Here’s a couple things I remember from my youth in a Lutheran church–did you have the same experience? Every Sunday we sang 441:1-2 after the offering; every November was Stewardship month. Pastor Gieschen preached about giving money to church every Sunday, and on the concluding Stewardship Sunday everyone walked up to The Altar to put their pledges in one of the offering plates during a special service following a meal following the regular Sunday morning service. I’m told that’s what this box is for.
Today’s Gospel is a stewardship Gospel. It’s about money and how you use it. The steward musta been pretty bad, because he got fired. Someone tattled on him to his lord and he just had to fire him because it was far too obvious he was misusing his stuff. Maybe he was making bad choices. Maybe he was using the lord’s stuff as if it were his own. Whatever he was doing, he was fired.
Just not yet. You would have thrown him out of the building. You would have him cuffed and hauled off to jail. You would never let him cook the books some more. But the lord did. He gave him access to the books. He let him audit himself. You would never allow the most honest bookkeeper ever to do that! And in the audit, he cut the bills. Some say he just struck from the record his share. Perhaps that’s a little better than taking from the lord, but then again, it is stealing from his successor. The guy’s up to no good!
What was he doing? He was trying to get on everybody’s good side. Everyone wants a good deal. Everyone wants a big sale. Would you want to spend money you don’t need to spend? Of course not! If you get a good buy on something at a place, you’ll go back. If they treat you right, they’ll keep your business. He’d give them some sad story about how he shouldn’t have been fired and they’d take care of him a long time. After all, he was too lazy to earn a useful and honest living!
That’s why his lord commended him. It wasn’t because of anything he did with the books. No, he was still fired. But it was because he did something smart to keep living the easy life once he wasn’t getting paid anymore. He was clever with how he used his lord’s stuff to get some friends, and he had to appreciate it, even if he didn’t particularly like it.
Today Jesus tells you to be like that guy. How so? Use your stuff to get friends. But where? Is he telling us to buy people off? Of course not. He’s talking about eternal life. Use your stuff – your money, your time, your talents, your possessions – not just for your own well-being, but also to bring more people to heaven. Use your stuff so others will join you in eternal life!
How do we do that? We’re about to participate in one of those ways. We take an offering every Sunday. Your offerings help support the work of The Gospel in this place, since they allow a man to preach to you every Sunday and give his life to this work. Once a month you give to the upkeep of this building, which allows us to have a place to use every day to proclaim God’s Word. Once a month you give to support our school, which allows us to talk about Jesus to kids in the area who otherwise might not hear about Him.
But that’s not all you do. You have many opportunities to support the mission work of our Church and you have sent out many to do it too. Pastor Stechholz and Ed Grimenstein are both involved in international missions. Pastor Sheafer works to help seminarians pay for their schooling. Pastor Edward Naumann has gone to Sri Lanka and India to teach seminarians, and Pastor and Cheryl Naumann are going to Latin America to teach seminarians and deaconess students and serve our missionaries there. We could mention so many more, such as the missions at First Trinity and at Unity.
You know this, so what should you do? Don’t think you don’t need to give or that you don’t have enough to give. Jesus is pleased with the widow’s mite. Give as The Spirit moves you to give. The spirit to not give but hold on to what you have is from Satan himself, because he that wants you to love money, not God. God wants you to love Him and to work to bring His love to others.
Besides, is your money really yours? No! Who gave it to you? God did. How does Psalm 24 begin? “The earth is The LORD’s and the fullness thereof: the world and they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon the seas: and established it upon the floods.” St. Paul says in I Corinthians 6: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of The Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
What does this mean? St. Paul encouraged the Corinthian Christians to give every Sunday from what they’d earned, no mention of a tithe. What does that mean? What you give, the exact amount is up to you. You can tithe, you can give more or less. But do give. And give for the mercy and mission work of our church. After all, St. Paul isn’t talking about the general fund, but about an offering he was going to take to Jerusalem to support poverty-stricken Christians. And our school’s offerings this month will go to Louisiana to help those affected by the recent flooding there.
Why should you give? Just because you feel bad for others? Because the pastor told you to? Because you’re afraid God will be mad at you if you don’t? No! Because of what Jesus did for you. What did He do? He gave Himself for you. He gave His whole self, all of Him, 100%.
But why did He do that? He did it because you have squandered your stewardship. God has given you all you have, and He expects perfect obedience. But you have not been perfect. You have loved your wealth and your stuff more than God. You have done this whether you have not given as you could have or whether you went after things of pleasure or work when you should have been going after the things of God. You have not been the perfect spouse or child or worker or boss or student or teacher. You have looked out for yourself and not cared about God.
But God does not fire you. He does not take your stewardship away from you. Instead He forgives your debt. He does this because your Jesus paid your debt for you. You hear Him call out from His Cross, “It is finished.” The Greek implies this: “Paid in full.” You don’t owe God eternity in hell anymore for your sins. Now He gives you heaven.
That’s why you give your offerings. They are thank offerings. Whether you give them for the work of this congregation or school, for the mission and mercy work in Pittsburgh or this nation or around the world, you give to show that you are thankful for God’s grace, His grace of sending Christ to die for you and giving you His Spirit so you believe in Him. You give because you want many more to receive that same grace and so meet you in heaven.
You also give because you trust God. He’s given you everything. It’s all His, not yours. He gave it to you so you could take care of it for Him. He gave it to you, and He can give to you again. That’s not to say you give so He’ll give to you. Instead, it means this: you trust He will take care of you and will not let you suffer just because you were generous in order to please Him.
And what does Jesus promise? He promises a reward! You will be met by those who were brought to faith because of your giving. You may never meet them in this world. They may live just a couple miles away or all the way around the world. But you will meet them and be with them through all eternity. What joy! What delight!