us the opposite way of how things should be – what it looks like to have Mammon as a Master and not the Lord.

Now, with all of that said, this parable leads us to a very uncomfortable place.  And that is this: what do your words, actions, and deeds say about your heart? Who are you serving?  Mammon?  Or the Lord God? 

Dear friends, I am not trying to place some North American materialistic guilt upon you by asking this, but rather, I am asking you a very concrete question for a specific purpose. Who do you serve?  Who is your master?  What do your words, actions, and deeds say about your heart?  If given two choices, do you chase and seek after the Benjamins (i.e., money) or do you hunger and thirst for God?     

You cannot serve two masters.  You cannot serve God and Mammon.  You cannot serve the Lord and money.  You will either love one and hate the other, or hate the one and love the other.  You can’t have both as equal masters. 

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy on you, and me too. 

. . .

Dear Baptized Saints, you cannot have two masters because there is no substitute for Jesus.  And furthermore, you cannot have two masters because you do not belong to Mammon but to Jesus.  You were not purchased with Gold or Silver, but with Jesus’ precious blood. 

There is more. 

Think of it this way, money, possessions, and the pleasures of this world are lifeless things.  They are not lasting or eternal.  They are simple tools that we use.  Therefore, to derive our worth and our identity from them? . . . that is foolish!  To fear, love, and trust Mammon?  No way, no how!  Money, possessions, and earthly pleasures have no power to possess us or protect us.  They are fleeting.  They are not alive.  They are mere tools in this life.  We cannot take them to the grave, and they certainly do not protect us from the grave. 

But Jesus does! 

Jesus does protect us from the grave.  We can indeed go to the grave with Jesus because He owns us.  He is our Master. 

And so, as blood-bought-baptized-Christians, we know that our goal is the exact opposite of the manager.  In other words, your joy and security are not Mammon, but Jesus.  Your wisdom is not selfish shrewdness, but Jesus.  Your fear, love, and trust are not in some lifeless dollar bill, or some comatose material object, or some temporary earthly pleasure, but in the God who created you, redeemed you and sanctified you.  And your master is not some unresponsive Mammon, but the living, active, powerful, resurrected Lord. 

Dear Baptized Saints, fear, love, and trust in Jesus, for in Him your future is secure.  In Him, you have one who is a friend of sinners.  In Him, you have everything that is needful and lasting.  In Him, you need no other, for He holds your future, your well-being, and your faith forever.[2]

In the name of your Master and Lord, Jesus Christ: Amen.

[1] Harold Buls, “The Sermon Notes of Harold Buls,” http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/bul/trin-09.html (access July 28, 2018).
[2] Partial quote from Rev. Sean Daenzer's sermon on Luke16:1-13. 

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