The gospel for today (Luke 16:1-13) is a complex passage with countless interpretations. It is a strange parable that has stumped biblical interpreters throughout history. Perhaps it is a Robin Hood story about class and unjust economic structures? Perhaps it is a comment on the nature of God’s tent home verses earthly homes? What can’t be denied is that Jesus talks about money and this passage has us talking about money too. This is not to be hushed up, whispered about and kept to people’s private lives. Economics, finances and wealth are topics of faith. In a conversation with a woman who is a financial planner and advisor she made the observation that the more money people have the more concerned they are about keeping it. Here Jesus suggests that wealth does not provide the security or stability we seek.
What is certain about the parable is that it is a comment on the culture of the time. First-century culture was organized and orchestrated by strict social rules. The rules of reciprocal hospitality were in no way optional. Rather they were the supporting ligaments that bound together status and honour, safeguarding roles and responsibilities through right relationships. The dishonest manager has no doubts that he will be able to collect on the favours owed him when the time comes. He will get by, despite his looming unemployment, because he knows how to work the system, or in the more contemporary terms of network, because he knows how to make the net work.
Jesus doesn’t admire the thorns that bar the manager’s dubious situation. Neither does Jesus concern himself with the man’s self-serving character. What Jesus focuses on is the fruit that results from the manager’s shrewdness (machinations?). Jesus sees a man unafraid to push the accepted limits in order to bring about a needed change. And he sees in this shrewdness something that his disciples might well learn from.
Let us serve God through all our lives – our gifts and skills, time, talents, resources and money. Let us be faithful guardians of that which God has given.