Be Wise

September 18, 2022

Pastor John Hering

Luke 16:1-13

Luke 16:1-13

Jesus also said to his disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager who was accused of wasting his possessions. The rich man called him in and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be manager.’

“The manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, since my master is taking away the management position from me? I am not strong enough to dig. I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from my position as manager, people will receive me into their houses.’

“He called each one of his master’s debtors to him. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘Six hundred gallons of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write three hundred.’ Then he said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘Six hundred bushels of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and write four hundred and eighty.’

“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the children of the light are. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings. 10 The person who is faithful with very little is also faithful with much. And the person who is unrighteous with very little is also unrighteous with much. 11 So if you have not been faithful with unrighteous mammon, who will entrust you with what is really valuable? 12 If you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something to be your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters. Indeed, 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 both God and mammon.

You all know God.  You know God is one God in three Persons.  You also know the characteristics of God being loving, omnipotent, patient, all-present and that God is life, light, love and God is Spirit. You also know God is wise.  For instance, God knows everything and there is so much about God that we don’t know.  He didn’t tell us because 1) he didn’t want us to know; 2) he knows we don’t need to know; 3) or he knows we can’t handle it because our brains would explode.  But, there are the necessary things that we need to know.  God wants us to know that he knows exactly how we tick, to know how we were saved, that we have a purpose while living on this earth, and how to conduct our lives while we are living here.  In other words, God gives us enough knowledge so we can be wise!  That is not a command to have a high IQ.  Let me say it simply: God wants us to grow in godly wisdom.

Godly wisdom has two parts: 1) Wisely believing the truth about what God has done for us.  2) Wisely behaving in line with God’s will.  Today our Lord Jesus teaches us about this godly wisdom with a most interesting story in Luke 16.  God’s Word places on our hearts a single, simple, yet important truth for our godly walk with God and others.  Jesus says,

Be Wise

In What You Believe

You know why companies, sports teams and leadership conferences bring in motivational speakers.  They want to inspire the workers, the players or church leaders.  Motivation is the spark, the spur and the reason why someone does something.  God tells us that he is interested in how we behave: You shall be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2).  This is the main point of Jesus’ parable here when he said,

13 No servant can serve two masters. Indeed, 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 both God and mammon.” 

But, Jesus is also interested, and I would argue, even more interested in your motives for behaving than your actual behavior.  When Jesus uses words like devoted/despise and hate/love we know Jesus is speaking to our motives. 

Remember, Jesus is God and know all about us.  He knows what drives humans to behave the way they do.  It can be fear/fame; lust/love; or it is gold/God.  This is the parable of the shrewd manager.

“Jesus also said to his disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager who was accused of wasting his possessions. The rich man called him in and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be manager.”

What was his motivation for doing what he did.  Self-preservation, making sure he had a job in the future and money to support himself and his family. 

“The manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, since my master is taking away the management position from me? I am not strong enough to dig. I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from my position as manager, people will receive me into their houses.’”

This is really smart, but is it wise in God’s eyes?  The man went to his master’s debtors and worked out deals to benefit himself.  Jesus did not tell this parable to say, “Do what you have to do and the ends justify the means.”  No!  But, before we can get a grip on what Jesus is teaching here, we need to get a grip on beliefs.  For our beliefs fuel our motivation which affects our behavior!

Warning!  You can’t figure out someone’s motives by just observing their words and actions, unless God does something miraculous to allow you to see into their hearts. For example Cain and Abel.  Both these children of Adam and Eve offered sacrifices to God. Able offered from his flocks and Cain offered from his fields.  The account in Genesis doesn’t say that Cain’s offering was cheap or chintzy and to the human eye their offerings looked the same. But, God accepted Abel’s offerings but not Cains.  Do you know why? By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice to God than Cain did” (Heb 11:4). God gives us a peak into Abel’s heart and what do we see? The difference was motive. Abel gave his offering from a heart that trusted, leaned on, and depended on God’s promise of a Savior.  But, not Cain.  He was just going through the motions.  Maybe he didn’t want to look bad in the eyes of his parents?  Maybe he was trying to earn God’s favor by offering him vegetables?  Sadly, his beliefs fueled his motivation which affected his behavior.

