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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, September 22, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 16:1–13

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (NRSV)

This story is a parable, commonly referred to as “The Parable of the Unjust Steward.” It’s confusing. And because it’s a parable it’s meant to catch the reader. Catch us in a way that surprises us—and in a way that indicts us.

The rich man told the manager that he was out of a job because he had squandered the rich man’s property. The manager was scared, wondered what he would do to survive, and even admitted, “I’m too old to beg.” So he went to the people who owed the rich man and made deals with each of them. Whatever each one of them owed, the manager reduced the bill. It was the manager’s way of surviving. He figured if he made deals with the debtors, they would have to welcome him into their homes because of what he had done for them. They would owe him.

A listener to this story in Jesus’ day would have likely been sympathetic to the manager, not the rich man, because the rich man would have been known as a character who always took advantage of the people who owed him, like today’s loan shark. But the fact is, both the rich man and the manager were making unjust deals.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful in much. And whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest in much.” In other words, if you are just a little bit dishonest, you are still dishonest.

I keep thinking of all the ways we can be unjust not only with money but with words and actions—at the expense of others, just to survive or to be liked or gain status.

Loving Jesus, forgive me for my dishonesty and the way I dismiss it as just a little dishonest. And forgive me for the ways I try to hold on and survive at the expense of others. Most of all, thank you, thank you, thank you for your gracious promise of forgiveness. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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