In But Not Of

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalm 66, 67 (Morning)
Psalm 19, 46 (Evening)
1 Macc. 2:29-43,49-50
Acts 28: 14b-23
Luke 16: 1-13

In But Not Of

After researching the parable of the dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-13), this parable is reportedly one of the most difficult to understand. It appears Jesus is commending dishonesty but that can’t be — that’s crazy! I realized there can be lots of interpretations but here’s the one that makes the most sense to me.

I was expecting there to be a good guy and a bad guy in this scenario; someone to emulate. But what if there is no “good guy” here? Luke has sharp words for the wealthy throughout his gospel; in the context of the times, the rich usually accumulated their wealth by exploiting others’ misfortunes and repossessing properties. Both men are concerned foremost with their own financial welfare — each is “looking out for number one.” Alright, no good guy.

The manager is the employee who, soon to be without income, “makes friends” with his boss’ debtors so he will have somewhere to stay after he is evicted. What’s the worst that can happen? — the master couldn’t fire him twice, could he?! Forgiving debt is often repeated in the gospels as an admirable action, one that brings us closer to God. Was the manager’s action honorable paired with his motivation?

Then we hear what sounds like a compliment from the rich man, perhaps something akin to “Very nice! That’s exactly what I would have done in your situation. But you’re still fired.” There is bitterness and irony in the parable. Remember who else is listening to Jesus’ story. His audience isn’t just the disciples — the Pharisees, lovers of money, are on the side, listening and sneering; they know who they are in this parable. Perhaps seeing the Pharisees’ reaction helped the disciples better understand Jesus’ meaning.

So it’s been all about money. “You cannot serve God and wealth.” We’ve made friends with our possessions. We sometimes do good deeds for personal gain. We’ve colluded with the systems of our world to get cheaper goods, abuse natural resources, protect our investments.

We are to emulate no one in this parable. Jesus calls us to make friends with those who cannot repay us. To choose spiritual over worldly. To be in the world but not of it.

Written by Bernadette Reda

Bernadette is a writer, mom, wife, grandmum, and communication scholar who finds inexhaustible joy and humor in her dogs, nature, music, writing and fixing small appliances while gleefully torturing loved ones with bad jokes.

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