How could Jesus commend a dishonest manager?
Today’s parable from Jesus is a tough one, and not easy to make sense of. The story of the dishonest manager (or steward in older translations) seems contradictory. Surely Jesus wants us to be honest in our dealings with money – in our business and our personal lives. Yet Jesus seems to commend this shady character. Why? Not for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness. The key, I believe, is here: “For the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” As Christians we are the children of light. But how shrewd (and effective) are we in the world we live in? We live in a world of “the children of this age,” but we are meant to shine a light of change. I think Jesus wanted to make this point in a startling way.
The set of aphorisms attached to the end of this parable really don’t match it very well; perhaps the writer of Luke added them because they speak to the general topics of money, honesty, of faithfulness. Without a doubt, our relationship with money is complicated, and can easily slip into idolatry if we’re not careful. The dishonest steward certainly had a problem with money! Jesus’ final declaration is worth pondering by all of us:
“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one or love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
In Sunday’s sermon at 10:45 a.m., we’ll look at the issues of money raised by this strange parable, and also explore the different levels of interpretation this story requires of us. Taking it literally will not do! Practicing love with our money is both simple, and difficult. Together we can grow in this essential Christian practice. JBM