Consider this a mini-sermon on todays’ Gospel lesson (Luke 16:1-13).
The Parable itself
In Luke 13:1-7, the dishonest manager reduces his master’s debts in order to make friends with his master’s debtors. The master commends the manager for his shrewdness – “I see what you did there!” – yet neither he nor Jesus commend the manager for his dishonesty.
Verses 8-9 observe that people “of this age” understand the system of this age, yet the people “of God’s Kingdom” don’t understand the system of the Kingdom. This is, primarily, spoken to his disciples, after all: just as a man can be shrewd with money for his own benefit, so should they be shrewd with money for the benefit of the Kingdom.
Specifically, the benefit he’s promoting here is “making friends” – that is, establishing relationships that draw more people into the Kingdom of God. Use your wealth & possessions to help people come to know Christ.
With further context
The previous two chapters in Luke’s gospel has a number of teachings about hospitality and alms-giving that inform this teaching further. We looked at this in recent weeks, too: give without expectation of payback; invite people to your table who are unable to repay you. If you give and loan money and resources only to have them returned in due course, then you haven’t acted truly charitably. Charity, or charitas, is sometimes translated simply as ‘love’, after all, so the biblical idea of charity is that something is given that should never be expected to be returned: it is a gift. Give gifts, show hospitality, especially to those unable to repay you, and thus build friendships that will help draw them unto the Lord of love himself who taught you to be so loving.
Verses 10-13 seal the deal here: no one can serve two masters. If you’re giving and lending with the hope of repayment, then you’re still operating on worldly principles concerning money. It is when you give freely without expectation that you are finally and truly free from money’s lordship over you, and operating under the heavenly principle of love.
Let us pray.
O Lord, you have taught us that without love, all our deeds are worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you; grant this for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.