Trinity Nine Sermon 2004
“The Value of Money”
The essence of idolatry is the
worship of the creation instead of the Creator.
True worship consists in the life lived in fellowship with the
One to whom this world belongs. Only
a Christian can live this life because this life comes only from Christ.
The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, is the
Lord and giver of life. In
our baptism, He joins us to Christ’s death and resurrection.
Then, when we know Christ as He took away our sin and rose in
victory from the grave, we know His Father as our Father and we are
children of God. When you
are a child of God you are wealthy.
It doesn’t matter how many things of this world you personally
own and have in your possession. What
difference does it make when you know the One who owns it all?
When you know Christ, you understand that God doesn’t need
anything that you have. You
need what God has. And God
promises that you will receive everything that God has to give.
St. Paul writes: “He who did not spare His own Son, but
delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give
us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Christians don’t have to worry
about their material needs. Jesus
Himself guarantees us that the same heavenly Father who clothes the
field with beautiful flowers and feeds the birds of the air loves us
more than anything else He has created.
Surely, He will take care of us.
If we seek out before all else the righteousness that God freely
gives us in Christ and cling to Him for dear life God will not forsake
us in any material need we have.
The story of the unjust steward
is sandwiched between two other stories Jesus tells about material
wealth. It comes after the story of the prodigal son who went out and
wasted his father’s wealth on sinful living, repented of his sin,
returned to his father, and was received with joy and celebration.
The clear message is that the repentance of one individual
Christian is worth much more than any amount of money.
Our text comes right before the story of the rich man and
Lazarus. The rich man put
his confidence in his wealth. He
died and went to hell and nothing could help him there. He couldn’t take the money in which he trusted with him.
Lazarus, who in his lifetime did not have any material wealth,
was really the wealthy man. The rich man was really the poor man. Those who enjoy fellowship with God through faith in Christ
are wealthy and own the whole world even if they don’t actually take
possession of it. Jesus
said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
The parable before us this
morning teaches us about material wealth.
Jesus uses the expression “unrighteous mammon” to describe
material wealth that is used in service to sin.
He tells us a story about a steward who showed great ingenuity in
how he used unrighteous mammon for his own benefit.
If those to whom this world does not belong can use worldly
wealth shrewdly, shouldn’t Christians, who are heirs of everything
good God has to give, be just as shrewd?
This is, after all, our Father’s world.
The unjust steward had wasted
his master’s money and so was about to lose his job.
The rich man of this parable is a merciful man who could have
tossed the unjust manager into jail, but he did not.
He could have fired him immediately, but he did not.
He gave him an opportunity to provide for his future elsewhere.
The man could not do manual labor and he wouldn’t stoop to beg
but he figured out how to capitalize on his master’s goodwill in the
short time he had left. He
still had his master’s authority to settle accounts with debtors.
He did so, to the great advantage of the debtors.
The man who owed a hundred measures of oil now owed only fifty. The man who owed a hundred measures of wheat now owed only
eighty. The master could
have revoked these decisions, but after the debtors had been treated so
generously he wouldn’t have wanted to deprive them of that generosity.
The steward had counted on that.
He depended on his master’s basic decency in order to rip him
off and buy favor with others in the process.
The master was impressed with the man’s shrewdness, if not his
The point of the parable is
simple. If those to whom
this world does not belong are clever in their use of material wealth,
should not Christians to whom this world does belong be just as clever?
If sinners expend great energy and ingenuity in sinning, should
not Christians spend as much energy and ingenuity in doing what is
Jesus concludes the story by
saying: “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous
mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting
home.” The unjust steward
made friends for himself and was received into the homes of those he
helped. He helped them by
doing what was dishonest. His
reward was only temporary. Jesus
tells us of an eternal reward. Instead
of making friends by dishonest means so that we can get a temporal gain,
we should use in an honorable way what others use in a dishonest way.
We should make friends who will be friends forever instead of
friends who will only be friends for a short while.
