"Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful." 1 Corinthians 4: 1-2
In this place Paul speaks on the office of spiritual stewards. That is, stewards of the mysteries of God who must distribute God's mysteries to the people; and who else is the steward of the mysteries of God than a teacher into whose care God's mysteries have been entrusted. The Apostle yet places alongside this remarkable word, that it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful, in temporal as well as heavenly matters. But the Saviour has said that some stewards are such that they begin to beat their fellow servants when the Master had gone away; and said yet to himself: "My Lord delayeth his coming and will not come back quickly," and trusting upon this delay he began to beat and starve his fellow servants. He no doubt thought that no one would dare to accuse him. But the Saviour asks all stewards what the Master will do to such stewards who so mercilessly beat and. starve their fellow servants. A few stewards are like the one who allows his fellow servants to starve and who himself lives sumptuously; in such stewards there is no faithfulness.
The Saviour said also to His disciples: "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to others in parables." He therefore lets all know that Jesus' disciples must know the mysteries of God's kingdom; otherwise, how could they be the stewards of the mysteries of God when they must distribute to the fellow servants their portion of the law and gospel, as much as belongs to each one. To this place also belongs what the Saviour says to His disciples: "neither cast your pearls before swine;" that is: God's grace does not belong to the sorrowless and hardened, but to the penitent. The disciples of Jesus are truly stewards of the mysteries of God and therefore they must know the mysteries of God's kingdom; they must know what goods have been entrusted to them.
Unfortunately in these times many unjust stewards are found who wrongly distribute God's precious goods and property. Those also can be found, who not only beat, but also starve their fellow servants and even cast God's gifts to the goats and swine, and such stewards no doubt think that the Master will delay his coming; the Master will not come soon. Surely the goats and swine like such stewards very much who cast God's gifts to them and starve their fellow servants; but the Master does not like such ones very much. I have heard that some lords of this world give delicacies to dogs and bones to the children; and they, too, may be such stewards of which the Saviour reminds, that they beat their fellow servants, thinking that the Master will delay his coming, who knows how long the Master will delay? He may come then when the stew believes the least. Because now "it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful," so it would be necessary to watch who now would be a faithful steward, who now could be a faithful steward of the mysteries of God. Such a one is probably not a faithful steward, who beats his fellow servants when the Master goes away. Nor is such a one a faithful steward who gives delicacies to the dogs and bones to the children. The Saviour said to the woman of Canaan: "It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to dogs", but such kind are some stewards — they take the children's bread and cast it to dogs: what must the Master and parent do to such stewards who take the children's bread and cast it to dogs? Must he not be horrified and weep when he hears how his children are starved and the dogs are well fed. And the second horror is that some stewards cast God's grain to the goats and swine; what must the Master say to such ones when he hears how unjust and unfaithful stewards squander his goodness? Must he not become angry at such ones and say: "Thou wicked servant, give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward." But the unjust steward no doubt thinks thus: surely the Master will delay his coming, he will not come back again so soon. But now if he would yet delay a little while as the unjust steward thinks, although Peter writes to the Christians that the Lord will not delay His coming as some think He will. Anyway that day will once come that the unjust steward will be called before his Lord and He will say to him: "Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward." No doubt the unjust steward will then go to his Lord's debtors and say; "How much owest thou unto my Lord?" If then the Lord's debtors say how great a debt they have, namely a hundred measures of wheat or a hundred measures of oil, then the unjust steward will say: "Take the bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty." Or as the sorrowless clergy of this day say to the awakened: you are not at all the greatest sinner, surely you will be forgiven; and you do not have to short your sins to the world. Thus the sorrowless pastor now preaches to the half-awakened ones, and if they believe his sermon, they then take their bill and write fifty; they read the debt of sin as half less, and finally with their own repentance become Christians. The whores and thieves, drunkards and saloonkeepers then say, "Ah, that is a good pastor, who does not bark so terribly that people become crazy, and we will carry him into everlasting dwelling places." But it is unknown how much you will carry such a teacher who preaches the gospel so sweetly that meek harlots give their milk, and serpent's tears flow from the saloonkeeper's eyes because he, too, is mentioned as a dear Christian. Tears begin to flow from the sober drunkard's eyes because flowing devil's dung has already long ago made his heart tender. Who knows how many such dear Christians will thank their teacher in eternity, when the eyes open and they can see that the whole debt of sin has been left unpaid.
