Summary: This sermon examines the relationship between the prodigal son, unjust steward, and the hearer. It draws upon the parallels among all three to make a Gospel application. I am indebted to Dr. David Schmidt's observations on this text found on 1517.org for the idea.
A few weeks ago, I bought the movie Dunkirk on sale, which is about the evacuation of over 300,000 British troops after the Fall of France in World War II. I tried to watch this movie at night as I was going to bed. Between falling asleep, helping with Mia, or checking my phone, the movie took longer to finish than its initial projection of 106 minutes. It took a few nights of viewing and rewinding to where I think I fell asleep to finish it. As a result, the movie was disjointed to me. I couldn’t remember who the characters were and what they were specifically trying to do. I can say that I saw it, but that is about it. Safe to say, that is not a way to watch a movie, and that was my fault.
When you watch a movie, you want to watch it continuously and with as little interruptions as possible. Doing so helps you to see the flow, story, themes, and points clearer. Sometimes, when reading the Bible, it is helpful to apply the same principle. Reading larger chunks of text at once can help you to see connections, similarities, points, and themes easier. It can even help you to have a better understanding of what you are reading since you have more context. This morning, we have arguably what is the most challenging parable in all of Luke, if not, in all of Scripture: the parable of the dishonest manager. People have wrestled with this text for two millennia, and perhaps, when you heard it read, said, “Well, that was interesting.”
This morning, as we look at the parable of the dishonest manager, I find it helpful to read this story alongside of what immediately comes before it, the parable of the prodigal son. We will read it like we are watching a movie. For, believe it or not, the parable of prodigal son has many similarities with the parable of the dishonest manager, and even echoes the same themes. The prodigal son helps us to understand and apply the parable of the dishonest manager.
You know the story of the prodigal son. The younger son, the younger brother, asks for his inheritance while his father is still living, and takes all that he has away to a far country. There, he squanders it all in reckless living. Who knows what he did with the inheritance, but it wasn’t good, and it wasn’t wise. Unfortunately, when he spent everything, a severe famine broke out. Food became scarce and the price for it skyrocketed! If his plight was bad before, it now got worse, much worse. Trying to get by, he hires himself out to a citizen there to essentially be a butler to pigs. His job is to feed them, and he tosses them food as he slowly starves to death. Even the pods that the pigs are eating look good and desirable, but that food is for them! The pigs have it better than he does! Sadly, no one gives the prodigal son any food.
As he hit this new low, he has a moment of realization. He has what we might call, a “come to Jesus moment.” The young son realizes his situation and plight. He is honest about himself, what has gone on, and has to face the issue, honestly. He is going to starve to death. His father’s house wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was quite good. Even the hired hands have an abundance of food while he perishes here with hunger. He has quite a dilemma, doesn’t he? Now let’s look at the dishonest manager.
This manager worked under a rich man, but wasn’t good at his job, at all. Like the prodigal son, he squandered something, all right. He squandered what wasn’t his. He squandered what belonged to his master, who hears about this. Hearing the report, the rich man calls his manager forward. He tells him to turn in the book, for he is now fired! Fortunately, there will be no additional action taken against him. He won’t be taken to jail, or forced to reimburse what he lost. He just needs to turn in the books.
Like the son, he has a realization and a moment to think as walks to get the books. He has a “come to Jesus moment.” Simply put, he messed up, and messed up big time. What is he going to do? He isn’t strong to dig or do manual labor. No one will hire him to manage their possessions given his track record with that stinks! He is honest and admits that he is too proud to beg. What is he to do? What can he do? He needs to figure it out!
We have been there, haven’t we? We have had those “come to Jesus moments,” haven’t we? There are events and times in our lives when everything is laid bare and we have to face the facts. There are times when we have to be honest about ourselves, and honest about our situation. There is no sugar coating it, or sweeping it under the rug. There are times, when like these men, we have to figure out what we are going to do and how to get through it!