Daily Update #155

Today’s Gospel reading is one of those that leaves you wondering. Wondering whether Jesus has any business sense at all, wondering whether he really thinks defrauding your boss is a good way to work, wondering what on earth he is actually trying to say. The whole parable seems to be at odds with the rest of the Bible, where we are encouraged to be honest, caring, loving, not worrying about money and so on.
So let’s think about these objections: firstly, it is safe to assume that Jesus as the Son of God would have plenty of business sense and secondly he is not going to be telling us to do deals to feather our own nest, whilst defrauding our boss.  When a story appears to contradict everything else that the Bible tells us is true, there has to be a message or lesson behind the obvious, that we are meant to glean.
In many parables, we are able to easily decide which characters represents God, us, the religious leaders or the enemy. However, in the story of the unjust steward, it would be very wrong to assume that the business owner is God. In fact, the owner is just that, a typical businessman of his day. We need to read this story a slightly different way.
So, we have a wealthy businessman who has employed a manager to manage the day to day loans he has made to different people. At that time, Jews were not allowed to charge interest to their fellow Jews, so to make the transaction worthwhile, they would include both the interest as well as the manager’s commission within the value of what was being lent. We don’t know from this story whether the manager decided to forgo his commission or whether the owner was also going to lose our financially. Either way, that was not really the main part of the story. The manager realised he was about to lose his job and realising that he really didn’t want to end up on the streets, he decided to ensure his future security by building up favours where he could.
All this seems very logical until we come to the response of the owner. Once the owner discovers what his manager has done, he commends him as shrewd. This is not the reaction we would expect. We would at least expect God to cast the manager out into the darkness, or tortured until he repaid every last penny, as other parables suggest. But no, this owner seems surprisingly happy with the manager’s shrewdness. The business word always admires cleverness, astuteness and canniness even if the actions themselves are immoral. This is the main point of this story. Jesus is demonstrating even the wicked were wise when it comes to using present opportunities to prepare for their own future needs. Jesus is definitely not condoning the methods, but he is showing us that if we were as conscientious about preparing our souls for eternity as those around us are in attaining money and comfort, then we would be much better off. As ‘children of the light’ we need to be equally shrewd and astute, but in a moral and upright way.
Perhaps we are all guilty in one way or another of putting far more time, money and energy into our interests, hobbies or work than into spending time with God, or studying His word or even worshipping Him. It is not that these things are bad in themselves, but it is so easy to become consumed with the busyness of our day to day lives, that Jesus becomes an after- thought or someone we fit in around our normal schedule. Paul even warns us in Philippians 3:18-20 that “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.
This parable particularly focuses on money, which was something that Jesus talked about a lot. Here Jesus want us to particularly use our material blessings for good rather than for our own pleasure. Indeed, John Wesley summed it up very well: “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”

Let us pray.
Lord God, thank you for your Word to us. Thank you that you have given us the privilege of wrestling with your Word, so that we will understand for ourselves how we are to live our lives every day. Please show us today, those areas where we are not wise or shrewd, show us how we can use what you have given us for your glory.  As we are caught up in the day to day struggles that another lockdown imposes upon us, show us how to focus on Your eternal perspective. Make us wise as serpents and innocent as doves in every part of our lives. Amen

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