Summary: This is a sermon that focuses on acting shrewdly... in a good way.
How Much Can God Trust You?
Now, I want to warn you up front that today’s scripture… is a parable Jesus told his followers. This alone doesn’t warrant a warning… but I want you to listen very closely to these words, because this is quite possibly… the strangest parable Jesus ever told.
Jesus told his disciples: “there was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg – I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Today, we have one of the most unusual parables Jesus ever uttered. We could call it the parable of the Crooked Manager. It’s a story about an employee who “cooked the books” for his employer. He used dishonest methods to give an accounting of his company’s assets. It reads much like a deposition from the Enron or WorldCom hearings… and Jesus lifted it up… as a good example!
When my friend Pastor Ferguson and I were downstairs planning our 6 month worship plan together, we looked at the text for this week and said… “Man… we can’t preach that.” And yet… there was something there…. something that urged us to take the chance and preach the text. Most pastors skip over it or ignore it, but brothers and sisters… here we go… one of the hardest parables Jesus ever uttered.
Now… to make just a little MORE fun… the topic is money. Money is always a tough subject. It’s something people just don’t talk about. The subject of money comes up in a conversation… and the room will go deadly quiet. So, I invite you to let your guard down just a little, and hear the message that Jesus was trying to get through to his followers.
Since this is an unusual parable… I’m going to do something a little unusual too… I’m going to start… with the end. The key to understanding the parable is found at the end when we get to the “moral of the story.” It is found in verse 8, the reason Jesus is uplifting the manager… the reason “the master commended the dishonest manager… [was] because he had acted shrewdly.”
You see… the manager was a cunning, conniving, dishonest rascal – but you can’t help but smile at how shrewd he was. You can’t help but admit this is a clever little idea… if… however… terrible… morally… apprehensible.
When he learned he was about to lose his job (because he was dishonest and wasteful), he decided to cover his assets. He went to the best customers and gave them deep discounts on what they owed his boss. Why? Obviously, after he was kicked out of his company for mismanagement, he would go to one of those customers who “owed him a favor” and hopefully they would remember his action and give him a job. When it came time to be fired, even his boss said, “I’ve got to hand it to you, you are cunning, devious, despicable fellow… I applaud you… now get out of my sight!”