In looking at the lectionary reading for today about the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-9) I’m once again reminded that Jesus doesn’t always say what we would like him to say. This parable would sit better with our theology if Jesus had reprimanded the manager for his dishonesty, instead Jesus makes the point that as Christians we need to be shrewd in our dealings with money and people. At first glance, this appears to be contradictory to our understanding of the Gospel. In God’s kingdom values such as honesty are integral to living like Jesus. So what is Jesus trying to say in this parable?
I think that the point Jesus is making is that we need to understand that there are things which are more important than money, that we need to do whatever it takes to secure our inheritance in the Kingdom. It means dealing with money and wealth in a way that does not prioritise finances but rather prioritises relationships. That is what the manager did, he used his master’s money in order to make “friends”. Similarly, we need to use money in order to facilitate the increase of God’s kingdom. All wealth belongs to God, we are merely stewards of God’s resources and the way in which we deal with finances entrusted to us must have as its primary goal the winning of souls for God’s kingdom.
Looking at the Manna and Mercy course we see that God’s purpose with Israel was to create a contrast society, a society where resources were shared and not hoarded, a society where each has enough, that there are no “big deals” who own 90% of the resources and others who go hungry. I wonder what would happen if those who had wealth started distributing it to the poor? If those who had resources were to use them to feed, clothe and house the vulnerable and marginalised in order to promote the Kingdom of God instead of their own kingdoms. I need to ask myself the same question: am I prepared to use my resources in order to facilitate bringing people into God’s kingdom? Am I prepared to sacrifice what I have in order that others may live?
These are tough questions, but in Jesus’ upside down Gospel they are exactly the sort of questions that Jesus wants us to answer. Are we going to be shrewd with what we have, not to hoard or gain status or power, but to ensure eternal homes for others?