And surely such unjust stewards take children's bread and cast it to the dogs; they give delicacies to dogs and to children they give bones. What will the Parent say when he comes and finds out what the unjust stewards do when they feed the pigs well and starve the children? I think that such doings will pain the Parent's heart very much, and not in any case will the Parent be very concilitory to such an unjust steward, nor will he be likely to again entrust his house and his children into the care of such a steward, who feeds the pigs well and starves the children.
Now because the gospel for today shows how cunning the unjust steward is to deceive his Lord, we must by God's grace look at his cunning, when we have first bowed our knees before that great and powerful Master, praying with all our heart that those poor children would not become so unfortunate that they would fall into the care of an unjust steward, who takes children's bread and casts it to the dogs, or gives dogs delicacies and throws bones to the children! Although I truely am a poor one to feed God's children, that the conscience has not yet yielded to, that I should take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs, but as Paul says: "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it;" anyway I hope that the children will grow teeth, that they could, without eating chewed food, begin to eat stronger food that they wouldn't need to always watch for chewed food from another's mouth. For the time may soon come that such a steward will come, of which an old proverb says: "A child eats from the feeder and the feeder feeds himself too." Pray now, children, in behalf of those who have become so unfortunate that they must die of hunger with food beside them, or who have such a steward who takes the children's bread and casts it to the dogs, that the great Master and Parent Who feeds and upholds all orphans would give them such a steward who could faithfully feed God's children. Hear, dear Parent, the sigh of the weeping and moaning ones! Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 16:1-12
Because expounders of the Scriptures surmise that this unjust steward is a rich man to whom has been entrusted much worldly goods, which he wastes and uses wrongly, not to the glory of God nor in the helping of neighbors, but for his own corruption and for the misfortune of other people, so we must by God's grace examine: What man is this unjust steward? And who are the Lord's debtors whom the unjust steward teaches to change the right accounting? May that great Lord and Master Who has entrusted both temporal as well as spiritual goods to those who are the stewards of His mysteries, give to us right enlightenment, that we could rightly understand what His will is!
The first consideration: Who is the unjust steward? Present day expounders of the Scriptures say that this unjust steward is a rich man to whom much worldly goods has been entrusted, and the Lord's debtors are supposedly troubled ones who have like a right to receive help from the rich man: but this rich man has not rightly used his goods for God's glory and for helping troubled ones, but he has wasted his own, as the world's lords are accustomed to doing, in vain Keeping of funeral, baptism, and wedding feasts; some world's lords take from the poor and spend it on the rich. And when the Lord calls them to make an account, through sickness or adversity, they take and make a will to the poor ones with that intention that the poor would pray in behalf of their soul when they die. But it is unknown if the poor ones can with their foreprayers carry the soul of one slave of mammon into everlasting habitations, who has lived in the world like a creature; wrongly used God's blessings in vain feasts, and has made more poor than he has helped. He has first gathered goods Justly and unjustly; if the poor have needed to beg something of him, he has taken an expensive price from them; some have with liquor business made the country black: and such a slave of mammon now takes and makes a will to the poor when he dies; surely the poor who receive a portion of his goods will take and pray in behalf of his soul, that the devil will not take him after death. I think that the devil will take his soul just the same, no matter how great a portion of his goods he would give to the poor, because he has no other foundation of salvation than this only, that the poor pray in behalf of his soul, although many a blind wretch may so think that the poor will carry his soul into everlasting habitations when they pray in behalf of his soul. But this explanation of the Scriptures does not fit at all in this place: instead the unjust steward is a teacher to whom has been entrusted spiritual goods, which he must use for the upbuilding of Christianity, as Paul in the above-mentioned place said; We are the stewards of His mysteries. But some teachers do not preach so that people would awaken, but they waste God's entrusted goods and property; they promise grace and salvation to all the unrepentant, and preach the gospel so sweetly that meek harlots give their milk and gracious saloonkeepers begin to shed serpent's tears. They preach to the drunkards: dear Christians, and to the saloonkeepers: dear friends of Jesus, surely you will become saved if you live so meekly as you have lived until this time. You do not need to become so crazy as these awakened ones who sigh like creatures and bark at