First Fruits (Luke 16:1-15)

It’s been said that the two touchiest topics for pastors to address with parishioners relate to sex and money. While the Scriptures speak a clear Word on both, the latter topic is more often addressed by Jesus in the gospels…especially the Gospel of Luke. In the appointed reading for this Sunday, Jesus draws a line in the sand that is really for our benefit: “You cannot serve God and money” (15). He tells a parable of a dishonest steward (you can read it here) who was generous with his master’s money. When you think about it, that’s what we are all, stewards of our generous Lord, called to be.

The home, the cars, the college savings account, the retirement savings...none of it is really OURS, is it? At first glance it appears otherwise. We make OUR money and save OUR hard-earned dollars to cash in for future rewards. But the words of Job (Job 1:21) still hold true for all of us today: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return [to the grave].” The words of the Chronicler regarding offerings to the Jerusalem temple are true for offerings received in churches all over the world again this weekend: “All things come from You [oh God] and of Your own we have given You” (1 Chronicles 29:14). Even the health required to get up in the morning and go in to work is nothing to take for granted. Even that comes from the hand of our generous Lord.

So the question comes: what does generosity with our generous Lord’s money look like, in real, day-to-day terms? Does Jesus expect us to all join religious orders that take vows of poverty? Is Jesus implying that the amount we give or donate puts us into a special category, as if we can buy our way into heaven? Is there more grace available for people who tithe (give 10% or more their income to the church or other charities) than there might be for others? No. The logic of our text is more complicated than that. Money is not inherently evil, but Jesus knows we live in a world where we are in danger of being mastered by the LOVE of money. In calling us away from a preoccupation and worry over matters financial, the words of Jesus in Luke 16 can lead us to a 3-part task: 1) Take stock of what we have and realize that it all is a gift from our generous Lord; 2) intentionally and generously dedicate a portion of what we have (first fruits) to God’s work in a world of needs; 3) then live freely and thankfully with the remainder, confident that (because of what Jesus has accomplished!) we are already living out the joy of dwelling in an eternal dwelling place, a home that we are given to see with the eyes of faith.

Trinity is a generous congregation that gives freely because it has received freely from a generous Lord. Our ability to serve the neediest in our midst is made possible by the saving work of Jesus Christ…a work that we celebrate with our upcoming Pledge Sunday, November 3. To highlight this event and the opportunity we all have to intentionally dedicate our first fruits throughout this fall season, we will be giving thanks for the many ways our church budget and the helping hands of our membership support our immediate and extended community: H.O.P.E. of Southern Maryland, St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen, WARM (Wrapping Arms ‘Round Many), Trinity’s Care Pantry, LCMS Mercy work in Africa, mission starts in the greater Washington D. C. area through the work of the Southeastern District, and the list goes on.

Though not all are gifted equally, we all have a “first fruits” contribution to make from the bounty of gifts we receive from God each day. Whether that offering be our time, our talent, or our treasure, let’s remember that wealth is found not in what we have, but rather what our generous Lord empowers us to give away.