The Manager and the Questions

This week, I’m revisiting an old and familiar text as I prepare to preach on Sunday.

Luke’s “parable of the dishonest manager,” as the NRSV calls it, is about a manager who is called to account by his master, for his unscrupulous business practices.

This was the text of my senior sermon at seminary, an opportunity offered to all graduating students to share a word from the pulpit of our beautiful Miller Chapel, addressed to our peers.

I remember well my nerves in studying this passage, having taken one measly semester meant to teach me both how to prepare and deliver a sermon. (I think we spent one day on preparing.)

What I came up with was this: the manager, having had grand ambitions of making himself good money, cheating his master and getting away with it, is caught. And he begins to reassess, very quickly, what he actually needs. What is enough.

It worked. It preached. And on a campus of high-achieving, anxious, students, it might have been the right message for that time.

But, eight years later, I am coming back to this story and discovering new things about it (the gift and the challenge of a living word).

I am wondering about how this manager is commended for his actions. How he didn’t actually abandon any of his unscrupulousness, but changed its orientation; he went from trying to make extra money either for his manager or himself (the text isn’t all that clear) and towards trying to help out his fellow people. Recognizing, surely, that their goodwill was all he would have to go on after losing his position as manager.

I am wondering about how Jesus commends the man for acting shrewdly, for using money to “play the game” but to play it well.

And I am wondering how this might apply to us – people, it must be said, of considerable means. Even with inflation, even with rising expenses and growing financial concerns, still we are overwhelmingly fortunate. Privileged. Rich, even.

I’ll continue to mull all this over in the next few days. And I encourage you to do the same! Let’s prepare together for Sunday by reading Luke 16:1-13 and asking ourselves these questions (as well as others that come to mind):

-How am I using my wealth?

-Who is it connecting me to?

-How am I serving God or money? God or wealth? God or stuff?  

And if you have any brilliant insights, I trust you’ll share them with me before Sunday 🙂

-Pastor Jen

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