honorable people, and they even howl. If some penitent soul comes to such a teacher and with tears confesses his sins, then he says: "What howling is this?" Such is now the unjust steward: a wolf who ravages Jesus' sheep; he not only preaches to the drunkards: dear Christians, and to the saloonkeepers: dear friends of Jesus, but he preaches also to the penitent: you false prophets, and to the graced ones: you wild spirits. Such a teacher pretends not to know that the church is full of impenitent devils, who behind the back make faces at even their own teacher and call him a black satan. What kind of thanks will such a teacher finally receive from them when the eyes of both open? Surely they will carry him into everlasting habitations and thank him in eternity for the good teachings; so thinks the unjust steward, that because he teaches the Lord's debtors to lessen their debt of sin, then they will pray in behalf of his soul and carry him into everlasting habitations. If now such a steward meets his Lord's debtors and asks: how much do you owe my Lord? Then they answer: a hundred measures of oil, or a hundred measures of wheat. The Lord's debtors are namely awakened people who feel how great their debt of sin is; and they confess their sins although the unjust steward has not yet asked them; and they have the debt of sin written on their conscience or in the account book of the conscience. But the unjust steward does not say to his Lord's debtors: it has been rightly written in the book of account, and look after it now, how this debt would become paid, or go now to the Lord and pray: be patient with me and I will repay all. But the unjust steward says to the Lord's debtors: Take your bill, sit down quickly and write fifty; that is to say — you are not at all the greatest sin" ner; surely you have been forgiven, if you can believe. Here is not a question of true penitence and repentance; for the unjust steward does not demand of his Lord's debtors that they must make a true penitence, but he teaches them to lessen the debt of sin and says: take your bill, sit down quickly and write fifty; and so he thinks that they will thank him in eternity for that good work that he taught them to lessen the debt of sin. But who knows how much they will thank him for it when the eyes open and they can see that the whole debt of sin has been left unpaid and unforgiven.
But let us hear yet what the unjust steward says when the Lord intends to take his office from him: he says, namely, thus: "I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed," Namely, if the unjust steward should begin to make the right accounting with the Lord's debtors or demand them to pay their debt: that is — if he would begin to demand of them true penitence, then he would have to himself also begin to dig ditches in the Lord's vineyard and perform heavy labor; he would have to himself begin to dig old sins up and begin to lead penitent souls; but this digging becomes so heavy for the unjust steward that he would sooner throw out the teacher's office, as many a pastor has already intended to do who has a few awakened ones in the congregation. His own penitence and leading the souls of the penitent ones becomes so heavy that he must say: "I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed"; that is: I am not able to dig ditches in the Lord's vineyard; I am not able to lead penitent souls, and I am ashamed to beg for the Lord's grace, that He would strengthen me. In this way the unjust steward finds that best advice, that he teach the awakened to lessen the debt of sin, that they would cease making penitence and would carry him into the house; when he puts their consciences to sleep, then he himself also receives a better peace. No doubt they will give him punch from their wage when he allows them to go to hell in peace, for if he should begin to dig ditches in the Lord's vineyard, or dig up his own and other's sins, then it would become heavy and troublesome work for him. He would not have the leisure to keep feasts or to go to gentlemen's affairs and play cards with them; he would also become honorless if he would begin to bark at the sorrowless. The world's lords would begin to hate him, saloonkeepers would say to him: "Thou art a Samaritan and thou hast a devil"; all meek whores would begin to accuse him, nor could a single saloonkeeper hold him to be a lord. How could an unjust steward be able to dig so much in the Lord's vineyard? He will sooner give up the whole office, as many a sorrowless pastor has intended to do when he has begun to feel how heavy it is to bear the burden and heat of the day; namely, the carrying and digging is not so easy for the teacher in the Lord's vineyard where there are awakened people. The dog's office is not so easy as the sorrowless pastors think; for that reason they attempt by all means to smother every single spark of that fire which the Saviour came to kindle on the earth; they try to extinguish that spiritual fire in every place where it appears; and they think that thereby they are extinguishing hell's fire; but it will probably kindle hell's fire more than extinguish it thereby, that they make impenitent sinners believe that they will, such as they are, get into the kingdom of Heaven. Who knows how it will go at last with the unjust steward, when the impenitent whores and honest thieves or sober drunkards and gracious saloonkeepers should carry him into everlasting dwelling places?
