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The Dishonest Manager - The Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

[Read Luke 16:1-9] He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

As Wise as the World but for Good

“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” The dishonest manager was wise in his world of unrighteousness. If only the people of God would be so wise in the things of God.

Shrewdness is wisdom which can navigate a tough situation. The dishonest manager knew his master’s business well. He knew well how his master’s world worked. This dishonest manager, when faced with the tough situation of getting fired for having wasted his master’s wealth, was able even to re-win his master’s favor by a show of great dishonest shrewdness.

What was the dishonest manager’s shrewd plan? He arbitrarily reduced the debts of those who owed his master money. The idea was to gain their favor so that after his manager fires him, he’ll be welcomed into their homes. Impressed by his shrewdness, the master decides to keep this dishonest manager on for himself.

Long story short, this manager proved that he knew the world of unrighteousness well and could navigate it successfully. Jesus laments that God’s children are not so wise in dealing with spiritual matters. If only we were as wise in righteousness as this dishonest manager was in unrighteousness.

Brothers and sisters, sometimes you and I are better at being wise for this world – for this bodily life – than we are at being wise for the life to come. You can navigate the health of your finances during a recession. You can navigate the health of your body during a pandemic.

But are you very wise when it comes to navigating the health of your soul when sin seeks to take advantage of a crisis? Do you know how to protect the health of your soul in tough times? Or do sin and the devil get the upper-hand over your heart and mind?

Against us as individuals and against us as a family – as a congregation – sin has the potential to take advantage of this health crisis and to transform a bodily threat into a spiritual malady.

In tough times, we are wise to learn from the past. In our Epistle lesson today [1 Corinthians 10:1-12], the Apostle Paul encourages us to learn from the bad example of those Israelites who came before us, who suffered a tough time wandering in the wilderness for forty years. Paul says:

“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea (just as you were all baptized), 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink (just as you all receive the same Supper)…. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”

These Israelites in the wilderness did not navigate their tough times well. Some became idol worshippers, worshipping those false idols of leisure and retirement – “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”

Others lived in immorality and impurity, even as they were led by a holy God, and “twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.”

Some “put Christ to the test” – saying to God and Moses, “you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness” [Numbers 21:5] – and they “were destroyed by serpents”.

And others in the wilderness grumbled. “We must not… grumble”, Paul says, “as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”

Many people before us – your parents’ and grandparents’ generation – walked through tough times (World Wars, Depressions, etc.) with wisdom and godly courage. The Israelites in the wilderness did not walk with wisdom. Sin in the heart took advantage, and their generation was barred from the promised land. What would’ve been a temporary hardship became their permanent devastation.

The world in which we live is a sin-broken world. The devil is called the god of this world [2 Corinthians 4:4]. And, though we believe and are baptized, there is still a sin-broken son or daughter of this world living inside each of us.

The devil and sin are shrewd to never let a crisis go to waste. They are shrewd in turning the children of God against each other and thus turning this bodily danger into a spiritual one.

Brothers and sisters, should we be like the children of this world? Should we be reacting along with the reactions of everyone else? Your neighbors and the whole world around you have managed to become divided along political lines over a health issue. Should you be the same way?

Are you and I walking in godly wisdom if we get stirred up by the same political divides as the children of this world? The world often doesn’t have a right and wrong, but two wrongs butting heads. Are we wise to entertain the same anger in our hearts as our unbelieving neighbors?

The unbelieving world is enslaved to a fear of death because it has no hope in Christ’s resurrection. Therefore, the wisdom of this world acts out of fear. One side, in fear, sticks its head in the sand and insists that nothing that scary is happening. The other side, in fear, elevates reasonable caution to the level of religious zealotry. The world’s greatest wisdom still can’t handle death.

Both sides only have the wisdom of this unrighteous world to deal with, and the devil and sin are shrewd enough to take advantage of that. But you have been given the wisdom of godly righteousness.

Jesus said elsewhere to “be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves” [Matthew 10:16]. What is the godly wisdom that can out craft the shrewdness of sin? God’s wisdom of righteousness is to forgive the sins of those who sin against Him. God’s shrewdness is His love for those who are wrong. God’s wisdom in you is for you to do the same.

Forgiveness and love for the erring brother or sister is so wise that it takes all the wind out of the devil’s sails and hinders all the devil’s plans.

The wisdom of God’s children is love as we know it and hear it in the Scriptures. We know what that love is, but let’s remind ourselves: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” [1 Corinthians 13]

If you’re a wise manager, this wisdom of love and forgiveness toward the right and the wrong must be your answer to the world – because this was God’s answer to the world.

The master in our parable today had a shrewd and unrighteous manager over his household. But God has a Wise and Righteous Manager over His. God’s Wise Manager of Righteousness is His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our Savior Jesus Christ was shrewd in God’s ways of love and righteousness. Jesus, not arbitrarily, but at the price of His own blood, reduced your debts down to zero. Jesus died for all sin to cancel the debt of sin. For this, God loved Him dearly.

Because of the price God’s Good and Wise Manager Jesus Christ paid on the cross, you stand forgiven. Forgiven of the sin of fear. Forgiven of the sin of grumbling. Forgiven for the ways you’ve followed this world. Forgiven for the ways you and I have failed to take care of each other both physically and spiritually. Forgiven by God and, therefore, always forgiving one another.

And wisdom knows that, just as Christ has died for us, Christ has also risen for us – and because He lives, you also will live [John 14:19]. Wisdom knows that the debt is cancelled – mine and yours; yours and theirs. Now, by wisdom, you can walk in love and without fear. Amen.

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