Season After Pentecost: The Gospel Passage – A Puzzling Parable about Honesty and Wealth

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. (Luke 16:1- 8)

We are (or at least I am) used to Jesus’ parables being about honorable and worthy people who are rewarded, or sneaky evil or not nice people who are punished. But here we are presented with a person who is sneaky and dishonest, and when discovered becomes even more so. And yet he is commended!

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.” (Verse 9)

And I am puzzled by this until I read verse 9. Wealth will not gain one happiness simply by the acquiring and maintaining of wealth – other words, money does not equate happiness or blessing. But money can be used to acquire happiness and blessing, as the manager “bought” himself happiness and security. Not, as you will note, acquiring more wealth but by disposing of it. To the manager’s shame (or it should be to his shame) he did this by using his master’s wealth. Jesus continues by warning his audience that wealth in and of itself does not mean much. And the way one is accountable says a great deal about the person’s personality.

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.” (Verses 10 – 13)

Those last verses are interesting in light of this parable. If the manager had been honest he would not have lost his job, and would not have had to resort to more dishonesty to secure his future. One has to ask, which “master” was he more faithful to? His human master or the love of money that ruined his future but also allowed him to win over others because of their love of money. Do not forget, beloved reader, that his master’s debtor were also part of this scheme; very willing to cheat his master out of his due. All together very shrewd children of the age, and I suspect part of this age too!

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About Carole Boshart

I have two blogs on WordPress. "A Simple Desire" which is based on the daily "Sips of Scripture" published and sent out by Third Way Cafe. "Pondering From the Pacific" is based on my reflections on the world - sometimes religious/spiritual, and sometimes not so much.

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