Introduction: The parable of the dishonest manager is one that gives us pause in part because it seems as if Jesus is commending us to act in less than honest ways. It is important to realize that the actions of the manager are in part based on Hebrew law – which speaks out against usury – getting interest on loans given to fellow Israelites see especially Exodus 22: 24 (p. 68) Deut. 15: 7 – 8 (p. 171) Deut. 23: 20- 21 (p. 178), and Leviticus 25: 36 - 37 (p. 112). It is important to realize that the master may be ‘using’ his manager in order that he may get around the demands of these scriptures since he personally is not charging interest only his manager who does so in part to be able to pay for his own services.
I) As we listen to this Gospel it is important to keep what Jesus is talking about in this parable with the context it is put in, in Luke’s Gospel. It comes immediately following Jesus’ discussion of the lost sheep, coin and prodigal son and before the story of Lazarus. In this context the dishonest manager is called to account for his poor performance by his master. Note he can offer no defense and so by his silence admits to his guilt. We do not know the specifics of what he has done, only that he has executed his duties so badly he has now lost his job!
II) Now he must come to grips with not only what he has done and the consequences of his actions, but the realization of what awaits him. He has been one who is used to sitting behind a desk, much like one of us who after going to college and getting our degree and working as a white collar worker now finds himself staring at the prospect of digging ditches. Since that is not an option he considers begging, but he is too proud!
III) The manager then invites his master’s creditors in to go over their accounts as he had been instructed. He then takes the unusual step to go and mark out what they had owed on the books and put a smaller amount in its place. We might think that he is reducing the amount owed his master, not the case! He may well be removing the commission he would have received should he have remained in his master’s employ. Moreover, this addition would have amounted to interest which his master could not have charged, but being an absentee landlord he could ‘let’ his manager charge interest and so not come into conflict directly with Hebrew law. What then is Jesus instructing us to do? I believe we are being invited to use our resources not only wisely but in ways that we can utilize them to their maximum potential. God invites us to give away all we have, we obviously cannot do that, but we can use them in creative ways. When we lived in Fargo we had a parishioner living downstairs and treated him as a member of our family thus even using our house payment as a way to care for others.