Luke 16:1-13
Who’s the Master

I want to talk to you today about fear.  Who here is afraid?  You all look pretty calm and collected but are there things that you secretly fear.  Are you like a duck, calm on the surface but paddling like mad underneath trying to make headway?

You may be hurting because of the Global Financial Crisis that the spin doctors are trying to convince us is over, but we are still feeling the pain, you may be wondering how you are going to pay the next gas bill, or next term’s school fees, you could be fearful of a health issue or surgery you are waiting on.  The possibilities are pretty much endless aren’t they?  Most of you won’t let on easily if there is an issue that you’re having trouble dealing with for fear of seeming inadequate. 

So, the parable today gives us a launch pad to talk about it.  The manager in the story acts in fear. He knows he’s been doing the wrong thing and he’s been found out.  He is afraid of having to do a hard day’s work and he’s also afraid of his boss.  So he cleverly devises a way to win friends and influence people.  Whether we agree with his methods or not is open to conjecture, but everything appears to work out ok for him, or does it…

What this does show us is that there are various ways of responding in times of crisis, we can act out of fear or we can be faithful.  The two don’t go together, just as you can’t serve God and wealth, you can’t be fearful and faithful at the same time either.  Our faith is based on the love that God has for us and the gift that he has shared with us through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Fear is the opposite of love, it drives people away from the only thing that can sustain them in hard times – faith.

Rather than coming to the boss and asking for forgiveness, the manager acts in fear and goes running to other people to win himself some friends through even more dishonest transactions,.  As we saw the boss acted in a worldly way and commended the manager on his shrewdness.  The manager and the boss were tarred with the same brush. They had the same moral and ethical values and both used them in fear.  One in fear of losing his job and comfortable way of life, the other in fear of not being as wealthy as he possibly could be.

Neither of them showed faith, they were relying on themselves and their own abilities to be forceful or shrewd and get ahead in life.  As I mentioned before we are still living in tough times, many of us are acting out of fear.  People are struggling to make ends meet, once again our congregation, the Victorian and Tasmanian District and even the LCA are struggling to meet our annual budgets, this creates fear.  It’s the time of year for appeals and pledges.  I’m not planning on using this sermon as a platform to guilt you out of your cash and increase your levels of fear though!

What we have in the church is not a financial crisis, it’s a faith crisis.  Or maybe it’s a fear crisis?  Whenever I think about finances I’m reminded of the text from Matthew’s gospel, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” and a little later on in the same Gospel, “Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

We are God’s chosen people, called into his presence through grace and forgiveness and we worry and fuss about SO many things that we get distracted and forget to hand our problems over to God.  We act in fear, not faith.  We know the dreaded Annual General Meeting is coming up and we don’t look like meeting budget again, we know that we are all strapped for cash in our own budgets, trying to make ends meet.  Do we act out of fear or do we take our faith on board and take the time to commit our needs to the Lord.  Our second reading today encouraged that prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone.  So how about it?  What have we got to lose?  What have we got to gain?

As I was meditating on this theme this week I was listening (as I often do) to a Tim McGraw song, it’s called Last Dollar (Fly Away), here is what it says;

Chorus:
1,2,3 like a bird I sing, cause you’ve given me this beautiful set of wings.

Verse
I'm down to my last dollar
I've walked right through my shoes
Just a small reminder of the hell that I've gone through
But look at me still smiling as I'm wondering what I'll do
Since I ain't got nothing I got nothing to lose
Everybody say ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Well my friends are always giving me watches hats and wine
That's how I know this is serious that's how I know it's time
I don't have to worry about things that I don’t have cause if
I ain't got nothing I got nothing to hold me back.

Fair enough the grammar isn’t great, but the sentiment is real, if we have nothing there is nothing to hold us back.  The birds of the air don’t worry so why should we.  As far as I know none of us are quite down to our last dollar yet, we still have more than two or three gathered here for worship each week, so we’re not down for the count by any stretch of the imagination.  We have so much to be rejoicing in, yet I sense an air of fear in the church, amongst God’s people here and around the world.

We have a choice, we can either hunker down and shrivel up and die, or we can step out in faith, reaching out in faith, hope and love, to our friends and neighbours who used to sit here in the pews with us, we can pray without ceasing for the Lord to guide us and provide for us, to give us the direction that we should go.  We can see the glass half empty or we can see the cup overflowing.  We can dwell on the past or we can look forward to the future. 

What changes could we make in our lives to be better stewards of the daily bread that our Lord gives us?  Could we be more shrewd with our money, should we be giving of the first fruits that God has given us and trusting that he will provide for what we need?  Would that take away or add to the fear you are currently experiencing?  That’s between you and God as you pray for his direction and guidance, his peace and comfort.

After Jesus told the parable he gave the disciples a bit of a summing up of the whole thing, he says that if you’re faithful with a little you will also be faithful in much and if you’re unfaithful with a little you’ll also be unfaithful with much and you cannot serve two masters, its either God or money.  When we live in fear of running out of money, we have become a slave to it, when we hand everything over to God to deal with and guide us, we are being controlled by him, we are serving him and funnily enough being served by him.

Don’t be afraid, hand everything over to God, your salvation doesn’t depend on it, but those around us, outside of the church, the body of Christ, just might see it and ask you to tell them where your hope comes from, their salvation just might come down to your witness to them as you experience hard times together.