Are you getting it?  It’s so important to Be Wise in What We Believe.  Why do you pray, serve, love others, witness for Jesus or use your time wisely each week?  Why do you work?  To earn money to support your family and have some fun?  I don’t recall looking at my bank account and thinking, “Lord, I’m so thankful for sending Jesus to save me, now how can I use these blessings to love God and love my neighbor?”  It’s true for me and I bet it’s true for you: your Beliefs fuel your Motivation which affect your Behavior.  I realize there are tons of belief motivators!  For the times our motives were fueled by mis-guided, mistaken or messed up beliefs, God should shove those motives down our throats like rotten veggies until we choke on them eternally in hell.  But, God doesn’t do that.  Instead God forgives our wrong motives and replaces them with the right motives—by pointing us to the cross when Jesus washed all our sins away, to the empty tomb where Jesus show’s us Jesus’ victory over the power of sin, the power of the devil and the power of death.  If we wanted one Belief that would fuel our proper Motivation which would affect our perfect behavior – if there was only one reason why we would say or do anything—it would be the blood of Jesus Christ for you and me.  Be Wise in What You Believe—Jesus loves you so much.  Serve others because Jesus served you first.  Love others because Jesus loved you first.  Tell someone about Jesus’ forgiveness, because Jesus told you about his forgiveness first. Use your Time, Talents and Treasures because of what you believe, namely, that Jesus gave his time, talents and treasures to save you.  We give our time to worship because we believe Jesus gave up his time in heaven to come to our earth and suffer for us.  We use our talents & abilities because we believe Jesus used his perfect human blood as the sacrifice for our sins.  We use our treasures because we believe Jesus used his precious blood to open the gate of heaven for us.  Therefore, Be Wise!  For Your Faith in Jesus fuels your Motivation by Jesus which affects your Behavior For Jesus!  Have you got the point of Jesus’ parable now?  Be Wise In What You Believe and You’ll be Wise

In How You Behave

Most Bibles have a title for Luke 16 something like, “The Parable of the Shrewd Manager.”  Shrewd usually has a negative connotation meaning tricky or cunning.  But, that’s not the case here, and here’s why:  Jesus is not wanting to zoom our attention on the manager’s beliefs or his motivation, but on his behavior.  The main point of this parable is verse 9:

I tell you, make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings.” 

Our natural, sinful nature will hear this and say, “See, Jesus is saying, ‘I give something good to you and you give something good for me.”  But, Jesus turns this selfish thinking on its head.  When we Are Wise and Behave as God wants us to, very likely nothing returns to me now, but it does have eternal blessings.  Jesus is teaching his disciples and us the value of being on the ball, perceptive, prudent, insightful with sound judgment and resourcefulness, especially in how we behave in practical matters.  The manager had actually been naughty and wasteful:

“There was a rich man who had a manager who was accused of wasting his possessions.” 

The manage messed up and his only belief that motivated him to act was self-preservation.  His beliefs were not shrewd but his behavior was. That is Jesus’ main point. “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly,for behaving wisely to buy his friends and secure his future.

Jesus was so wise in sharing this parable with us.  I didn’t say it was an easy parable to soak up, but you certainly can latch on to the main point.  Very often people who don’t Believe in God and whose only motivation is self-preservation demonstrate practical wisdom in how to behave.  In this parable Jesus is teaching us to be Wise in How We Behave, especially when it comes to making friends, to make some connections and carry out our purpose in life.

This has been done over the history of the New Testament Church over and over again.  It happened in the WELS about 100 years ago when our churches around Milwaukee, which conducted their Sunday morning services in German, decided to hold English services once a month on Sunday evening.  They believed in sharing the gospel and were motivated by Jesus’ love for them to act Wisely.  It happened at Divine Peace about 20 years ago when we were conducting services in a storefront in Rowlett to search for land/building to make more space for guests and visitors.  We believed in sharing the gospel and were motivated by Jesus’ love for us to act Wisely and purchase this place of worship. Why? Because we believe that God’s Word and sacrament touches our lives and the lives of others.

Being wise isn’t just for us as a church.  It is also for us personally.  God is so wise and tells us what we need to know, that is, who he is and what he has done to save us.  For this we are eternally thankful.  However, God is also calling us to think about what we believe that fuels our motivation that affects how we behave when it comes to day to day things as well.  Do you think you could use some help budgeting?  Let your leadership know and we could have a course of how to budget resources with godly wisdom. Do you think you could use some spark in your marriage?  Sign up for the marriage seminar at Shiloh.  Could you use some comfort during a time when God calls a loved one to himself in heaven?  What we believe fuels our motivation that affects how we behave.  That’s why I have great comfort today.  I believe Jesus died on the cross to pay for Kendon’s sins.  I also saw Kendon Motivated by his Savior when he was healthy enough to come to church to worship his Savior.  I also saw how Kendon behaved, which was way different from the way he told me he used to behave.  Jesus put it this way, I tell you, make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon, so that when it runs out, they will welcome you into the eternal dwellings. (tell the story of the fist time I met Kendon – “I’m sorry, I don’t have any money for you.” And Kendon said, “That’s ok, I don’t have any for you either.”  Wise man in What he Believed and How He Behaved!  Now wait, I’m not saying he was perfect, I’m saying he is a child of God that has been welcomed into his eternal dwelling in heaven.

God wants us to grow in wisdom.  There are lots of ways to gain wisdom but I’d like to end today’s sermon with one wise way given to use from God.  When you meet someone what is one of the things you usually hear? “How are you?” and how do you usually respond?  “I’m fine, thank you.”  But, every once in a while aren’t you tempted to say, “How am I?  Do you really want to know?  I’m busy and broke and bothered by both.”  But, God is so wise.  In today’s gospel lesson he helped us bothered/broken people.   He said, “Be Wise 1) In What You Believe 2) In How You Behave.  For what you Believe fuels your Motivation that Affects Your Behavior.  Believe in Jesus who loves you.  Be motivated by Jesus who saved you.  And God grant that you Behave as God has made you—his dearly loved child and heir of heaven. Amen.

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