Posted on July 24th, 2016
God made man to give him gifts. God made the world out of nothing, and He made it for man. Man is the crown of God’s creation. God gave man everything in the creation. He gave it for Adam’s enjoyment and nourishment. He also gave man a vocation, a calling: He called Adam to be steward of the earth. As God’s steward, or chief manager, the man would exercise dominion, Godly rule in the earth.
Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, have dominion over every living creature. One thing alone was held back from the man: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Why? Because God wished the man to know good alone, and not evil. As you parents wish to shield your children from the horrors of the world and the wicked designs of men, until they can bear them, so God wished for His steward to know nothing of evil.
But the man was beguiled by this thought: the Lord is not a good Lord. His Word is harmful to me, a lie intended to oppress me.
Thus not content with his stewardship, the man sought by his action to overthrow his Lord. His sin was not eating fruit. His sin was a rebellious plot by which he would become as God.
So did our first father the steward squander his inheritance. Adam was the first unjust steward. He misused what God had given him. He squandered his inheritance and so was removed from the stewardship.
Well, not removed entirely. For although he was called to give an account of his stewardship, and the Lord pronounced death upon our first parents at that reckoning, still the Lord forgave.
He covered their naked bodies, now filled with shame, with the skin of a sacrificial victim. Blood was shed to cover their shame. And He promised an offspring, a seed, a male child of the woman who would be the Steward Adam had failed to be. This Steward would be a just steward, a righteous steward, an honest steward who perfectly carries out His Lord’s will.
To be a steward is to have a lord. Today we heard a story about a steward who lost his lord. Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 16:1-13) is a parable, which is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It’s often called the Parable of the Unjust Steward, or the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. He has squandered his master’s goods, and has been caught. About to lose his job and be humiliated, he devises a plan to make friends with money in hopes they will help him. He’s even commended for being shrewd, for exercising cunning in preparing for his future. Smart people, even corrupt ones, plan for the future. So why don’t you? That’s the first point of this parable: You are a Christian, you know the truth, so why are you not wise and careful about how you plan and prepare for eternity? And the second point is this: You have been an unjust steward, you are unwise because your attention is on all the wrong things. Thus Jesus concludes with the simple declaration, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Which are you serving? Which is most important to you? What do you care about?
The unjust steward cares nothing for his lord. Nor does he care about those under his care. He cares only about himself.
And so he loses his lord.
Does that sound liberating to you, to be without a lord? It certainly sounds American.
Our country was born from the idea of throwing off oppressive rule. Many look at Christianity as coming back under oppression, a system of superstition designed to prey on the weak, subjugate the meek, take your money, and destroy your joy.
But genuine Christianity is not tyranny. To have God as your Lord is not to come under His oppression but His protection. Not to be enslaved but redeemed. For this Lord rescues lost sheep, welcomes home prodigal sons, forgives the woman caught in adultery, welcomes Lazarus the starving beggar to His banquet.
To be a steward is to have a lord. To be God’s steward is to have Christ Jesus for your Lord. Our Small Catechism puts all of this beautifully when it says, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with His precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”
To be a steward is to have a lord. To be God’s steward is to have Christ Jesus for your Lord, to be rescued from death. You are not brought into bondage but into blessedness.
The Bible speaks about pastors as stewards in God’s household, with a solemn charge to administer the gifts of Word and Sacrament as the Lord has instructed.
Stewardship, however, encompasses everything we have and do, even the seemingly smallest decisions, like should I step on this ant, or spend time watching that video. What has God given me my foot, my eyes, my time and money for?
When Blake and Katie received a daughter, a gift from God, they also received a stewardship. Children are not ours, trophies of genetic accomplishment, or garbage to be discarded. Each human being from the womb is a gift from God, and parents are stewards charged with their nurture and protection. The first act of stewardship is to bring the little child back to the Lord. Born into this corrupt world full of death, we bring our children to the Lord of life saying, “Receive this child who is Yours to begin with; love, care, forgive, do what we cannot. And when her last hour comes, receive her to Yourself. Be her Father, give her the birth from above, and let her be Yours unto the ages of ages.”
Parents have a calling to teach their children. They, not the government, are stewards of their children’s education. Because this is difficult work, and because the government would often mislead our children about the truth of the world, the law, the meaning of the human person, even now which bathroom is the right one to use – because of all this, the church helps in this stewardship by providing schools for children to be taught the truth, taught by Christians who glorify the Creator in all they do.
Everything you have is given to you to exercise your stewardship of the world. How will you account for the way you spent, or gave, or hoarded, your money? How will you account for the way you used your words? How will you account for the way you used, or abused, your body, which is a temple of the Holy Spirit?
I don’t like ticking clocks, they distract me. But I was struck by what the Baptist author and seminary president Al Mohler said about ticking watches and clocks: as each second audibly clicks by, he is reminded of the shortness of his life and the responsibility to use his time according to God’s will. How are you stewarding your time? How will you give an account of it before God?
Even your vote is an exercise of stewardship. Use this gift as an exercise of the conscience, rather than a quest for power.
You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and mammon, God and money.
Repent. Repent, and rejoice that you have a Lord who rescues lost sheep, who finds lost coins, who welcomes home prodigal sons. You have a Lord who welcomes Lazaruses to His Supper, who takes unjust stewards and makes them just, forgiven, righteous, even to the point of raising their dead bodies when they fail, and receiving them into everlasting habitations. To be a steward is to have a lord. So confess with the Catechism, Jesus Christ … is my Lord, who has redeemed me. Jesus the just steward exercised His stewardship like this: He gave everything away, even His own life, on the cross for you.
In the Name of + Jesus