Lost and Found
And a Little Chid Shall Lead Them (Isaiah 11:6)
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.” Luke 16: 1-13
For context—followed immediately by: The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him…
Huh? Really? WTH? So I read it again only to scratch my head find myself repeating—Huh? Really? WTH?
So I turn to the experts—the scholars. And the one thing that I find in common with each one is the repetition of my initial thoughts as they say—Huh? Really? WTH?
Well, kind of. One attempted to minimize the story by making the master the pinnacle of the community. Another tries to resolve by making the ‘dishonest’ not really ‘dishonest’—but instead hired as the problem solver in a dishonest system… But these explanations only leave me more confused—asking them Huh? Really? WTH?
So let’s recap the story. We have two main characters, the master and the manager. We don’t know much about the master other than he is a rich man that has entrusted his wealth to his manager. Putting this puzzle together, I want to somehow fit the metaphor of master with God, but this doesn’t work either as I reflect on Luke and rich people. (See Luke 4:18-19, 6:35, 7:41-42, 11:4, et. al.) Let us enter into the story from a way we may understand better.
There was this rich country, abundant in wealth and resources. This rich country had a manager that had great responsibility in managing housing. Not to point fingers—or to point more fairly, we could name this rich manager FNMA/Freddy Mac, or Lehman Brothers, or ________. The manager had become lazy in his management and the master had caught wind of this. The manager was confronted with questions asking what they are doing? But the manager was savvy—so he quickly through together a very unpopular program that protected the rich master called too big to fail. The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly.
Really, it is not much different than this—and the manager was rewarded, given large bonuses, and no one was arrested. Shrewd and savvy—and we all go—huh? Really?
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.
Jesus is talking with disciples. They have been together for a while—the plot is thickening, the tension has been building. It is hard to follow—even when we have heard the teaching, seen the healings, and can recall where we have been. Discipleship is hard. It is like now—finding ourselves 6 months removed from that beautiful Easter morning…where we say with confidence “Christ the Lord is Risen!” (Response: He is risen indeed!) Remember?
But now school has started again? The desire for routine sounds good…but wow, what a routine it is. Or the demands placed on us from work? Our families, aging parents, our children, struggles in a relationship… And we began looking back… we doubt, we struggle, we question… Following Jesus is not easy…Discipleship is not easy. It is hard to keep looking forward with anticipation of a promise when our feet grow weary. Can we stop and rest awhile? Or even, can we go back to the way it was painting a sensationalized picture of what it was…cause the future is hard…so we fall back.
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.
Means of dishonest wealth until gone—for all of this world—it is temporal. It is material, it is earthly. A very provocative way of saying, “who on their death bed every has stated, ‘I wish I would have spent more time in the office.” Oh, but the draw is great… but look ahead—beyond that what is temporal. What is truly important? For the rich master, how much is enough? Consider a system where the deck was stacked–where the landowner had all the cards. On a good year, when the olive crop was abundant, or the wheat was plentiful…yet will there be enough to pay the master? Will there be enough to pay the oppressive Roman government? And if there is not, this debt is added to the prior, and carried to the next year.
Now find yourself as the manager, or the mediator. You are the go between. From our earthly perspective, we have a job to do. It is a hard job, but that has been what supports us—has helped us be upwardly mobile. For we once were on the other side. We were the one trying to find out how we were going to put food on the table. To make our friends by honest wealth, we are hanging with the right people, the who’s who, the best seats. And then we pray a prayer that we way, ‘forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.’
What home are we preparing for? For to get ahead, to be the first, is to be last. But to prepare for that which is eternal, we forgive our debtors. We pardon the burden. We are confronted and asked, what is important?
For the kingdom of God is in our midst—and when we find ourselves living in the kingdom, in the presence of a living Christ—we catch a glimpse. Friends, I will trade with you any of the fanciest of luxuries—cars, front row seats, first class flights, expensive vacations, finest of jewels, or as the Beatles sing: I don’t care too much for money, cause money can’t buy me love. I will trade any of these temporal things—to find myself in community…the kind of community where we can put aside any inhibitions, no need to impress, no need to climb ladders, but the kind of community without pretense. Reflect for a moment on the happiest of moments—and we can share as a community that these moments were times full of laughter. These are times of being together, sharing stories, and belonging.
As followers of Christ, what master are we going to feed? For we can’t serve both? Where do we wish to set our foundations? It is not easy…but that is why we are not alone. That is why we are a community. Not a perfect community—for we are one made of many. But it is the many that help make one strong. And we are a community in Christ. Christ—a manager—who made friends in low places—a manager who afflicts the comfortable, and comforts the afflicted. But does this to bring us back to what is truly important.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen