A Dishonest Manager Redeemed
Up until this story, we have been hearing many of Jesus' parables. Immediately preceding this story are the stories of the lost sheep and the prodigal son. Those are endearing stories, and we like to see ourselves as the lost ones that God loved enough to claim as God's own, despite their wanderings.
Then we have this story, where a dishonest manager is called on his frivolity. In a final, desperate act to save his own skin, he settles a number of debts on his employer's behalf. When the activity is discovered, the manager is commended for his shrewdness.
I don't want to be seen as the dishonest manager in the same way I was hoping to be seen as a prodigal child. I don't like dishonesty. I don't like that the manager settled the employer's debts by accepting less than was owed - for the sake of making friends for his personal gain. I don't want to identify with anyone in this story.
But, maybe there's something to this after all. We bought our current home in October, 2007 - yeah, like 15 seconds before the housing market crashed. Great. We weathered much of the worst of the storm. But often we had to do it by settling other debts for less than was owed. It didn't feel good to settle for less, but it did feel good to be settled. And I realized they were happy to get some/most of the debt over not getting any at all. It turns out, this is one of those gray areas where the perfect scenario could not be attained, so a mutual agreement was reached instead. I believe God was pleased that we did our best to settle our debts with integrity.
If I apply these same principles to the manager in the story, this looks like a story of redemption. A manager who was dishonest and wasteful, when faced with the cold, hard truth of his disastrous dealings, did an about face. He stepped up to the plate. He went after the employer's debtors aggressively and recovered more than he would have if he had not offered settlements. He redeemed himself. He took his propensity for dishonesty, and transformed it into shrewdness. Clever boy.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Luke 16:1-13
Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”