Luke 16: 1-15
You will find this short history lesson interesting I believe. On our coins and on our currency are the words: In God We Trust. This phrase was first found in the fourth verse of our national anthem (which, of course, you all know). There is says “And this be our motto: In God is our Trust.” That was engraved on our coins for the first time in 1864, and was printed on our currency since 1957.
I cannot tell you how appropriate I believe that is. For many people money is their master and lord, their god. We are not immune from that possibility ourselves. The lure of money to bring us all that we think we need seems to be engraved on our hearts and in our brains.
It is for that reason that during this season of learning and growing our faith in Jesus, he cautions us in the reading from Luke’s Gospel for today about money. He says: “No servant can serve two masters, for 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 God and money.”
What are we to do with our money? “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings,” is the command of this person we call Jesus.
What precisely does that mean? How do we make “friends” with money, eternal friends that is? Why is money said to be “unrighteous”? Is life all just about money? Perhaps it is!
Let’s spend a moment on this “unrighteous” idea about money. Money does not make us righteous. It cannot make things right between God and us. In the city of Florence, Italy, you can be impressed by the great cathedral, the Duomo. How did the people find the resources to build this mammoth church. The answer is that the Medici who ruled the city and were not moral in any sense gave the money to the church so that they might escape damnation for all their misdeeds of loan sharking, bribery, murder, and so much more.
Well, from what God says in Holy Scripture, we are saved by trusting in the merits and mediation of only one person and that person is Jesus who died to forgive all our sins, which just happen to include our lust for money, our trust in money to bring us joy, peace, and pleasure, to say nothing of the security which money seems to offer us very openly and blatantly.
It just happens that our society in this century as in previous ones is based on profit making. That is, making money. Here’s what you do with money.
Get rid of wrinkles; get a facelift. Make yourself smell good. Buy clothes that expose as much of your body as you can get by with. The larger house will give you pleasure and status. You don’t want your neighbors to think you have to drive a car that is that old; get a new one. Of course, it will be better than the last, safer, more economical (after you spend on that money to buy it?), and give you instant recognition as a person of means.
Your old furniture is boring and worn out; no interest payments for 4 years! Do you have the latest in athletic shoes? How about your clothes? When people look at you, do they see stylish clothes and accessories, or are you content with stuff made so many years ago? What are the logos on your shirts? Are they some knock-off brands from a chain store that sells to everyone? No class, is that you?
Of course, we have to provide for our families and ourselves. We load up on insurance for the house and the car. We have health insurance, life insurance, long term car insurance, and perhaps even term insurance. You have to have an IRA, a 401(k), and other investments for the years when you retire and have all the leisure time in the world.
Well, yes, we give away some of what we have: used stuff goes to Good Will or the Salvation Army, some to the church and perhaps a favorite charity or some research that fights the disease we are fearful of getting from our family who has a history of dying from it.
Our lives seem to center around money. We could always use more. Few of us have not dreamed of winning the lottery and having all those cares and concerns once and for all behind us! Or maybe you’re waiting for the old folks to die and leave you a bundle.
We buy more than we need; consume too much; criticize the government for wasting our money; dread the IRS; and the annual tax bills on property we own. You and I have never worried about money, have we? When Jesus told the rich young man to sell all that he had and give to the poor, didn’t that cause us a bit, just a bit of anxiety because we knew we could never do that? After we’ve spent too much, do we ever have a twinge of conscience over our frivolous use of money? Or do we simply follow the dictates of our world and our belief that somehow it will give us what we want?
It’s all about money, isn’t it? So we are to make friends with this filthy lucre so that they welcome us in the eternal habitations. That must mean heaven, I presume.
We can understand what that means by looking at this story told about a rich man and his cheating, dishonest business manager. The owner commended this dishonest manager because of his shrewdness. We might find this quite astonishing coming from the mouth of Jesus. Jesus states that people in the business world are more shrewd that those who follow him. They prepare for the future they think they know about.
I am not sure we can claim much more honesty than this unjust manager had. We have not been any more faithful in our use of what we have received from God, have we?! It all belongs to him. So we should not get too upset about the story Jesus told about a dishonest person like we are.
How do we make friends with what our gracious God has given us, so that they will welcome us when we reach the final destination of being in the presence of God?
When we finally arrive in heaven by the undeserved kindness of our heavenly Father because of what Jesus has done for us in his life, death and resurrection, there will be people whom you see speaking to God our Father and saying to him, “You’re got to let that lady in. I know she did a lot of stuff that you hate, but she was moved by your love for her in Jesus to help us and give us comfort in our distress. Through her, I heard of your Son Jesus even though she never heard of me until this moment.”
Another will chime in: “And he gave me food when I couldn’t get a job or work. He cheerfully paid his taxes through which I received medical attention. He doesn’t know it but he clothed and housed me when I didn’t have a place to stay. You have got to let him in because he did what you asked him to do. You provided and he gave without thinking what it might mean to him or his future. He knew you by your grace and trusted you to care for him. Let him in, Jesus!”
Those are the kinds of friends we can make through our use of the money God provides to us through our work and investments.
We don’t do this because we hope to get into heaven through doing that. No, that way has been more than generously provided for us. We know that all too many times we have worried about money, and all those times and that energy wasted are not held against us because of the Story Teller, Jesus. He died that we might be forgiven and live forever. He rose to assure us that this life is but a pilgrimage to the eternal mansion he provides, not we.
If he did all that for us, are we going to think that it is all about money? Is it?
Will your motto be: In God we trust? Or will we take the alternate route with our visa and discover all kinds of excitement and believe we hold the master card of life as we forsake the motto on our money, for money itself?
A Message from Rev Walter W. Harms brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer