Luke 16:1-13 (from The Voice)
Here’s a parable He told the disciples:
Jesus: Once there was a rich and powerful man who had an asset manager. One day, the man received word that his asset manager was squandering his assets.
2 The rich man brought in the asset manager and said, “You’ve been accused of wrongdoing. I want a full and accurate accounting of all your financial transactions because you are really close to being fired.”
3 The manager said to himself, “Oh, no! Now what am I going to do? I’m going to lose my job here, and I’m too weak to dig ditches and too proud to beg. 4 I have an idea. This plan will mean that I have a lot of hospitable friends when I get fired.”
5 So the asset manager set up appointments with each person who owed his master money. He said to the first debtor, “How much do you owe my boss?” 6 The debtor replied, “A hundred barrels of oil.” The manager said, “I’m discounting your bill by half. Just write 50 on this contract.” 7 Then he said to the second debtor, “How much do you owe?” This fellow said, “A hundred bales of wheat.” The manager said, “I’m discounting your debt by 20 percent. Just write down 80 bales on this contract.”
8 When the manager’s boss realized what he had done, he congratulated him for at least being clever. That’s how it is: those attuned to this evil age are more clever in dealing with their affairs than the enlightened are in dealing with their affairs!
9 Learn some lessons from this crooked but clever asset manager. Realize that the purpose of money is to strengthen friendships, to provide opportunities for being generous and kind. Eventually money will be useless to you—but if you use it generously to serve others, you will be welcomed joyfully into your eternal destination.
10 If you’re faithful in small-scale matters, you’ll be faithful with far bigger responsibilities. If you’re crooked in small responsibilities, you’ll be no different in bigger things. 11 If you can’t even handle a small thing like money, who’s going to entrust you with spiritual riches that really matter? 12 If you don’t manage well someone else’s assets that are entrusted to you, who’s going to give over to you important spiritual and personal relationships to manage?
13 Imagine you’re a servant and you have two masters giving you orders. What are you going to do when they have conflicting demands? You can’t serve both, so you’ll either hate the first and love the second, or you’ll faithfully serve the first and despise the second. One master is God and the other is money. You can’t serve them both.
SERMON - THE AMORAL MANAGER
"When the manager’s boss realized what he had done, he congratulated him for at least being clever. That’s how it is: those attuned to this evil age are more clever in dealing with their affairs than the enlightened are in dealing with their affairs!." Luke 16:8
Who is this boss who praises an unjust steward, even though the boss himself may be a victim of the manager’s shrewd schemes? Before we think more about that question, let’s try to clear the ground.
Most translations say that the Master (what we call "the boss") ‘commended the dishonest steward’.
A literal translation of the Greek text would make it ‘steward of unrighteousness’, which seems a clumsy expression. Maybe it is the Greek translation of a common Aramaic idiom of Jesus’ time, now lost to us. The old Authorised version put it: ‘ and the lord commended the unjust steward’ which I prefer to the word dishonest.
The Manager is amoral because it seems close to the attitude of many people of the present, post-modern era. It is not so much a matter of breaking a moral code but not having a code. It's living without any concern for anyone but themselves. They are not so much immoral as amoral.
That sums up the manager, or steward, in the parable. Anything that was good for him was good. That, as far as he was concerned, was all that mattered.
The main thrust of the parable is clear: Look ahead. Be far sighted. Where are you heading? Well get ready for it. Be as clever about the practice of your faith, as the amoral manager was. And in particular, use whatever worldly possessions you have for the glory of God, in the same manner as the unscrupulous manager did.
A confession: I have a sneaking admiration for this crook in the parable. I like the way he sums up the future. If the boss sacks him, if his present comfortable existence is to suddenly end, what iare his options?
He quickly gets to the nitty gritty: I’m too old to dig post holes or gardens, or ditches, and I am too proud to beg. Fair enough. This is not some impractical dreamer. He deals with facts. With outcomes. So he takes the shrewdest way to a more comfortable future: he uses what is still in his control, to lay the ground for what was to come. This fellow alters the accounts of his boss’s debtors so that they will be grateful and show him hospitality after he gets the sack.
We do not want to copy all the ways of ‘the children of this secular world in dealing with their own,’ but we can learn from their frankness when dealing with themselves. We are called by Christ to be realistic, to open our eyes and to look ahead.
Of course the goal is very different. Our goal is a high and very broad one. It is the kingdom of God and its righteousness. It is meeting with and serving with Christ in the all the activities of life. It is loving our neighbours and even our enemies. It is living the eternal life, the boundless life, here and now, for that is the destiny to which are committed. It is providing for our spiritual needs and the spiritual needs of those around us.
As Jesus went on to say, even make friends of filthy money so that it serves your true end. Don’t despise it, use it for the glory of God.
Jesus says: Open your eyes. See where you are and what lies ahead. Be as frank with yourself and as clear headed s those astute operators in the secular world.
When the manager’s boss realized what he had done, he congratulated him for at least being clever. That’s how it is: those attuned to this evil age are more clever in dealing with their affairs than the enlightened are in dealing with their affairs!.
So who is this boss who sees some good in an unjust steward? It is Christ and his God. If God doesn't commend the unjust steward, then there isn't much hope for us.
We stand among the unjust, the unrighteous, the unprofitable, and yes, at times the amoral!
If God does not commend the unjust, then give up all hope. Give up coming to church and forever give up on God.
But if God does think there is something worthwhile in us, and you have Christ’s word that there is, then come worship God, and be thankful.