Monday, September 13, 2010

Who you serve Luke 16:1-15

Jesus, in Luke 16:1-15, tells a story that many people can relate too. A man was about to lose his job as a business manager. He was accused of wrong doing and his boss demanded that he make an accounting for what he'd done and what he had left undone.

The manager didn't like his chances. He,

...thought to himself, ‘Now what? I’m through here, and I don’t have the strength to go out and dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. I know just the thing! And then I’ll have plenty of friends to take care of me when I leave!’ New Living Translation Luke 16:3-4.
The manager told his soon to be former customers to tear up their bills. A debt of 800 gallons became 400 and a debt of 1000 bushels became 800. Jesus story surprises me; but it shouldn't. He spoke bluntly as someone who sees the world in action for good and for ill. He explained that,
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Luke 16:8-9 NIV.
Jesus saw the God fearing fall prey to the world. Even as we try to be shrewd in our dealings in the world we have an enemy who seeks to consume and destroy us by getting us to consume and destroy others. Jesus words have been sound advice for 2000 years but they have also pointed to our limits. We fall prey to the schemes of the evil one who seeks our loyalty. Jesus wasn't speaking idly when he said,
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Luke 16:13 NIV.
Jesus' words have the clarity of an alarm bell. The question is will people sleep through the alarm and sleepwalk in service to a master other than God.

Who do you serve?
More than a decade ago my old college roommates liked the band Nine in Nails. The words of the dark hard driving song "Head Like a Hole" on the album Pretty Hate Machine speak, in the chorus especially, of the power surrendered to whatever or who ever we serve. The chorus strikes hard, "Bow down before the one you serve, you're going to get what you deserve." These haunting words in response to the singer asking "...god money tell me what you want."

In my generation it's clear we serve all sorts of idols who will eagerly replace God. The ugly truth is these idols will demand even greater service at greater cost. The debate was not over trivial matters of day to day earthly choice but over the limits of human choice in matters of God's control. A few years later I entered seminary and encountered Luther's debate with Erasmus in The Bondage of the Will. Luther wrote naming the power God has and the limits of human choice as compared to God's power. Luther argued that because God is soveriegn our wills and powers have will always have limits. To some this sounds like a great loss; but to Luther he saw this as the source of greatest gain,
But surely it is preferable to lose the world rather than God the creator of the world, who is able to create innumerable worlds again, and who is better than infinite worlds! For what comparison is there between things temporal and things eternal? This leprosy of temporal evils ought therefore to be endured rather than that all souls should be slaughtered and eternally damned while the world is kept in peace and preserved from these tumults by their blood and perdition, seeing that the whole world cannot pay the price of redemption for a single soul. Martin Luther, Luther's Works, Vol. 33 : Career of the Reformer III, ( ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al.;, Luther's Works Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1972), Page 53.
Luther spoke of God's supreme power in debate with those who claimed humans have free choice even over salvation. Luther spoke of God's power as a word of gospel naming God's authority to rescue the most ungodly through the Word. Today give thanks for God's power to break any bonds and age to set captives free.

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