The Gospel Of Luke

Luke 16:1-13 (CEV)

1 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. 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.”

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. I know what I’ll do, so that people will welcome me into their homes after I’ve lost my job.”

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?”

“A hundred barrels of olive oil,” the man answered.

So the manager said, “Take your bill and sit down and quickly write ‘fifty’.”

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’.”

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.

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.

Can I Trust You?

I’m teaching Sunday School this coming Sunday and Carrie emailed me the lesson plans this morning. The kids are learning about friendship this month – what it means to be a friend, what it means to extend friendship, what it means to accept friendship from another.

The fall is a great time to think about friendship for us as adults, too. Who we choose to be friends with, how we invite people into friendship, how intentional we are about the friends that we have – all of these are good topics to visit once in a while.

And although that may seem to have nothing to do with today’s story (because today’s story seems to be all about money and how we spend it), Tom Wright in Luke for Everyone had a different take on it, that I thought I would share.

He suggests that, like most of the parables Jesus tells, this one is designed to offer a perspective on the relationship between God and Israel. The entire book of Luke has been bringing this narrative out that Israel is in crisis – that it has failed to be and do the things God has called it to be and do, and because of that they are again under occupation – this time by the Romans.

And, he suggests, Jesus is telling us that there are two ways of responding to this crisis.

One is the path of the Pharisees – a path of rules and laws and purity codes that must be evermore deeply enforced. We’ve talked a lot about this path over the course of the book of Luke, so you may remember what Jesus has to say about that kind of way of doing life. If Jesus had held this view, than the story might have gone something like “having found out that he was going to be fired for his dishonest dealings, the man went around and tried to find everyone else who had been dishonest, carefully catalogue their faults, and tried to ensure that neither he nor they broke any rules from that moment on. He then proceeded to offer information about anyone who didn’t (or couldn’t) comply as a plea bargain to his master in the hopes of retaining his job.”

But that’s not what happens.

Instead we have a story of a man, who, facing the loss of everything he had, went out and made friends with his master’s debtors (who, by the way, the master wasn’t even supposed to have …) Not only is he not tightening the rules, he seems to have thrown out most of the rules in the hopes of securing some sort of future for himself.

This second way of doing things is the path of Jesus – and it’s a path that seems willing to rethink the value of each rule, law and purity code in the face of the crises we find ourselves in. It seems to suggest that the only way out of the brokenness we find ourselves is going to be love and grace and mercy, and that without those as our guiding principles, we’re probably in deep trouble!

And this got me thinking about some of the incredible friends I have made over the past few years who definitely didn’t meet the rules and laws and purity codes I was given as a kid. When I think about how I have been lifted up, supported, encouraged – even allowed to see my own life and circumstances better – all because of these friends, I can’t imagine what I would have done without them.

So I thought this was a good chance to remind ourselves about our priorities as people of the Kingdom – our obligation not to the law, but to love; our responsibility not to the rules but to grace; our commitment not to purity codes but to people.

Jesus’ question seems to be, “can I trust you?” Not just with your money, but with the people who are around you – the marginalized, the hurting, the broken, the ones who might find themselves in debt to a ruthless moneylender like the one in this story.

“Can I trust you to love?”

“Can I trust you to offer grace and welcome and mercy and compassion and friendship to people who are like you and people who are nothing like you?”

“Can I trust you to look hard at the rules and expectations, laws and purity codes of the church and check and see whether maybe it’s time for some of those to be abandoned in favour of the love that you were called to do and be in this world in the first place?”

“Can I trust you?”

Journal Questions:

  1. Take some time this week to think about who your friends are.
  2. Are they mostly people like you?
  3. Are they diverse in some ways, but not in others?
  4. Are there any people you are definitely not friends with?
  5. How is God saying “can I trust you?” today?
  6. Is it possible that God is reassuring you that your willingness to extend friendship across lines that you would never have expected is actually something God is pleased with? Is God asking if you can be trusted to continue along this path, even in the face of opposition (even if it’s from the religious establishment)?
  7. Is it possible that God is calling you to reinvest in certain friendships this year – perhaps because of circumstances in your own life or in the lives of your friends?
  8. Is it possible that God is calling you to be intentional about becoming friends with someone very different from you? With crossing political, religious, social or cultural boundaries to build a friendship – simply for the sake of building a friendship?