Remember What Lasts

Text: Luke 16:1-9

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

The parable from our Gospel reading in Luke has to be one of the most difficult parables to understand.  That stated; we get a little help from Jesus at the end of our reading where Jesus wraps everything up, saying,

“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.”

But even this explanation leaves us asking some tough questions.  For example:

Why is wealth unrighteous? 

When does wealth fail?


Who are these friends who welcome us into the eternal dwellings?

Indeed, these are tough questions.  Therefore, let us take some time to consider them a bit more. 

First, ‘unrighteous wealth.’  What does this mean? 

Martin Luther once stated that the wealth in this Gospel reading is called “unrighteous” simply because we so often use wealth in unrighteous ways.  Consider greed for a moment.  Greed comes about when we take unbelief and mix it with wealth and sprinkle a bit of covetousness on top.  In other words, greed makes wealth unrighteous because our fists become tight with unbelief - we can’t let go of money by giving it to others because unbelief says, “Who knows if there will be enough for tomorrow!”  And then covetousness says, “You are right, greed!  And we also need a new fancy widget to be happy like the Johnsons down the street!” 

Oh, dear friends, greed forgets the Old Testament lesson about manna, how the Israelites would store up extra manna resulting in the manna becoming full of maggots and beginning to smell.  Indeed, greed goes the way of unbelief and believes that there will never be enough in the future – that God will not provide for us in the future, so we better get while the gettin’s good.  And covetousness, well… covetousness makes our eyes wander to other things and whispers into our ears, “Hold on to wealth, for you need that new widget to be happy, whole, and secure!” 

This is why the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray for “daily” bread.  That is to say; we pray for our daily needs, not tomorrow’s bread, or next week’s bread, or next year’s bread.  We pray for the basic necessities right before us today, trusting that the Lord is the giver of all good things and will sustain our bodily life by giving us ‘daily,’ the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the homes that shelter us, and the government that protects us.    

You see, there is great silliness in thinking that life is all about accumulating stuff.  All too often, people learn this the hard way.  They believe bigger is better, so they get and get and get more stuff.  They buy so many things that they have to buy bigger things to hold smaller things.  And in the end, when they are dying, they can’t take care of the big and small things that they have gotten.  So, they are burdened with the struggle of trying to get rid of these big and small things, because they know that they can’t take it with them!

We forget our Lord’s words that life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions.  Even the world realizes the foolishness of this way of thinking when bumper stickers read: “He who dies with the most toys still dies.”

But I wonder if the Lord calls it “unrighteous wealth” not merely because of our bad use of it, but because wealth fails to make it into the Kingdom of God?  Keep in mind that the Kingdom of God is not a new Mercedes, a gold Rolex, and an impressive 401K.  No, the Kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:7).

You see, what will make it into the Kingdom of God is people - people who surround us all the time.  People who stand in various kinds of need.  People whom we can bless in countless ways are what and who will make it into the Kingdom of God, not our meaningless stuff.   

Remember the dishonest manager from our parable?  He was commended – not for his dishonesty – but for his SHREWDNESS, his single-minded dedication to improving his situation.  He saw what was coming in the future, and he made plans for people to welcome him when he lost the funds that he once had management of.  You see, those funds would not be following him into the future; he would lose them all.  But the people to whom he showed kindness and goodwill to – the people who benefited from his generosity would be!  He made friends by the means of his stuff for he knew that friends would remain even when his stuff was gone.

Do you see Jesus’ point?  He says that even pagans seem to get this.  And sometimes they get it more than us Christians.  In other words, pagans can figure out that we can’t take this stuff with us when we die, so why do we struggle so much with this as the enlightened baptized? 

Dear friends, your wealth will not make it into the kingdom.  There will not be any stock portfolios, no dollar bills, no fat checking account, and no wallets.  You exit this world as you entered it: naked.  You carry nothing out with you.

But on that Last Day, remember that you will be surrounded by all the dead that the Lord will raise, and many of them will be people you knew, people whose paths you crossed somewhere in this journey of life.  They will be there with you.

And so, invest in your future, Jesus says.  Invest in these brothers and sisters in Christ – those who will be with you at the great last day. 

Baptized Saints, it is quite simple!  Look around in this church.  These are your brothers and sisters in Christ who will be with you at the great eschaton.  They are your brothers and sisters who will be with you for eternity.  Therefore, you get to love them now!  Share with them!  Give to them!  Grab the dinner check from them; wrestle the check out of their hands!  Buy them a great gift.  Spoil them on their birthday, for these are the people who will be with you in glory.  You cannot take your wallets with you into the Kingdom, but your brother and sister in Christ? They will be with you in the Kingdom of God!  And in the Lord’s Kingdom someday, with joy, you will see them and you will both dance as they throw their arms around you and welcome you into the Kingdom of God. 

After all, dear Baptized Saints, that is exactly what the teller of the Parable did.  Jesus noticed His neighbor – that would be us – in our need, and He didn’t count a single thing that was His as His own, but He gave up everything that He had to befriend us, to care for us, to provide us with that heavenly home.

And Jesus not only gave up all that was His, but He assumed all that was ours – not only our flesh and blood but also the horrible debt of sin – and He paid it as His own, with the righteousness that was His alone.

His cross is where He has made Himself friends for century upon century.  And He invites us into this same way of living.  He shows us that giving up everything – even life itself – for the service of others is what love does.

And the wonderful thing about love is that death cannot destroy it – His love proved stronger than the grave.  And He rose again to be the first to welcome home His many friends into the eternal dwellings He prepared for them.

In His Supper today He reaches to you with the fullness of that love, forgiving your sins – even those where you have used wealth unrighteously in greed and covetousness.  And in the Holy Supper, He strengthens you to believe that a life lived in service to your neighbor is the only sort of life that is worth the living.  Because your neighbor in Christ – not stuff – will be in glory with you! 

Baptized Saints, remember what lasts and what doesn’t, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, use the stuff that doesn’t last to bless the people that do last.
In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Portions of the sermon are indebted to Rev. Will Weedon’s sermon on Luke 16:1-9. 

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