Serve God, Love God

Luke 16:1-15

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
10 “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law.
14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 
I am stepping away from the assigned readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for a few days in the coming weeks to share some illustrations that have come to mind recently.
You may have heard me share this one before – it is the story of an owner of an old-fashioned corner grocery store in a small country town who was fond of quoting a passage of Scripture after each sale. He had three old friends that would sit around a pot-bellied stove, playing checkers on a faded board. His ability to produce a Scripture for all occasions never ceased to amuse the old timers, and they would listen to see what verse he would come up with that was relevant to the sale made.
A lady purchased some fabric and he said, “She seeks wool, and flax, and works willingly with her hands.” A man bought a bag of flour and he said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” A little boy bought some candy, and as he rung it up he quoted, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”
It was nearly closing time when the chimes over the door jangled loudly. A well-dressed young man, obviously a stranger from one of the larger towns down the road, entered. “Can I help you?” offered the proprietor.
“I need a blanket for my horse,” said the man. “He’s out in his trailer and it’s too cold for just one. Bring me the nicest one you’ve got!”
The store owner went in the back storeroom and came back with a brown blanket. “That’ll be five dollars.”
“Five dollars? You’ve got to be kidding!” said the man. “This horse is a thoroughbred. He gets only the best! He wouldn’t stand still for an old five-dollar blanket.”
Without comment, the store owner took back the blanket, then merely selected a different color and brought it out. “This one’s 25 dollars.”
“Now, look,” said the young man, “perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. This isn’t just any old horse! He’s worth thousands! Now I want the best, most expensive blanket you’ve got! Understand?”
The owner once more went into the storeroom, pulled out another color of the same material and brought it back. “This is the only one left – you will notice the fine craftsmanship and the beauty and care in the pattern. This one, and a bargain at this price, is 100 dollars.”
“Now that’s more like it!” enthused the young man as he paid. Then, throwing the five-dollar blanket over his shoulder, he left.
The old timers stared silently at the shopkeeper as they waited to see what possible Scripture he could come up with for that sale! Going behind the register, he rung up the hundred dollars and said, “He was a stranger, and I took him in.”
Jesus tells how the manager is commended for his shrewdness. I would put it this way – don’t be a wimp for God! Do whatever you can, however you can, with whatever means you can, to share the Good News! Don’t let the fact that you are a Christian stop you from sharing the good news with others. If you are good at something, do it for the glory of God! For, you see, God is the one who knit us together in our mother’s wombs. He gave us a brain AND a heart – don’t be afraid to use both! If you are street smart, use that gift for God.
In the waters of baptism, we are given the promised gift of the Spirit which equips you and me to do God’s work. Use those gifts!
One final word, and I think this puts the proper parameters on what Jesus is talking about today. It is the final verse in our lesson for today. Remember who your God is. Martin Luther wrote about the first of the ten commandments – You shall have no other gods. That is, I must be your only God. Whatever you set your heart on and rely on is really your god.
Serve God with all that we are and all that we have. Give thanks to God for what has first been given us. Love God with our whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. Wisely, shrewdly.
For in doing it for God, we do it for others. In doing for others, we do it for God. Not for wealth, self, or harm.

In Galatians 5:22-23, we read these words:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
Use the gifts of the Spirit against which there is no law.
As forgiven squanderers of God’s bountiful goodness, forgiven and freed from the bondage of sin and death, may we respond with whatever means available to us to further God’s kingdom in the world.
It always comes back to this – love, serve and worship God. Love and serve others. By all means.
By all means!

Let us pray:

Almighty God, may we be so bold as to proclaim the good news so graciously given to us to others. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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