We’ve all heard the tales of someone looking after someones beloved hamster/goldfish or other small pet and it dying whilst they are doing so, followed by a frantic search to find an identical one so no one knows and there is no distress caused. Apocryphal or not, it plays to our fears of something going wrong on our watch.
When you are looking after something for someone else you have a responsibility to care for it.
A Dishonest Manager
16 Jesus said to his disciples:
A rich man once had a manager to take care of his business. But he was told that his manager was wasting money. 2 So the rich man called him in and said, “What is this I hear about you? Tell me what you have done! You are no longer going to work for me.”
3 The manager said to himself, “What shall I do now that my master is going to fire me? I can’t dig ditches, and I’m ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I’ll do, so that people will welcome me into their homes after I’ve lost my job.”
5 Then one by one he called in the people who were in debt to his master. He asked the first one, “How much do you owe my master?”
6 “A hundred barrels of olive oil,” the man answered.
So the manager said, “Take your bill and sit down and quickly write ‘fifty’.”
7 The manager asked someone else who was in debt to his master, “How much do you owe?”
“A thousand bushels of wheat,” the man replied.
The manager said, “Take your bill and write ‘eight hundred’.”
8 The master praised his dishonest manager for looking out for himself so well. That’s how it is! The people of this world look out for themselves better than the people who belong to the light.
9 My disciples, I tell you to use wicked wealth to make friends for yourselves. Then when it is gone, you will be welcomed into an eternal home. 10 Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters. 11 If you cannot be trusted with this wicked wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? 12 And if you cannot be trusted with what belongs to someone else, who will give you something that will be your own? 13 You cannot be the slave of two masters. You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than to the other. You cannot serve God and money.
So a rich man hires a manager to care for his wealth. He gets to hear that the manager has been wasting his money, not looking after it with care and diligence. So much so that he decides he is going to sack him. The manager panics, pictures what he might have to do to earn a living now, how his standard of living will drop, and his social status with it. He decides he needs a few friends out there, so starts letting people pay back a fraction of what they owe to settle their bill.
Then the story takes a surprising twist as the rich man praises the manager for looking out for himself. There is admiration for his tactics. This seems quite odd, a strange practice to be commending, and Jesus seems to be agreeing with it. Which seems at odds with his final statement. All quite confusing.
So I looked for help:
William Barclay entitles this passage
A Bad Man’s Good Example
and brands it a “story about as choice a set of rascals as one could meet anywhere”. Light is shed on the good the manager did, in that at least the he managed to get some money out of those who had chosen not to pay up on their debts. These were not innocents, but people not paying their rent. Maybe he was taking off the levy he had put on for himself, and getting his boss’s money back without his own cut?
What this story does is highlights the all-round problems money can cause, or more accurately the problems our use of money can cause.
So we are reminded that possessions and money are not in themselves Bad Things, but how we use them can be. What we have should be used to serve God, and not the other way round. How we use our money says a lot about where our priorities lie. Do we use if for power, self-indulgence or as a resource to help others? There is nothing wrong with having money, there can be everything wrong in what we do with it. Conversely, of course, not having money can cause huge problems. That is why it is incumbent on those who do have money to do the right thing with it.
It also asks the question of where our emphasis is? Do we put as much effort into our faith as we do our garden, our golf handicap, polishing our car, shopping or earning more money?
Whatever else we do for work or pleasure, serving God should be our 24/7 occupation. Our other activities should come from that.
We have a responsibility to care for and use well what God has entrusted to us.
I acknowledge that everything I have is yours,
I have nothing that you haven’t given to me first.
Help me not to cling to what I have,
but to use it
as you require.
May everything I have be at your disposal
– not just money and possessions,
but my time,
Lord,may everything I do
be grounded in you.
May you be my focus
that informs the rest of my life,
may I give from all you have given to me,
and serve you alone
Eileen has some interesting points to make on this over at A Reflex Anglican