Summary: Make friends for yourself so that they may welcome you into the eternal home.
If you’re a fan of those old Hollywood movies of the 40s & 50s then you may think that love makes the world go ’round. On the other hand if you’ve kept your ears to the ground over the past few weeks of electioneering, you will have realised that the song writers of the 40s & 50s miscalculated a little. It’s not love that makes the world go ’round at all, it’s money! Money for pensioners, money for nursing homes, money for better education, money for rich people to add to their superannuation packages, money to send asylum seekers to some Pacific island somewhere sufficiently far from our shores that we won’t have to worry about them. And as much as we might protest at the fascination of politicians with money, they’re only doing it because we, the voting public, want it. Most of us are as bad as the rest. And the worst thing is that in the end our interest in money becomes a trap for us. We work long hours to earn more money, but we’re not sure when we’ll have the time or the energy to enjoy it. And when we get it, we’re not always sure what’s the best thing to do with it.
It’s interesting that Luke places this parable of the dishonest manager straight after the parable of the prodigal son, without any interlude, any commentary. It’s almost as though he sees this parable, and indeed the one that follows, of the rich man and Lazarus, as a natural follow-on from the wantonness of the prodigal son, as though we’re to hear the message of this parable in the light of the one that’s gone before. Well, just keep that thought in the back of your mind while we think about the parable.
What I’d like to do today is to think first about what the parable doesn’t mean, then what it does mean, and then to think what it might mean for us in terms of our everyday lives.
What the Parable Doesn’t Mean.
It’s an interesting story isn’t it? Here’s this con artist, caught out cheating his master, shown to be guilty by his silence in the face of the master’s accusation, yet the he ends up being commended for his smart thinking. In fact Jesus says that he’s more shrewd than Jesus’ own followers. So what’s the point of the story?
Well, the point of the story isn’t that it’s OK to be a con artist as long as you get away with it in the end. I heard the story of a young student who was given a text to preach on for his first sermon. The text was "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation." On the Monday following his sermon his preaching teacher asked him how he handled his text. "Well," said the student, "I preached a 2 point sermon. First I expounded what a great salvation it is that we have." "And what was your second point?" asked the teacher. "Well, my second point was to give them some pointers on how they might escape if they happened to neglect it." Well, a preacher like that might well have tried to use this text to explain how to store up Brownie points in case you need them on the judgement day. But that would have been to misunderstand the point of the parable.
Nor is the parable here to teach us how to manipulate events for our own benefit. As much as that may have been the dishonest manager’s method, Jesus isn’t suggesting that it’s OK for us to manipulate or cheat, even if it is in the service of God’s kingdom. So those people who use this parable to justify underhanded or dishonest methods of evangelism, are simply misusing it. It’s never enough to say the end justifies the means. In the service of God’s kingdom our motives must be flawless.
Well, then, if that’s what the parable isn’t about, what is it about?
What the Parable is About.
What the parable is about is money and how we use it in our lives. It’s about understanding that money itself is a neutral commodity, that it’s how we use it that makes it honest or dishonest.
You see, even in Jesus’ day there was this idea that money was an evil thing. You may have heard the expression, "Filthy Lucre." Some people have the idea that if you get involved with money you’ll be tainted. Now there’s certainly some empirical evidence to support that idea. Jesus himself commented on how hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. But he didn’t say it was impossible. Just having riches doesn’t preclude you from salvation. What matters in the end is how you use them. The key to the parable, as it is so often, is in Jesus comments when he’s finished. In v9 he says "make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest (unrighteous) wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes."