Hello and welcome to Monday’s Foundations podcast. My name is James. Thank you very much to Helen for last week’s podcasts. I know it’s half term in Sheffield – I can imagine many of you are tuning in on the way to the beach – blasting this out through the radio – for the rest of us, we are holding the fort – we’re hardcore. Well done for making the space to hear from the Bible today. Today we are picking up in Luke 16: 1 – 15. Let me pray for us before we hear part of the story read out.
Dear God, thank you for the Bible and for each person listening in today. Would you use this time to GROW our relationship with you and to encourage us today. Amen.
We are going to read verses 1-9 – and I plan to share some short and helpful comments as we go through the story.
The Parable of the Shrewd Manager
1 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
So there is this Alan Sugar moment where the manager is called in and called out on how he has been careless with this opportunity. He basically gets fired.
3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
Just for the sense of scale, I read, in preparation for this podcast, that this amount of debt is twenty – twenty fives times larger than the annual produce of an ordinary family farm . It is a pretty huge sum.
7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.
What a weird response! The manager calls him shrewd (smart, perceptive – often with a mischievous edge). The message version uses a different phrase… it calls the manager street-smart. Painting the picture that he just knew the way the world worked. It seems this story is all about management and mismanagement when it comes to resources and the punchline is use-it-or-lose-it. There is no point holding resources back that will soon be taken away. The manager trades up this financial opportunity to leverage relational capital in the future. You would think the rich man would be furious for stabbing him in the back, but to our surprise he celebrates him.
This has got me thinking about what is celebrated in our day and age. We don’t have Patron-Client relationships like described in this story and we don’t often do deals in olive oil and wheat but some of the principles at play here are piercingly true of our day and age.
Our world still celebrates opportunists, del-boys and wheeler-dealers and the phrase “well it’s just business” covers a multitude of sins. Think about the celebrity tax scandals in the last three years or the Panama papers in 2016. Those that can are taking the opportunities afforded to them – and the rest of us must make do. Just thinking about the icons we are surrounded by in the news and the media… it’s not often the faithful and the diligent but those that appear famous for being famous. Their talent lies in their ability to create and/or take the opportunities afforded to them and it is celebrated.
These people get it. They know how the world works. So, do the people of God know how the Kingdom of God works? I suppose that is the challenge here. It is not about being dishonest financially. It leaves the question hanging… so what are the priorities in God’s economy? And what are we doing about it?
Over the next few days we will be looking together at what kind of Kingdom this place is that Jesus is talking about… what does is celebrate? What does it do? And what we can learn about the king?
Jesus is talking to his disciples… he says…
9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
To the people of light. The street-smart people of this world know how to get to what this world celebrates (basically, security, success and status). They work the world towards their benefit. Why do the “children of light” not understand the ways of the Kingdom of God? The advice to us is to use the things God has given us. In this story it is money… And do so wisely. Not for status, success and security but for influence, healthy rhythms, friendship and ultimately for spiritual equity. Which comes in the form of wisdom and in power. These are the things that are important in the kingdom of God. People before possessions. The power of God over any property. A wise person once said, “The only thing we are taking to heaven is people.” Let’s live in the light of those truths today and allow Kingdom priorities to shape our families, our work and our friendships today. Hopefully, over the next few days, we can enjoy thinking more about the Kingdom of God and what it is like.
God, thank you for what we have. Help us to invest it well. Amen.
READING: Luke 16:1-15
Jesus told his disciples: ‘There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.”
‘The manager said to himself, “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg – I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.”
‘So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?”
‘“Three thousand litres of olive oil,” he replied.
‘The manager told him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifteen hundred.”
‘Then he asked the second, “And how much do you owe?”
‘“Thirty tons of wheat,” he replied.
‘He told him, “Take your bill and make it twenty-four.”
‘The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.’
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.