The parable of the dishonest manager sets the scene in true Lukan fashion: “There was a rich man,” thus communicating the privileged corner of society in which the parable takes place. However, the rich man is not the focus of the story; his manager is the main character of this pericope. Having squandered away his master’s property, the manager is set to lose his job. Unable to work and unwilling to beg, the manager searches for a way to fix his predicament. He rushes to two of his master’s debtors and has them cut their debt, one as much as half, so that “people may welcome [him] into their homes” when he loses his job.
As the text continues, the master recognizes the manager’s dishonesty and, in fact, praises him. Why would Luke include a story that seems to valorize dishonesty, even to the point of comparing and contrasting the shrewdness of the “children of light” (i.e., believers) with the “children of this age”?
Perhaps we are called to reflect on the (at least partial) forgiveness of debt that the manager offers the master’s debtors. The story leaves open the details of the transaction, and we are left to wonder: Did the manager falsify records to give to the master, or did he pay them from his own account? This is, admittedly, a generous view of the manager’s last actions on the job, but the fact remains—two substantial debts were cut. Such a level of debt forgiveness can bring with it new life and freedom, and perhaps the debtors were given just that. The redemption found in the Kingdom of God, as the Lukan Jesus’ parables proclaim, comes about in surprising, unexpected ways. Perhaps then, even the manager, if he is welcomed into homes as he hopes, will be redeemed, too.
Have you ever been surprised by the way redemption has come about?
How might we remain open to the possibility of God redeeming that which seems beyond redemption?
Prayer: Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
From Sermons that Work by Andrew Gordon