Trinity 9: Be Wise Unto Salvation

Lessons: 2 Sam. 22:26-34, 1 Cor. 10:6-13, Luke 16:1-13
Hymns: LSB 726, 536, 636, 703, 689

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      In today’s Epistle, St. Paul writes to a church that has departed from divine truth in many ways. The Corinthians declined into immorality, false belief, and wrong practices. They abused the Lord’s Supper. They laughed over a man sleeping with his father’s wife. They bragged about having certain spiritual gifts or who baptized them. Some doubted the Resurrection of Christ. They were losing focus of their Savior, Jesus.

      So, St. Paul writes about some things that takes place in the Old Testament (in Moses’ day) to show that those events—which happened about 1500 years earlier—need to serve as warnings for the then-modern Corinthian Church. This means they couldn’t use the two common arguments we hear today: 1) that was then, this is now; and 2) that was the Old Testament, we’re in the New Testament. By teaching with 1500-year-old examples, the Holy Spirit is providing us with testimony that God’s Word is unchanging, timely, and good.

      God punished those who transgressed God’s Law. So, Paul told the Corinthians, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:11-12). You see, both in Moses’ day and in Paul’s day the people thought they were in good standing with God. In Moses’ day, the people figured that since they didn’t totally reject God and since they were God’s chosen people (descendants of Abraham), no harm could fall upon them. It seemed so right for them to follow other gods, engage in sexual immorality, lust after evil, grumble, and complain. They figured God was ok with them and they would be saved. When the people transgressed, God sometimes brought punishment to warn them that if they persist, they will be condemned.

      In Paul’s day, the Corinthians were falling into the same trap. They figured they were in God’s grace because they were members of the Church. As long as they held their membership, they figured they could get away with just about anything. To them, it seemed so right to engage in sexual immorality, get fat while others starved, take fellow Christians to court, and brag over who’s the greatest. So, Paul writes to warn them. They were in danger of judgment.

      God sends preachers today to make the same warnings that Moses and Paul—and Jesus—made. Today, people are committing the same sins as in Moses’ day and Paul’s day. At the same time, many of these people are saying, “I am a baptized and confirmed Christian! I believe in Jesus!” They figure they have a pass to Heaven, even though little in their lives reflects the faith they claim to have.

      The Israelites and the Corinthians claimed to have faith. They figured they were on the path of salvation. But God saw right through it. The Israelites were punished. Paul warned the Corinthians of punishment. Thankfully, most of the wayward Corinthians repented and were restored into God’s grace.

      Even today, God can bring about temporal retribution, yet He does not guarantee that He will. So, if a person sins today and does not suffer any punishment, he should not see this as God’s way of saying that it is all ok. Some people, ignoring God’s instruction through pastors and Christian friends, will finally face their error when they’ve breathed their last and discover their eternal punishment in Hell.

      God sees right through the make-believe Christian. God knows the difference. And He teaches today’s Parable to warn and teach.

      We can learn two things from today’s Gospel: First, because Christians believe the Gospel, they are active with good works in serving their neighbor. Second, because Christians believe the Gospel, they cling to the Gospel and do not let go. They let nothing come between them and their receiving the Gospel.

      God has given us our daily bread. He gives us all that we need to support our bodies and lives. In fact, He has given us more than that. He has been generous to all of us. The average American has goods and amenities that would have made kings and royalty from centuries ago jealous.

      For what purpose has God been so generous? To ensure freedom from worry? To make us happy? To grant us comfortable retirement?

      Yet we still worry. The more a person has, the less happy he tends to be. And nothing is guaranteed. Recall the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:13-21. He built big barns to store his bountiful crop and decided he would take life easy for many years with his fortune. God then said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Jesus concludes the parable saying, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

      You see, there is a difference between the Christian and non-Christian. In faith, Christians are good stewards of the blessings God has given them. They use their possessions—mammon—for the good of others. Mammon is this: the goods God has given us beyond what we need to support our bodies and lives. These are the goods God has given to us to be used to help our neighbors in need.

      Like the steward in today’s Gospel, we are called on by God to give an account of our stewardship.

      Like the examples listed in today’s Epistle, God requires accountability. There can be punishments for those who transgress. And just as the people were convinced of their own salvation and good standing with God (but weren’t), so also Jesus is teaching us to be wise with our goods and not be foolish.

      Who is wise and who is foolish? Luther answers it this way: “Whoever wants to be a Christian must not constantly open his hand to take but close it so tightly when it’s time to give, that not even a penny falls through. Rather he should gladly, willingly, and benevolently help the one who is in need and give wherever he can. This is serving God, and He will ultimately reward you. On the other hand, the skinflints and profiteers, who can do nothing but pinch pennies and give nothing to anyone, or very sparingly, serve the accursed devil, who will also reward them in kind” (2nd House Postil).

      In today’s Gospel, the unjust steward made friends for himself because he was losing his job. Yes, he was stealing from his master. No, we are not being taught by Jesus to steal from our employers. Jesus is using this man as a comparison. Look at how he figured out a way to ensure his future! Now, as a Christian, God calls on you to also ensure your future—your eternal future! Don’t be foolish, as the people were in Moses’ and Paul’s day. Instead, use what God has given you. Use your mammon to help others. Use your possessions to give back to God. Use the means of grace to ensure your eternal future.

      When we use our mammon to help those in need, we are giving testimony to our faith. Those whom we have helped will serve as our witnesses on Judgment Day. For Jesus will say in that day, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:35-36). Of course, as a Christian we will do these things without keeping track so we will ask Jesus, “Lord, when did we do these things?” And Jesus will reply, “A Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:37-40). The good deeds we do for our neighbor in Christian faith are counted up as good deeds we have done to Jesus.

      We sing this truth in Salvation Unto Us Has Come: “9. Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone And rests in Him unceasing; And by its fruits true faith is known, With love and hope increasing. Yet faith alone can justify, Works serve thy neighbor and supply The proof that faith is living.” (LSB 555)

      By using our goods to help our neighbor and by returning to God a portion of what He has generously given us, we are being good stewards. This demonstrates our faith.

      The second thing today’s parable teaches us is that we are to use the resources of God to secure our eternal salvation. Rather than assuming we are saved merely because we are baptized and confirmed, we need to continually receive what God graciously offers. Christ took our sins upon Himself and died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. In Christ, we have forgiveness. Jesus has redeemed the sins of the world through the shedding of His blood. Those blessings earned by Christ Jesus 2000 years ago need to be applied to us today. Therefore, we are to use the same shrewdness as the man in today’s Gospel to ensure that this Gospel is ours. We need to “steal” it—take it as our own—claim it—cling to the Gospel. And not let go. Of course, this involves generously supporting our church to ensure its future.

      We sometimes find this hour of coming to church too much to give. But look at what we receive! We receive Christ, His love, His peace, His forgiveness! We receive salvation! We receive everything! How can we pass this up for anything else! Be shrewd! Be wise! Steal the opportunity! Take what God is granting you. Do not let go! Do not let anything in this world get in the way, not even COVID. For now is the day of salvation. Take the absolution! Take the gifts given to you in Baptism! Hear the Word! Eat the Body and drink the Blood of Jesus! It’s yours! This is being wise. This is being shrewd, as Jesus teaches.

      With these blessings, He receives you and opens Heaven! Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.