The giving of alms or charity is
not the payment of a debt. Christ
has paid our debt. The only
debt that remains outstanding for a Christian is to love his neighbor.
God loves us by giving us what we cannot repay.
We love as we have been taught.
There is no greater act of love than to tell the gospel to those
who do not know Christ. This
is giving without being repaid. Telling
others the gospel is done not only by confessing the faith and inviting
people to church, but also by supporting the preaching of the gospel in
our own congregation and elsewhere.
A life without Christ is a live of poverty, even if you have
everything that money can buy. A
life lived knowing Christ is a life of wealth because when you know
Christ you know God and when you know God you know that you are the
crown of God’s creation. You
know that everything that exists exists for your benefit.
Everything God does in this world, to this world, and for this
world, He does for the sake of His elect.
The children of God are hidden from view.
Their acts of charity are seldom acknowledged or even noticed.
But God knows those whom He has chosen.
He knows those who wear the white robes that have been washed in
the blood of the Lamb. He
knows every act of kindness and generosity that they do in Jesus’
name, and He graciously rewards them.
The doctrine of salvation by
grace alone does not teach that God does not reward the good works of
His saints. He most certainly does.
Even as God, for Jesus’ sake, forgives us of all our sins and
regards us as saints, just so, God regards our Christian acts of love as
holy too. God justifies us
through faith in Christ. He
imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to us so that we are really and
truly righteous. He also
declares our deeds done in faith to be righteous deeds.
Even as we are righteous on account of Christ, so our deeds are
righteous on account of Christ.
The Christian cannot look at his
good deeds and see how good they are.
This is because the true virtue of our good deeds is the virtue
they receive by God’s grace. When
God forgives, He does a very thorough job of it.
He not only forgives sinners; He forgives sins.
When your sins are forgiven this means that everything that
remains is good and pure and holy.
The sin is what is taken away.
What remains is truly virtuous because that which is sinful is
So we Christians can do good
with our money. There have
always been extreme and unbiblical views advanced in the church on the
proper use of money. Some
have taught that poverty itself is a virtue and that the only way to
secure eternal treasures is to give away all your material wealth.
But vice is surely as common among the poor as it is among the
rich. Others have taught
that God wants to prosper every Christian financially.
But Jesus Himself said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air
have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
(Matthew 8:20) Proponents
of the prosperity gospel divert faith away from the crucifixion of Jesus
where sinners are saved to the acquisition of wealth that will perish
with the world. The
prosperity gospel – sometimes called “name it and claim it” –
teaches that God wants Christians to prosper financially and that if you
are not prospering it is because there is something lacking in your
faith. Such television
personalities as Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer,
Joel Osteen, and many others preach this false gospel.
They live in material luxury and they insist that all pious and
God-fearing Christians should become wealthy, too.
They criticize traditional preachers who preach Christ crucified
for sinners as the central teaching of the faith because we allegedly
limit God’s power and are promoting defeatism.
But the Christian is the eternal
optimist. The Christian can
give his money to support the work of the gospel and rest confident that
God will always bless the preaching of the gospel even when that
blessing remains hidden from our sight.
We don’t support the preaching of the gospel around the world
because we think that God will materially bless us for our efforts.
We do so because we know that the gospel is the word of God by
which sinners are turned into saints.
The best investment of capital we can make is the investment in
the proclamation of the pure gospel of Christ.
The gospel will make us new friends, eternal friends, friends of
God and friends of the church who, with all God’s saints, will welcome
us into heaven some day.
St. Paul writes to Timothy:
When you know the One who owns
the whole world you don’t need to worry about whether or not He’ll
give you the things of this world that you need.
He will. You can
work for poor pay without resentment.
You can face bills piling up without worry.
You can give to charity and church without regretting the loss. You have all the riches you need. God has seen you in your poverty and has given His Son so
that you by His poverty might be made rich.
This world doesn’t belong to those who worship it and serve
unrighteous mammon. It
belongs to our Father in heaven who has made us heirs of eternal riches
by the merits and mediation of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus