S (Scripture): Luke 16:1 Jesus also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who was informed of accusations that his manager was wasting his assets. 2 So he called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Turn in the account of your administration, because you can no longer be my manager.’ 3 Then the manager said to himself, ‘What should I do, since my master is taking my position away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m too ashamed to beg. 4 I know what to do so that when I am put out of management, people will welcome me into their homes.’ 5 So he contacted his master’s debtors one by one. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 The man replied, ‘A hundred measures of olive oil.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ The second man replied, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries than the people of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, so that when it runs out you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.
O (Observation): What an interesting text! Seemingly, deceit is praised. But there is more to this story.
Luke says a lot about turning the world upside down: the haughty will be knocked down, the lowly will be lifted up. Jesus reveals the absurd nature of the kingdom.
A commentary on this text from WorkingPreacher.org says this about the text:
So why is our dishonest manager shrewd? Even though he is still sinner who is looking out for his own interests (6:32-34), he models behavior the disciples can emulate. Instead of simply being a victim of circumstance, he transforms a bad situation into one that benefits him and others. By reducing other people’s debts, he creates a new set of relationships based not on the vertical relationship between lenders and debtors (rooted in monetary exchange) but on something more like the reciprocal and egalitarian relationships of friends.
What this dishonest manager sets in play has analogues with what happens when the reign of God emerges among us (17:21). Old hierarchies are overturned and new friendships are established. Indeed, outsiders and those lower down on hierarchies now become the very ones we depend upon to welcome us — not only in their homes in this life, but even in the “eternal homes” (6:20-26)!
A (Application): Relationships are once again lifted up. How do we work with each other? What worldly ways can we use to build up relationships? In what ways can we take the hierarchies of this world and flip them on their ear?
A strict capitalist would cry “foul” here, but Jesus lifts up the ways of the clever steward. A bit absurd…but then, this is Jesus we are talking about…the one who pulled off the ultimate absurdity: death on a cross.
P (Prayer): Lord, you are the one who shows us the way. Help us to see the way and help one another along the way. Help us to use worlds ways to build relationships for your eternal glory. Amen.
For another, more in-depth look at this difficult text, check out this blog post by Joel Kime.