Luke 16:1-8 NRSVue
1Then 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. 2So 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.’ 3Then 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. 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7Then 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.’ 8And 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.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
Lord, you are telling me to be cute, by using wisely whatever wealth I have. Having money is a responsibility. I can use it selfishly, or to help my friends and the needy. God gave us temporal things to use. My wealth consists not in what I keep but in what I gave away. You will judge me by how I use the things of which I am only a steward.
Prayer can be a time of growing in wisdom and discernment; to put a question or decision before the Lord can put it into the wide perspective of love, mission, or gratitude. There are many other aspects of a decision which may arise in prayer.
This is one of those strange stories of Jesus. One interpretation is that the steward was cancelling the interest on what was owed to the master, thus obeying the law forbidding interest. Another is that he was cancelling the commission owed to the master by the debtors, so that they would look well on him when he was out of a job. Whatever the title of the story, Jesus praises shrewdness which is lawful and expects us to use our heads and our hearts in our decisions for him. Martin Luther King said that we need ‘hard heads and soft hearts, not soft heads and hard hearts'.
The master's commendation may seem strange until I realise that he values the imagination, energy and commitment displayed by the steward. I think of how I bring my imagination to the service of others in the name of the Gospel.
I may hear criticism of ‘the children of this age.’ I think about what example they might offer to me as I endeavour to live in Jesus way.