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Are you in or not?

Am 8.4-7; 1 Tim 2.1-8; Lk 16.1-13

Jesus was not a trained teacher; nonetheless he was superb. When questioned, he often turned the query back on his interrogator; other times he told parables. In doing this, he avoided fruitless debates but rather forced his questioners to acknowledge their own prejudices and smug self-satisfaction. Luke’s story of the dishonest manager is a classic example of Jesus’ skill. (16.1-13)

In Christ’s time when large estates were often the property of foreign landowners, managers or stewards exercised total control; rorting distant owners was not uncommon. Somehow the word has got back (16.2); the manager knows that the game is up, so he takes decisive action (16.3-7). He makes private deals with each debtor, giving them huge concessions (about 950 gallons of olive oil and 1000 bushels of wheat), to ensure that he will have grateful friends once he is fired.

Why does Jesus praise such clearly cheating behaviour? Here the context is critical. He has been talking about the coming of the Kingdom of God. This demands total allegiance to the rule of Jesus’ father, the reign of truth, justice and freedom. You cannot be half in and half out. Like the shrewd manager, you must risk everything and hold back nothing to become Jesus’ faithful follower.

We too are surrounded by and live in cultures that constantly invite us to compromise our standards of truth and commitment to our faith. We must follow the shrewd manager, not in his dishonesty, but in his total fearlessness and audacity. (16.12-13)

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