Word gets out that the manager is “squandering” the rich man’s money. The rich man calls his manager into his office and makes him sit on the “you’re about to get canned” couch. As suspected, the manger gets fired, panics, and tries to find another way to get by in this world. He doesn’t want to stand on the side of the road carrying a cardboard sign. He doesn’t want to wake up at 5 a.m. and work on a construction site. So he does what he does best. He devises a plan to manipulate people into trusting him so that he will have somewhere to go after he is fired.
The manager follows up by telling his master’s clients that they owe less than what is on the invoice. He does all this without the master’s direction. Eventually, the master discovers what the manager has been doing. Instead of banishing his manger to the outer darkness, the master says to his manager, “well done, you have acted shrewdly.” In other words, the master congratulates the manager for taking a disastrous situation and making good on it.
The story might make a little more sense if we were reading a case study on a multi-billion dollar company. But the fact that this story appears in the Bible and the fact that Jesus affirms the manager’s use of dishonest wealth makes this parable very difficult to interpret.
This is the challenge for preachers everywhere Sunday. I don't know what I am going to end up saying but below are some initial thoughts based on my own prayers and conversations with others...
- Two wrongs make a right?
- Paul, Ringo, John, and George were wrong-money can buy you love? (pretty sure this is idolatry though)
- The Bible isn't merely a code of ethics. We aren't called to imitate the Dishonest Steward. The Bible is the story of how God is bringing us into His new world as created through Jesus.
- Jesus actually told this story after his first miracle in Cana when he changed water into copious amounts of wine (courtesy of a clergy colleague of mine)
- along similar lines-Luke does seem to be merging Jesus' sayings here so it is more like a cocktail of sorts
- We don't live in a world where the right decisions are always clear. We don't make decisions in a vacuum. Most of our decisions are made in imperfect situations. So even our best choices can be tainted and selfish. Sin is a choice but sin is also a condition because the world is infected with sin (the story of Jesus tells the story of how God is purifying the earth).
- The manager forgives debts. The master forgives manager. Jesus says, "forgive as we are forgiven." Forgiveness is the way out of the messy situation we all find ourselves in.
- What is the purpose of money? How does it affect our relationships? Does money possess us? How does using our money make us more generous?
- How much more wonderful would this story be if the steward was genuine in his actions?
Have a great weekend and if you have any insights I am open to hear them!