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Luke 16,1-15 - Parable of the Shrewd Manager

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PARABLE OF THE SHREWD MANAGER

                               Luke 16:1-15

Today's message is about the parable of the deceitful

manager, I want to read from Luke 16:1-15

1 Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose

manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he

called him in and asked him, `What is this I hear about

you? Give an account of your management, because you

cannot be manager any longer.' 3 "The manager said to

himself, `What shall I do now? My master is taking away

my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to

beg -- 4 I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job

here, people will welcome me into their houses.' 5 "So he

called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the

first, `How much do you owe my master?' 6 "`Eight hundred

gallons of olive oil,' he replied.  "The manager told

him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four

hundred.' 7 "Then he asked the second, `And how much do

you owe?'  "`A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied.

"He told him, `Take your bill and make it eight hundred.'

8 "The master commended the dishonest manager because he

had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more

shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people

of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain

friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will

be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 10 "Whoever can be

trusted with very little can also be trusted with much,

and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be

dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been

trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust

you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been

trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give

you property of your own? 13 "No servant can serve two

masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other,

or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

You cannot serve both God and Money." 14 The Pharisees,

who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at

Jesus. 15  He said to them, "You are the ones who justify

yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.

What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's

sight.

"Much debate has taken place over the meaning of today's

parable. Every one of the resources I consulted made a

comment about the difficulty of this text. For the first

four centuries, the early church made few references to

it, probably because they found the parable as perplexing

as we do today.

The immediate question we ask is, Why? Why is this such

an infamous parable, that theologians and preachers

across the centuries don't seem to know what to do with

it? Why is it that Christians across the board don't like

to hear about the dishonesty of a manager who has been

found out by his master? Why is it that we don't want to

hear about self-denial in this age in order to store up

eternal riches?

Let us look at the parable, and see what Jesus is saying

to us today.

We are not told, how the steward wasted his masters money

- only that he did. He was consequently fired from his

job and the owner demanded a final account.  So he sat

down and thought about his options. He did not have a

strong back, so he ruled out physical labour. And he was

also too proud to go panhandling. So, he secured his

future by making friends with his master's debtors by

cutting their debts.

We would have expected the owner to punish his manager

for this dishonest action. In fact it seemed as if he was

adding insult to injury. But surprisingly, the master

commended the steward for such a shrewd action.

Let us keep in mind here that it is the owner in the

parable, and not Jesus, who applauds the shrewd business

manoeuvre of the manager. The manager acted with prompt

foresight in order to be prepared for what was to come.

The dishonest manager was in essence sucking up to his

business buddies in the hope that they would help him

retire in comfort.

But, the apparent approval of the owner only makes sense

if we look at the parable in the light of the commercial

practices of the day. Jews were forbidden to take

interest from fellow-Jews when they lent them money or

rented out their land. Exodus 22:25 says, "If you lend

money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not

be like a moneylender; charge him no interest."

Many Jews, including the religious leaders, found their

ways around this law by arguing that it only related to

money lent to a poor person. It was not meant to forbid

innocent transactions that were mutually beneficial and

where the profit was shared by all. If a man had even a

little of a given commodity he was not destitute, and

lending to him with the intention of charging interests

was not considered exploitation.

As almost everyone had a little oil and a little wheat,

the way was open for a widespread legal, and often moral,

loophole. Whatever was borrowed was given a value in oil

or wheat and the interest added on. The bond was made out

for the repayment of the total. The transaction was in

actuality a rip-off, but the bond gave no indication of

this.

Are you following me?  Here is an example: The original

amount of olive oil borrowed in our story may well have

been 400 Gallons. Add on the interest and we have a total

of 800 Gallons. This final amount was all that was

reflected on the bond. And the reason was, that no one

may be found in violation of the moneylending law from

Exodus 22:25.

If we understand the meaning of this parable, in this

light, what the shrewd manager did, in essence, was

merely to subtract the added-on interest, so that the

owner would still get back his initial amount, but

without the outrageous interest earnings. 

By this action the owner was placed in a very precarious

position.  It would be extremely difficult to obtain his

legal rights and in the process he would convict himself

of acting impiously. Morally speaking, he was in

violation of the law of Moses, which protected someone in

financial need.

The shrewd manager knew about this pious power play and

threatened to blow the whistle on his owner.  Therefore,

the owner put a big grin on his face  and  said to his

manager, "Well done! (I'll get you for this)". This way

the owner secured an undeserved reputation for piety.

Suddenly, we are no longer dealing with an obviously

crooked manager, whose business dealings are threatening

the very existence of his masters company. But rather, we

are dealing with the impure motives of the owner's heart.

Jesus was condemning the self-righteousness and the

hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes, because they

loved money (vs.14), and they were likely involved in

similar dealings.

At the same time, Jesus  challenges his true disciples to

be just as keen about securing their eternal future by

being diligent and wise stewards of the possessions which

God has entrusted to us.

Our lives are filled with the same kind of moral

ambiguities and conflicting values.  The conflict of

priorities in our lives is something that we do battle

with every day of our lives. Our Christian values hit the

values of this world head on. And we must make choices

every day between values of temporal and eternal benefits

and consequences. As much as we would like to, we cannot

have the best of both worlds. We cannot be servants of

God and our selfish desires at the same time.

Jesus challenges us to examine our motives, our values

and priorities. Where do you and I place our values?

Sometimes, I'm totally floored by the tug-off war between

earthly and spiritual values that Christian families are

faced with. And what floors me is not so much the fact

that we live in that tension - as disciples of Jesus

Christ we have to expect that - but rather the huge

amount of decisions of temporal worth that we as

Christians make.

