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Sermon September 18 2022

Pentecost 15 C 2022 One Crazy Manager

Luke 16:1-13


Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The parable we have before us today is probably one of the most difficult parables for us to interpret.  What was Jesus thinking when He told a parable that praised a corrupt person who indulged in fraudulent financial dealings for his personal gain?   At first glance it does not make sense that we would lift up this deplorable character. 

After all, who would glorify a man whole stole from his employer to receive a “kickback” at a future time when he was without a job?  And who would admire a master (an employer) who praised his servant for fashioning himself a “golden parachute” at his expense?  The servant should be punished for his activity and the master should be compensated for his loss. 

One definition of a parable that I would like to share states “A parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.” C.H. Dodd 1935 Parables of the Kingdom

Well, this parable is both vivid and strange and it does fill our minds with doubt and confusion.  And so, the question is “What was Jesus thinking when He told this parable?” 

As I reflected on this strange parable, I found it helpful to remember that in Luke’s Gospel, and in Matthew’s as well, Jesus was criticized for freely forgiving the sins of people who came to Him.  In fact, when we read these two Gospels, we find that the religious folks were not as troubled by Jesus’ healing people as they were with Jesus forgiving sins.    

Yet that is what Jesus came into the world to do, to tell people that “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”  Luke 12:32 

Therefore, the parable of the manager is most likely a picture of Jesus and the way He was thought to be mismanaging His task as a Rabbi in the opinion of His critics.  The religious folks believed that forgiveness could only be given after clear indication that it was deserved, and this deserving was something that could only be accomplished through participation in the sacrificial system in the Temple.   

Jesus responds by highlighting to them that He is the crazy manager who adjusts human relationships with God by writing off debt.  That He is the One who in the name of God gives away the farm by offering unconditional forgiveness and acceptance to all people. 

Even so, we struggle to understand this bizarre parable.  Folks ask “Is Jesus really telling us that dishonesty pays off and that a little cheating is in line with the Christian life?”   And the answer is NO.  And yet there is a little bit of mischief in all of us. 

We don’t always tell the truth.  We cut corners.  We push the limits of what we can get away with at work and at home.  And we all struggle to avoid breaking bad.  

Our Gospel lesson today challenges us to fight the good fight while maintaining meaningful connection between our faith and the lives we are called to live. 

I think Jesus would also like us to note that the man in the parable was a realist.  When a hard decision was needed - he could make it.  His future, and no doubt his family, depended upon his ability to think fast. 

No, he did not (or should not) have to cheat or steal to get what he needed, but he did have to be deliberate and rooted in reality.  The servant sized up the situation and took the course of action that was best at the time. 

I do not expect anyone to say they love this parable concerning a servant who thought nothing of stealing his master’s wealth and resources to secure his personal future.  But how different are we?  God has placed in our hands all we need to live in his Good Creation. 

All of us are/have been blessed beyond our expectations or our deserving. 

The question therefore is how do we measure up with the Good Steward thing?  And do we take into account that everything we have is held in trust?  Do we sometimes forget the source of our blessings?  And do we forget that one day we must make an accounting for what we have done with the blessings God has placed into our hands? 

There is a news account about a rich man who died and left a sizable estate.  One of his curious neighbors asked the man’s lawyer “Would you mind telling me how much he left?”  The lawyer smiled and said “Not at all.  He left everything.”     

And the same is true for you and for me.  We too will leave behind everything that we owe.  

So, while there is time, let us shrewdly adjust our stewardship so others may benefit from the blessings God has given to us.  And perhaps when the day comes and we too leave behind everything, we will hear the joyful words of commendation “Well done, O good and faithful servant.  Amen.       

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you have given us riches beyond measure; and we know that all we have will one day be returned to you.  We ask that you bless our time, and our talents, and our money; and that you would help us use them wisely in your service and for your glory.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.