Whom we hear today, speaking to us, saying,
“There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.”
Each command from God has two sides to it. The first is the actual act or commission. The second is neglect or omission. The first has you thinking about or acting out your sinful desires and the second is you not preventing it from happening to someone else.
So the manager who wastes his Lord’s possessions is guilty of stealing. Not only is he allowing the Lord’s goods to be mishandled and mistreated, but he is also holding them as not worth his time and effort.
This is not a new concept to the Jews. The very first
Temple that was built by
Solomon was great indeed, but it took less time and less material to build it
than it took to build Solomon’s palace. Before that, the Lord sat in a tent,
outside the comforts of the kingdom walls since Israel had conquered the place,
some 100 years before, and had been in that tent since the time of Moses some
500 years before that.
Without even having to mention how the Lord’s creation is treated; in this way, God the Master is always the servant. The Servant God. The God who gives and is never repaid, or rather, can not be repaid. As your employer places his goods and his name on the line to hire you, becoming your servant, so the Lord, in giving you all good things, becomes your servant.
This is the proper understanding of how to fulfill the 7th Commandment and, as I hoped you concluded, it is impossible. Since God can not be repaid, you can only take from Him. Whether you do so in good faith or with devious intent, you are a taker. The air you breathe; care to put a price on all you have used up to now?
You can see how, even if you do not steal or are never caught stealing, your entire life, it does not makeup for what you do steal from God. How unfair! How cold-hearted! But so very true. Whatever is under the whole heaven is God’s already. You have no claim on any of it.
Which is why it is only God Who can come and redeem, or buy back, what has been lost, namely, His things. Thus in our parable heard today, it is the Lord’s mercy that pays for all that debt, not unrighteous mammon and the manager being just a tool.
However, it is the shrewdness of the unrighteous manager that convicts us of our own sin. For, he is unrighteous and yet he comes to know his Lord’s possessions are worth what his Lord is worth and shows mercy with them.
Repent. The seventh command reveals an impossible debt piled up for you, but also a possible debt between you and your neighbor. You think you can repay God instead of helping your neighbor to improve and protect his possessions and income. You feel that if you just obey God, you won’t have to worry about taking your neighbor’s money or possessions and getting them in dishonest ways.
Yes, don’t steal from your neighbor. Don’t take his things by wrong or by show of rights. But also don’t presume that you can steal from God His glory of salvation or neglect the fact that He has already given you everything that is His to give in Christ Jesus.
God becomes a man in order that humanity might rob Him. Jesus opens Himself up to physical abuse and manhandling in order that He might give all of His possessions as an inheritance. In the abuse and death of Christ, we see the 7th commandment for what it really is: a prophecy of a Savior come to serve sinners the forgiveness of sins.
You render to the Lord not one thing and that is a good thing! He could not be called the Father of all mercies if He required payment for anything He did for us. Knowing the 7th command is not enough. Living for Him is not enough. The one thing you do for the Lord is to take.
Take what He offers. Take what He has to say to you. Take His washing of regeneration and rebirth. Take the faith given by His Word alone. Take His body and Blood. Take, take, take, because Jesus gives, gives, gives.
Jesus gives us God in a box; an infant shaped box at Christmastime. Jesus gives us a mighty king who grows up under His parents rule. Jesus gives us the perfection of all of God’s commands. Jesus gives us the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world on the cross and Jesus gives us His resurrected life.
The dishonest manager is praised because he shows us Jesus, bringing the
to earth. He shows
us that Jesus scatters and wastes His Father’s good upon undeserving sinners. This
is because, like the manager demands of the debtors, Jesus does not pay us what
we deserve. kingdom
When we are owed money, we are quick to send collectors and judges after our debtors, be they family or foe. When Jesus is owed justice and payment, He instead pays for it. “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”, He says. Salvation is not bought with gold or silver or man’s works, but only by the Blood of Christ.
Do not seek to please God with payment of an amended life or good intentions. Instead pay attention. “…pay attention [to the Word] as to a lamp shining in a dark place…”. Sit down. Rest from your labors and receive the very Good things that Christ has prepared for you from the beginning of the world. All who work for their grace will be grieved. All who receive forgiveness from the pastor, as from the Lord Himself, will be comforted.
The gifts Christ freely gives are what we payback to God. The Cup of Salvation which you take and the Name of the Lord which you already possess. These are gifts to give to God or rather show that you have received them.
Jesus is God and His gifts, which can not be stolen, flow from the font, flow from absolution, and flow from the feast. The Divine Service helps us fulfill this command and prevents us from neglecting it. For you can not steal what is freely and abundantly given and you can not neglect something you have no power over and is offered all the time, to you, for free.