Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Shrewd Managers of Christ

Something that has always eluded my full comprehension is the "Parable of the Shrewd Manager" found in Luke 16. A synopsis of this passage is as follows: There was a rich man, who had employed a manager to be steward over his assets. The manager, however, was not very good or very honest at his job. His fault wasn't embezzlement or using funds for his own pleasures, but that he was mismanaging resources. The rich man discovered this and of course required an account from the manager. What is interesting is the manager does not attempt to alter the books, nor does he attempt to contrive a defense for his actions (all things I would have done). Instead, he seeks out the people who owe debts to his employer. With each debtor he cuts their debts and provides a settlement for them that is a great deal, but again at the cost of the owner. What confounds me is when the owner discovers what the manager has done, he commends him, because now the manager has friends in the former debtors of the owner. It is understood that he is likely still going to get fired and loose his job and the protection it provided, but now he has options.

After telling this story, Jesus makes a confusing commentary: "For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 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."

This has always confused me, partly because I am such a "black and white" kind of guy. First, off why would Jesus commend his fictitious character for extorting money. Moreover, if I were the owner, I would have been furious. Not only did the manager mismanage resources, but then he in effect stole from the owner by cutting the debts of the others. The owner lost his initial investment due to mismanagement, and he lost even more due to the shrewd thinking of the manager. I would have thrown him in jail for trying to be slick willy.

Jesus' comment is what confuses me even more. How can sinners be better at using their funds than saved people? We tithe, give to offerings, and support volunteers efforts and disaster relief. How can Jesus say that they are better than us? We are giving our money to him and his church to be used for his kingdom.

So, I began pondering this passage, trying to piece together what Jesus is saying. First, I noticed what a brilliant story-teller Jesus was, because I get lost in the characters and the plot of a short few lines. Then, I began to notice that Jesus said unrighteous wealth, but it turns out he only meant temporary, earthly wealth or money. This was to contrast his uses of eternal dwellings. I understand that I am to leverage my temporary earthly assets, resources, and money to attract people to the gospel that they might get saved, but how are the lost people better at using their wealth than saved people? And to be honest, the meaning of this still eludes me.

Then today I saw this story on Fox News "Pilot Buys Pizzas for Delayed Passengers." I don't know what the spiritual status of this pilot is with Frontier Airlines, but the fact that a pilot, took pity on his disgruntled passengers and ordered Domino's for them astounds me. He might have a family, bills to pay, a mortgage, all the things that the rest of us Americans have to deal with today, especially in this downward economy, but he took it upon himself to buy 35 pizzas for his passengers at his own expense.

I begin to question myself and wonder, would I have been willing to buy 35 pizzas? Would I have taken the initiative to sacrifice what I had been wanting or even saving my money to feed these people in a random act of kindness. I do believe that it is these kind of actions that can lead to amazing opportunities to share the gospel. I wonder if this is what Jesus meant, that the world is better at compassion and leveraging their resources for the sake of others than Christians. I wonder what would happen if we got better?

I also find it intriguing that I just wrote a blog about this, when I am a youth minister, and the bulk of my audience, doesn't even have a job. Whatever, they have is their parents'. Nonetheless, this is something that God is working in me about.
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