Today's Gospel reading from Luke is remarkably challenging. The parable goes by a number of different descriptors: "the dishonest manager", "the shrewd manager" to name just two. I think this Gospel message is one that has a refined and, perhaps, more subtle point than many other parables Jesus tells. This parable certainly is one that can make one sit and ponder for a while.
The use of wealth and possessions is one of the most common themes in the Gospel of Luke (and in the Book of Acts as well). What we do with possessions once we obtain them, what they mean to us, how we utilize the gift of wealth we obtain, the purpose to our pursuing wealth, these are some of Luke's concentration in regard to possessions and wealth. Today a wealthy person learns that a manager has been less than honest in running this individual's businesses and tells the manager that unemployment is fast approaching. The manager than starts cutting deals with people who have debts of money and possessions owed the wealthy individual. The owner finds out about the manager's shenanigans and commends those acts. Huh?
It would seem that Jesus is saying to us in this rather obscure parable that utilizing our possessions and wealth to secure our future is more important than utilizing those same things for pleasure and satisfaction today. But what future?
Chapter 16 is all about possessions and wealth, and we are fast approaching the story of the wealthy man and Lazarus, where the future Jesus is pointing us to becomes completely clear. (This is the story of the sharp reversal of fortunes between the poor and sick Lazarus and the wealthy and selfish individual.) The refined and more subtle point of this parable, it seems to me, is that worldly possessions and wealth will not help us gain the promise and treasures of heaven if we do not use them for purposes other than our own selfish gain and comfort. Not a very capitalist minded sentiment, I know, but it is where I come out on this particular Gospel reading, at this particular point in time. I am not saying this is the only way to read this Gospel, but it is mine this morning. Good for noodling this reading is!
Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.