But why did the Lord thank that unjust steward that he performed diligently? Would the unjust steward through that thanks merit eternal life and salvation? But probably the thanks will not come to him as repentance when his cunning will be seen in the right light of day. The Lord thanks him, not because he did right, but that he could be cunning that he could so deceive the Lord's debtors, that he could put their consciences to sleep in that way, that he taught them to change the bill of the conscience. The Saviour speaks in this place as a certain rich worldly merchant usually does when he notices how sly the store clerk is to change the accounting, so he says: "He surely was cunning!" But the store clerk through this saying has not received any thanks, but the store clerk is driven out of the Lord's house, for it is said to him: "Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward," At this time most store clerks are so cunning at deceiving themselves and the Lord's debtors, that if they do not begin to dig up their own and the debtors' sins, they probably will soon receive this command: "Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward." Although they think, "My Lord will delay His coming," and they begin to beat their fellow servants. Some give delicacies to dogs and to children they toss bones: they take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs, Should not the Parent become angry, should not such a terrible matter hurt the Parent's heart, when He hears how the unjust steward starves His children, but feeds the pigs. I am truly a poor one to feed God's children, but I have not anyway with my mind and will taken the children's bread and cast it to the dogs.
Now the Saviour finally says in today's gospel: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." Some think that the Saviour in this verse encourages His disciples to gather worldly substance and property, but in that the devil of greed probably better encourages not only the slaves of mammon, but also the disciples; and if they just consent to it, then probably also that substance will be left unsought for which the moth does not corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. But the Saviour encourages His disciples to rather speak to the rich, that they would turn to Christianity, and in that way would become friends with them and would receive help from them in time of persecution, Jesus' disciples are, namely, poor and hated by the world; because they are hated and persecuted for Christianity's sake, they must sometimes leave all and follow Christ, and then may the rich help Jesus' poor disciples in behalf of body, if they make friends for themselves of the unrighteous mammon. It is not at all the intention that Christians should pray and cunningly speak to the sorrowless that they would help them in behalf of body, but the Saviour's intention is that the disciples must labor upon this, that the rich of this world who often have gathered goods unjustly, would turn to Christianity so they willingly would help the poorer Christians when they need help. It would not be fitting either for a Christian to begin to preach into his own purse, but only that the rich of this world would become Christians, Here are now three explanations: First, that a Christian surely may gather world's goods if he can, and in that way make for himself friends of unrighteous mammon; and all are agreeable to this explanation, especially merchants and saloonkeepers. The second explanation is this: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness," that is: you must not offend the mind of the rich, but be friends with them, that they would help you when you need it. This explanation without a doubt the rich of this world agree to, so that the poor disciples would not dare to bark at them. But it would become a great vexation to the poor Christians if they would have to, because of bodily distress, so serve the rich that they could not any longer speak the truth to them. Namely, if a poor Christian barks at a rich heathen, then the rich heathen becomes angry and no longer helps the poor. But the third explanation is this: "Make, etc," that is: speak to the rich of this world that they would turn to Christianity, and would help you when because of severe persecution you need help from them. But now the rich of this world will begin to search for mice and say: "So they expound the Scriptures that they might get us so crazy that we would begin to give those lazy ones our property, that they could drink coffee well and go to the villages to bark; they travel under the guise of Christianity, but probably the Christianity of many is in the colon. And when Old Adam speaks these words, he pretends to be so truthful and valiant that the devil himself can say: "Amen! it is a true word: now you know how to speak right, my boy!" But surely the Christians will nevertheless bark, although the sorrowless and servants of the devil do not give them anything. The world's rich must hear the truth until that time that they must cast all the wrongly-obtained money on the church floor; all the wrongly-obtained goods which have been collected with thievery and unjust means, must burn their consciences eternally if they do not become cast away in the time of grace. For with Judas' purse no one will enter into the kingdom of Heaven. So make for yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when you need it, they will carry you into everlasting habitations: for the devil will not likely spare Jesus' disciples because he has not spared them before either; although the unjust steward thinks that in this way he will become carried into everlasting habitations: that he teaches the Lord's debtors to change the books of the conscience. But the devil will probably in the end carry his soul. He no doubt will thank him for that, that he could deceive his Lord and make his Lord's debtor's book of conscience to be changed.
Do not change the book of conscience, you Lord's debtors: but allow all the letters to be unmoved, and be sorrowful about how your debt would be paid; or if you are not able to pay, then fall down before your Lord's feet and pray that He would be patient with you, that He would forgive your debts, that He would nail your bill of debt to the cross, as Paul writes that the handwriting on which our debt is written has been nailed to the cross; namely the penitent and believing ones' bill of debt, who feel that they are not able to pay it, not in this nor in the future world. Pray, you Lord's debtors, that not a single unjust steward would deceive you, but better examine your book of the conscience, that you would never forget how great your debt has been and how much forgiveness you have received from the Lord. And never forget that you have been heathens and aliens from the commonwealth of Isreal, but by God's mercy the light has shown from on high to enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, that they could see that great and amazing light which is with God. Amen.