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."
We may see this as being snaky or shady, but psychologists repeatedly have shown that this type of social indebtedness is a very real thing. Next time you go to a restaurant and they offer you a sample of anything, know the intended outcome. We were in Oliver Garden last week. They offered us a sample of a wine that “paired” with our meal. I did not want a glass that night so I declined. My wife got a Pinot Grigio. I did not say anything, but just watched. After her taste, the waitress (who was very good at her job of taking care of us and up-selling for the restaurant) came back and asked my wife if she wanted a full glass. Of course my wife said yes. She felt obliged. Smart waitress at Olive Garden, smart manager in the story. I scratched your back, now you scratch mine.
Now we get to the part of the story where it gets really hard to understand exactly what Jesus is saying here in verses 8 and 9:
Okay, admittedly, this is a hard and weird statement. Is Jesus saying he wants his followers to be crooked and shady? Many have had a hard time with Jesus saying this for centuries. Some of the most respected commentators in history have even questioned if our Lord even asked this. Some speculated there had been some type of scribal error.
Wicked wealth only lasts so long. It runs out. What will we invest our lives in, things that last eternally, or things that run out? Also, I believe Jesus is saying that whatever we start with, even wicked wealth, it can be redeemed and transformed. God can make lemons lemonade, or junk into a masterpiece.
Back to Jesus, verses 10 to 12:
What will you do with what you have? Will you cling to it, afraid to let anyone even see it? Or will you use it? If you have a hammer but always keep it in the toolbox, is it even still a hammer? If you own a Masterpiece painting that all the world knows, do you hang it in your closet to “keep it safe,” or do you loan it out to a museum so all can look on in awe? When the Church holds onto God’s love instead of giving it away, are we being the Church?
You see, you have been entrusted with a Masterpiece, created by the Master of the Universe. Go, look in a mirror, and see God’s handiwork. And God has empowered and enabled you to change the world, today. Really. A word today can change a life. A kind act can give someone hope. God believes in you, and entrusts you with this power and responsibility. What will you do today?
I used to have an app on my phone. I played it for hours. It was fun, but after a while, I noticed that the point of the game was to get a higher level so I could play more to get to a higher level, so I could play more… Once I came to that revelation I was angry, at myself and the stupid game, but then I laughed. I had been a slave to that app. I kept “feeding the monster” so that I could “keep feeding the monster.” Jesus confronts the primary fallacy of our culture, and his. We think that money will give us happiness and fulfillment. Nope. It won’t. You would think after 2,000 years we would have figured this out. Do we work for money, so that we can make more, so we can make more… Do we keep “feeding the monster,” or do we serve God? Do we use our money (and time and talents) to further God’s Kingdom or ours? Which one of those will last?