Sermons

Summary: People of this world are shrewd in their secular dealings, and Christians can likewise be shrewd in their spiritual development, not at the expense of virtue but in pursuit of it.

Yesterday morning, I went outside to cut the grass. I put on my jeans and a ratty old aloha shirt. I put on my yard work shoes, my hat and sunglasses, and my big yellow ear muffs. I climbed up on the tractor, pulled out of the garage. BOY, it was a beautiful day. I ride down to the end of the driveway and turn toward the grass. Pull the knob and WHIR! The blades are turning, grass is shooting out. This is great. Ride along the street…turn right and come up the north property line…start to have a Zen moment.

And then…BANG!!! … Everything stopped. … I was stunned. I started it back up, carefully backing the tractor off of the obstacles. When I got clear, I knew what I had done. Sure enough, there was one stump with a nice nick in it. And stump number two had a great big gouge struck across its top. I turned the mower off and got down to inspect the damaged blade and, sure enough, it was bent almost straight down. My master effectively told me that I could not mow the lawn any more. So, like the dishonest manager, I found that I too was too ashamed to beg. But, UNLIKE him, I WAS strong enough to dig. So I got out the shovel and mattock and dug up the stumps.

Today’s gospel lesson has always puzzled me. Here, Jesus chose a most peculiar story to teach his disciples. The rich man, for example, is not clearly good. In fact, Luke is not usually flattering toward the rich. The rich man’s manager has apparently been charging usury, something forbidden by the Law of Moses. He was probably in on it too. The manager was accused by “someone” of squandering his possessions. I’d speculate that the people who were complaining were probably the same people who were paying the excessive interest that the manager was charging.

The rich man took these complaints seriously and asked the manager to explain himself. What could he say? He was guilty of wasting his master’s possessions. And he was charging usury. But we don’t hear of him making any reply. He had to have been shocked, since the master had told him how to run the business. They had *wink*wink* agreed how to deal with these loans. And sure, he may have had thrown a banquet occasionally, leased a new chariot every three years, maybe expanded the house with a new colonnade around the garden or had a new cistern installed. Nothing that the master wouldn’t have done himself.

Now, faced with unemployment, the manager has to think fast. It’s Tuesday, and he’s got until Friday to turn over the company records. … So much to do, not enough time. When will I look for a job? … I have to get the books in order. Oh, boy. … I’m not strong enough to dig. That’s hard work. And I’d get blisters and calluses. … Get the personnel files in order. Wait till the guys find out I got the pink slip. I bet they’ll miss those happy hours. … Beg? No. All my old clients would see me at the city gates. They’d laugh me to scorn. … Record all the outstanding receipts and file them alphabetically. … WAIT! THAT’S IT! So much to do, so much to do. Okay, okay. Karen, quick, call these guys and tell them to get down here on the double. Make sure they don’t tell anyone, but tell them to hurry.

The manager came in and they were all arguing about what was happening. “Alright. I’m calling in your accounts. Tony, here, take your bill. How much do you owe?” Tony sputters, “Uh, I can’t afford to pay up right now.” “I know. I know. How much do you owe?” “One hundred jugs of oil. But I don’t have it. If you can just be patient…” “Tony, don’t worry. Here’s a pen. Why don’t we just make it 50 jugs, hmm?” “What? You mean I don’t have to… You mean that? Wow! Mr. Manager you are the greatest. I won’t ever forget this. If you need anything—anything at all—you just let me know!” And the manager, as he leaned over to shake his hand and take the bill, smiled. “I sure will, Tony.”

Friday afternoon comes. The master walks in. His face is fixed in a frown. The manager gave him the books before lunch to look over. He sits down in the manager’s chair and motions for him to sit across the desk. He leans back in the chair, putting his hand together. Then, the corner of his mouth starts to curl. He’s grinning! He’s grinning? Why is he grinning? The master says, “You are one sly dog. That was smooth.”

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