Tuesday, March 24
Today’s reading: Luke 16:1-18
Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
I read a passage like the one for today, and I’m confused. What does Jesus mean here? How does Jesus want us to use our resources? Why would he commend the dishonest manager? I think about those in our government who were accused of downplaying the coronavirus but divested millions of dollars from the stock market before it went into a steep dive. Shrewd certainly, but dishonest as well, using insider information for personal gain. Are we to commend such actions? What would Jesus say? One commentator puts it that wealth is a blessing and a curse. Sure, it helps but it can be either used for our own exclusive comfort or as a tool to help others in need. Maybe all of us need encouragement doing better in sharing what we have.
I never realized there was a parallel between this parable and that of the prodigal son, but in both cases, the dishonest manager and the wayward son squander resources that are not their own. The dishonest manager goes to creditors and has them write down that they owe less. The son claims his inheritance from his father but wastes it on wild living.
The prodigal son repents and decides to return home and confess to his father that he has sinned against heaven and his father, and is no longer worthy to be called his son. The dishonest manager was called before his master. He was accused of wasting his master’s possessions, asked to give an account of his management, and told he is fired. The trouble for me is that I don’t see the manager repenting of his actions. Instead he courts the favor of his master’s creditors by lowering the amount of their indebtedness. He is being in essence an agent of their “forgiveness”. The manager has sacrificed any gain he might receive by continuing to be in his master’s employ. He transfers that gain to his master’s creditors, in the hope that they might reward him later.
Understanding this parable is a bit of a long shot for me, but as I see it, the more we share now, the more we will receive later, when we come to our eternal home in heaven. We will be commended, like that dishonest manager, as we use our worldly goods to help others. This is a time when we are called on to help as we can, even if we are holed up in our homes right now. Pray about how you can care for others in this difficult time. God will call us to account for what we have done or have failed to do.
Lord, thank you for the generosity of individuals and companies who have pledged their support for the medical community in their great need for protective equipment. Thank you for those who are on the front lines fighting this coronavirus. Speak to our hearts, Lord, that we may find ways to care for others in our community, and especially those who have lost jobs or are financially insecure. Teach us to share as we can, for we need one another as much now as ever. Keep us in your care, for we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.