Summary: Jesus is calling us to start using more of our wits, our brains, our craftiness, our shrewdness that we use to secure our position on earth, and start using these same gifts to the glory of God.
Sermon for Luke 16:1-13
September 23rd 2007
What do you think guys and gals? Do you want to stick with the text we are dealt today, or maybe search through the Bible and pick one that perhaps is a little easier, at least not quite as challenging?
Because, basically every single commentary, every single sermon I read places this particular text in the context of wealth. I read commentaries that focused upon waste, true riches, but most of them dealt with evils associated with the almighty dollar.
Folks I may be good, but I’m not that good as to where I can convince you in a period of 14 minutes that we need to change our entire concept of money to the point you are willing to give it up, even though Jesus states in one line of the Bible, “You cannot serve both God and Wealth.”
If I preach the typical sermons I’ve heard in the past then like the people in the Old Testament reading, you probably can’t wait till Sunday Service is over, so we can return to everyday living.
However, I not willing to fold my hand with this text and give up the idea that perhaps, perhaps through the power of God’s Holy Spirit I can be good enough in 13 minutes to at least make you begin to think about your relationship to the One who gives you everything, including that almighty dollar.
I don’t know about you but I enjoy a movie that catches me by surprise with an unexpected twist in the plot or an astonishing turn in the life of a major character. I love shows like The Sting with Robert Redford and Paul Newmon, or The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis where the ending is not what you expect, and you find yourself think about the outcome well into the night.
You see an awful lot of these unexpected twists throughout the Bible. That’s why I don’t understand why in the world more people don’t read it more often. What a great book!
Anyway, an astonishing turn is precisely what we get in the parable about a shrewd manager—remember parable—short stories that tease the mind and make you think?
Today Jesus might retell the story something like this. A middle manager for Inland Steel was accused by a jealous co-worker of wasting time and money. This person had worked his way up the past 25 years, and was now finally in the position where he didn’t have to bust his you know what to earn a good living.
Sure he didn’t always give 100%, sometimes not even 50%, but come on, who does? Anyway the boss man or woman confirmed the report that this middle manager had gotten quite lazy, so she/he fires him. “You’ve got till the end of the day to clean out your desk.”
Oh my goodness says the middle manager. I never in a million years thought she would fire me! What am I going to do? How am I going to tell my wife? She’ll kill me! At my age who’s going to hire me? I make a lot of money. How can I find the same pay job especially after being fired? I can’t do physical labor because of my bad back. This the worse day of my life! What am I going to do? What am I going to do?
So the brain goes into overtime and the middle manager says, “I know. I’ll call up a few clients whose accounts with Inland are overdue. I’ll write off part if they will pay right away. This way, maybe, just maybe they will remember me and perhaps I can find another nice paying job.
To the manager’s delight just about everyone went along with plan. And why not? It saved these other companies a ton of money.
In a last desperate attempt the middle manager approaches the boss in the final hours of the day and shares with him how he had gotten these accounts to pay up. In a shocking turn of events, the boss shakes his hand and actually compliments him on his craftiness or shrewdness.
We could stop in the middle of the story and try to explain or justify the man behavior. After all, we sort of root for the underdog. Right?
A few years back I was introduced to a Grocery Store Tycoon.
The town of Jasper was so proud of what one of theirs had accomplished. I heard over and over again how this rich man had started out at the bottom, bagging groceries. Along the way he filled bankruptcy three times and now look where he was. What a great man they all claim, except the poor people he stiffed while working his way to the top.