1 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. 2 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.’ 3 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. 4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7 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.’ 8 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. 9 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. 10 “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. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13 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.” [NRSV]
The shrewd manager takes justice into his own hands.
It is most likely the custom that those who would lend to the poor would also be those who took advantage of the poor. Charting higher interest rates to those at greater risk.
Intuitively it is a practice that never makes sense. If lenders and retailers who extend credit want to charge those who have the least to spend the highest rate, it seems to be a set up for failure and a greater oppression than not extended credit in the first place.
In the recent years of banking giving loans to those who would not qualify and investment firms reselling debt accounts to the highest bidder, so collection agencies can profit even further from oppressing the poor. Where is the justice in this practice?
Traditionally the parable has been only about the juggling of the accounting without regard to why the bills were so high in the first place.
If you drive around a large city, you will find the the gas prices higher in the poorest communities. You will find grocery stores higher priced with lower quality good near communities where neighbors have no other transportation and only have the option to walk to the closest store. In this text the owner has charged twenty or thirty percent more than the usual rate.
So the manager is trying to show some justice in the situation, hoping that when he is laid off the poor would look kindly and graciously at them.
Think of it, if you were about to loose your job from a tyrant of an employer and you could bring some justice in the community, playing the part of Robin Hood and his merry followers. Would you want to steal from the king to win the hears of the common folk?
So much political rhetoric is preached everyday about the evil of the wealthy in our country and how they should be made to pay their share and the share of the poor. It’s just not a good system of economics.
The parable is about relationship.
The warning is to guard from making friends by buying their relationship.
As a church we want to extend radical hospitality, but we don’t want people to come because they can take advantage of our generosity.
As Christians we want people to like us but at times we are indeed sheep sent out among wolves. Choose your relationship not by what you get out, rather choose by God’s guidance.
We want our children and grandchildren to have lots of friends and be well liked at school, but not because of fashions, toys and gadgets. We want them to friends of good character.
This is the point of Jesus’ parable. Be of God character and not the world’s. Even it seems reasonable from the world’s standards, this is not our measuring stick.
Secondly the parable is about what we manage compared to what we allow God to manage in our lives.
The shrewd manager takes care of the situation himself. He has a plan to take care of himself and to put the owner in his or her place and come out smelling like a rose for caring for the poor and oppressed.
Helping the poor is great.
Seeking justice is wonderful.
Being a responsible worker and good manager are great attributes.
Look instead at the motives, agendas and flawed reasons behind our self-preservation.
God promises to provide, guide and fill our lives, asking us to receive, follow and trust God in all times.