So if you have not been faithful with unrighteous mammon, who will entrust you with what is really valuable? (Luke 16:11 EHV)
Under God’s grace, we’ve been entrusted with much, earthly wealth being a small portion of his bounty. But knowing and acknowledging that our Lord provides all and cares for us daily is vital to honoring “The Giver of all.” Needless to say, our Lord is watching and wondering how we will respond to his gifts, and that includes what we do with them. In the context of the verse above, our Lord tells us a simple truth about our earthly management of his gifts. He states, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10).
But this very distinct line of what makes a good manager or steward starts with simple things. Take for example that which we take for granted, our daily bread. Our Lord Jesus taught his followers a vital and blessed petition: “And gives us this day our daily bread.” Our understanding of this petition is enhanced as we also pray with the author of Proverbs (30:8b-9 EHV), Do not give me poverty or riches. Give me food in the amount that is right for me. Too much, and I may feel satisfied and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Too little, and I may become poor and steal and profane the name of my God. Our prayer today is simple: we ask only for the faith to know and believe that all we have is a gift from the Lord and to use it to share what is really valuable, namely, the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Thus we are told how our stewardship of the Gospel is connected to our stewardship of all his gifts when our Savior warns, “So if you have not been faithful with unrighteous mammon, who will entrust you with what is really valuable?”(Luke 16:11 EHV).
It appears here that our faithfulness in the least things, more literally unrighteous mammon, is a good indicator of whether or not we can be trusted with what is “really valuable.” Our faithfulness in the stewardship of both kinds of riches defines us as individuals, as a congregation, and as a synod. What is our Lord referring to when he makes this statement? Ultimately it is the gift of heaven. But this phrase also embodies the means through which what is really valuable is imparted, namely the Gospel.
Do you see why our attitude towards money is important? It is not that the church wants your money. It is a matter of the heart. Our awareness of our own shortcomings as managers helps us sharpen our stewardship of what is truly valuable, and it leads us today to turn to our Lord for His mercy and say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Thanks be to God! By grace our Lord offers you that which is valuable above all else. He would have you believe and know that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Our Lord Jesus was able to completely atone for our sins because He completely fulfilled the holy law in our place, obtaining the perfect righteousness we need before the Father. The temptations to trust in other gods, including money and power, were fully faced and handily defeated by him. Yet, to redeem us, our sin became His sin. Our punishment, the one we deserved, was poured out on Him. He was forsaken by God, condemned, so that we would not be. And by his atoning death, we are forgiven. His resurrection affirms that all this is true.
Isn’t it amazing how our Lord works through earthly means for heavenly good? Consider the earthly means of applying water through Baptism. Consider earthly means of the bread and wine with which we receive the remission of our sins. These earthly means sanctified by the Word bring to us the heavenly gifts, the true riches, as the Holy Spirit working through earthly means creates and sustains faith in our hearts.
Freed from sin and its guilt, we are free to serve the One who gives all. That is why, by grace, we can plan boldly and present ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, knowing what Paul said to the Corinthians is true for us: “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Rev. Daniel Basel, ELS Giving Counselor