Many years ago I worked for a large company with loads of divisions and departments. Our department was going through change and renewal. An arena where little was static and comfort zones irrelevant. Yet there was one manager ring-fenced from all of that.
His area was “left alone” – publicly and actively endorsed as such by our department head. And we all got on and accepted that without rancour or back-biting.
As He and I went through this morning’s passage, He reminded me of that part of my life.
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. Luke 16:1-8
Why does the master “commend” this dishonest manager? Does Jesus commend dishonesty? For many years I have looked at this passage and seen a “discrepancy”. Jesus was breaking his own rules. Until this morning.
In my case, this particular manager was eighteen months away from retirement. Our department head saw no value in asking his manager to rebuild a unit at that point in his life. It would wait for a fresh face. It would work until someone new arrived. Eighteen months of a unit running well enough to be allowed “to be”. The loss of disruption outweighed the gain of “this is how we have always done it” for that short time.
In Jesus’ case, this particular manager was also at the end of his working life. His boss – a “rich man” – must have cut a few deals in his time. Done a few trades here and there. Bought low and sold high. A rich man who had not been diligent in running the numbers and identifying much earlier that this manager is skimming from the bottom. A rich man who is impressed at the deal his manager is now cutting. I guess that is why this manager was hired a long time back. Business is business – even in Jesus’ day.
(I work in a company wherein having a solid profit – making profits – having a healthy company bank balance …. THAT pays OUR mortgage, OUR lifestyle, OUR financial security. I do not want to work for an organisation that lives in fear of insolvency – because we will live our lives in unnecessary fear. Fear of OUR lives being turned upside down because of the ineptitude of others. I have worked for companies like that. It is scary.)
Does Jesus say that stealing is okay? Not that I can see. Does he say the rich man is God and the manager is “one of us disciples”? Not that I can see. Is this a parable telling me about “The Kingdom”? I don’t see that. I do see Jesus meeting the world “where it is”. I do see Jesus loving each of us for what we are, who we are and where we are –
A rich man, used to the good life, less diligent on detail than when he was younger. A manager, used to the good life, more diligent on the detail (!!) than when he was younger. Both recognising their own part in this. Both understanding the consequences of their own actions. And both with a wry smile on the faces as they recognise where each is at right then.
Yesterday I saw a smiling Jesus. Today I see a real Jesus. A Jesus in touch with life and living as it is. Human nature without the frilly bits. People doing what people do. And Him walking amongst each one. Touching each, connecting with each, knowing each and seeing into the hearts and minds and souls of both – and smiling.
This morning I ponder this …
If Jesus can do that with such ease and confidence … why do I fall back on “right and wrong”, black and white, claim and counter-claim?
Why have I read this passage my whole life and seen a weird and inconsistent God. A slightly dubious Jesus. A message I need to avoid thinking about, or add my own “better verdict” than God Soft Hands Jesus – a message that was more “on message” than the bible. Not much love in that. Not much unconditional love in that. Not much “Love is always the answer – so find it, Paul!”
And that says everything about me, and has nothing to do with “the bible”, nothing to do with God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
Well this morning He allowed me to allow me.
Thank you Lord. 🙂