The effect of a promise of instant gratification has an

incredible impact on our lives.  For example, with the

exception of a handful of people who understand the value

of storing up eternal riches,  all of us would rather

spend our Sundays at the beach, or at the golf-course, or

at Sunday Brunch line-ups at the local restaurant, than

in fellowship and mutual accountability with other

Christians.

And we fail to realize that our children and youth are

becoming indoctrinated by the same set of values that

their parents exhibit. It is unbelievable how busy their

schedules are, and it starts already before Kindergarten.

There are music lessons, soccer practices, volleyball

championships, swimming and ballet lessons, homework, and

the rest of the activities that help us to keep up with

our society. Some days we don't know what to do with our

schedules. By the end of the day we are totally exhausted

from the race, and we wonder what we have accomplished.

Sometimes I wonder... If Jesus spoke to us today... I

wonder if we would stand convicted for hypocrisy like the

rich man in the parable, and like the Pharisees and

Scribes!?  I wounder if our actions would be as

transparent to Him, as those of the rich owner were?! I

wonder if Jesus would say, "You have loved your money,

your possessions, your prestige, your pious appearance

before people more than you have loved God." I wonder If

we would be in one category with the unfaithful steward?!

See, I warned you that this was a difficult passage. And

by now your layer of guilt is possibly just as thick as

mine. But the intention of Jesus is not to see us hiding

in a corner with our tail between our legs and sucking

our thumb for self-pity.

Jesus did not come to condemn and disable us for service.

Rather, He became our brother in order to free us from

that which holds us prisoner to the values and priorities

of this world. Jesus walks alongside you and me and

challenges us to set our priorities in order. He calls us

to be faithful in small things. He challenges us to see

ourselves in God's perspective: We are the stewards of

all that God our Creator and Master has entrusted into

our care. Therefore, He invites us to repent of our

selfish ways and to serve God and our fellow pilgrims in

our journey through life.

Jesus invites us to strive for success. He urges us to

buy RRSP's that will last beyond retirement, and that

will be paid out throughout eternity. He pleads with us

to give ourselves away. Our love, our compassion, and

yes, even the one that hurts the most - our wallets.

Friend, give away the gift of Jesus Christ. Give God all

that you have, and you will store up treasures where no

thieves can touch them. Christ has come to unmask our

hypocrisy, and to offer forgiveness where we have sinned.

He has come to offer freedom from guilt, and to empower

us to follow Him faithfully.

May God fill us with love and the desire to show

ourselves as trustworthy stewards of His grace. And may

God find us faithful when we are asked to give an account

of our lives. AMEN


                                   GEBET

Almaechtiger Gott, demuetig stehen wir vor deinem Thron,

und wir erkennen, dass du der Geber und Empfaenger

unseres Lebens bist. Herr, du hast in diesem Jahr klar

und deutlich zu uns gesprochen, indem dass du mehrere

deiner Kinder heimgerufen hast. In der letzten Woche war

es unsere Schwester Anna Wiebe, so wie auch Freunde und

Verwandte aus unseren Kreisen. Und so schauen wir empor

zu dir um Trost und Hoffnung. Wir beten fuer die

Hinterbliebenen: Witwen, Witwer, Kinder, Grosskinder und

Freunde. Fuelle du die Luecke, die entstanden ist mit

deiner Liebe und Naehe.

Wir beten um Heilung fuer unsere Kranken. Fuer Michael

Schween: schenke den Aerzten Erfolg bei der Operation.

Fuer Agathe Braun, fuer Robert Buller, fuer Jacob Bergen,

Fuer Peter Thiessen und fuer Cindy Peters. Wir beten fuer

unsere aelteren Geschwister im Bethania: Aganetha

Derksen, Aganetha Tomm, Sara Thiessen und Anna Derksen.

Lass deine Macht und Gnade im Leben dieser Geschwister

besonders sichtbar werden.

Wir beten fuer die Arbeiter im Werk dieser Gemeinde: alle

freiwillige Haende die Mitarbeiten, fuer unsere Diakone,

und fuer die Prediger. Schenke uns allen gemeinsam Freude

an der Arbeit. Segne unser Zeugnis, dass wir in deinem

Namen ausleben. Segne die Arbeit der Konferenz. Segne die

Missionare Edgar und Kathleen Lin in Taiwan. Segne auch

unser Gaben, die wir mit dankbaren Haenden fuer die

ReichsGottesArbeit geben.

Der Name Jesu Christi sei gepriesen.
                              PASTORAL PRAYER

Lord Almighty, your Name be praised in all eternity! How

sweet the sound of your name when it comes from the lips

of children. It brings new hope in the midst of pain and

grief.

God, comfort our brothers and sisters who are grieving,

and there are so many of them. Grant them strength and

hope for a bright new day with you. We lift up before you

the Voth family and friends, we pray for families and

friends of the women who died in the car accident, we

pray for the Epp family, and the many others who have

experienced the loss of a loved one in this past year.

We pray for healing for those who are in the hospitals

and those recovering at home. May your healing grace fill

their lives in this time of need. We pray for Michael

Schween, Agathe Braun, Robert Buller, Jacob Bergen, Peter

Thiessen, and Cindy Petres.

We pray for the ministry that your sons and daughters do

unto others for the Love of Christ. We thank you Lord for

your grace and salvation, and for the loving response

that we give in your name. Thank you for the work of the

conference. Thank you also for missionaries Edgar and

Kathleen Lin in Taiwan. Bless the ministry of love and

mercy that we are able to do through our many gifts.

Continue in our midst with your blessing as we receive

your word and as we respond to you in praise.

We pray in the precious name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour

and Lord. AMEN

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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