The Shrewd Manager

The Shrewd Manager September 19, 2016

Today I’m going to organize the basement so that I don’t have to unpack it. It’s going to be awesome. And I’m going to settle into the reality that now Monday’s are a half school day. That too is going to be awesome. I can’t face actually reading about that horrible euthanasia thing, or the bombing thing, or any of the other weird things humanity did over the weekend. Instead, I’ll go on about some things that fell nicely into place for me in the sermon yesterday.

The text was the Dishonest Steward in Luke, which, to modern hearers, sounds like Jesus fell into a bizarre confusion. There he is with his sandals, his long hair, and his soulful gaze, chattering on about the little lost sheep, and we all sigh and think awwwww, and then post a gif of a sheep being pulled out of a hole. But that’s not the way the people he was talking to would have heard any of it. The lost sheep moment would have ticked off all the Pharisees, they being the 99 he was prepared to walk away from in the wilderness, and not, frankly, come back to, and the disciples might not have felt super sappy cozy being compared to a dishonest manager. But they, unlike me, would have gotten the point of the parable, on its face, just by hearing it.

First up, the shrewdness of the manager was interestingly wonderful, to be completely vague. In a world where we are always “searching our feelings” as I am like to say, and wanting to know God’s leading in various directions that are not really objectively discernible, I love that Jesus described the actions of a bad man using his mind to secure his future. The shrewd brilliance of careful thought and manipulative action, of aligning every fiber of the being toward the single goal of just surviving, that’s not much visible on the Christian landscape any more.

Second, I loved Jesus’ commendation of using material stuff for heavenly gain. It is about the people, it’s Ultimately about the people, but in the meantime it’s also about the stuff. We aren’t residing in some pure spiritual non material gnostic utopia of Christian love where the stuff doesn’t matter. You have to fuss about the stuff, as a means of fussing over the people.

Third, just because something is ideally possible doesn’t mean it’s actually possible. The steward could have begged, or could have dug, but he wouldn’t, so those options need to go away as we consider what he actually did do. This is where the shrewdness was so interesting and helpful. I think we Christians are too idealistic. We don’t consider reality, the vast scope of human frailty, the pervasive nature of sin. And so we are wise as doves and innocent as serpents, as my father likes to say. Shrewd thought comes when you consider what you actually will do, and then bend that choice towards the far reaching goal of eternity.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about all this, but I have to go work on the basement. I commend the sermon to you, and the one before, which also turned all my thoughts and feelings on their heads, all their little heads. Pip pip.

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