THE STORIES OF US – THE UNJUST STEWARD – SERMON RESOURCES
ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
The Parable of the Unjust Steward is found in Luke 16:1-9. This parable has been described as one of the Jesus’s most problematic parables. Commentators and pastors alike are really uncomfortable with this parable because on the surface, it appears as if Jesus is saying use money to “win friends and influence people.” For some of us, this is insulting and offensive; we’ve been told that Jesus commends us for using money, something that’s fleeting, as a tool to manipulate and control others.
Jesus praises this dishonest manager and encourages us, his disciples, to be just like him. This is shocking , it’s surprising, it undermines our assumptions about morality and how Jesus expects us to behave. This guy with limited options, embezzles his employer’s money to force the employer or future employers into securing employment for him later. He stole money from his employer and then forced future potential employers into silence because they were complicit with him. He gets fired, then because he knows that his employer doesn’t have the books, he cooks the books, forcing others into his scheme because they would be publicly shamed if they revealed what actually happened. It’s the perfect crime, and then, shockingly, the employer congratulates him, and Jesus does so too!
Some folks from the community, who are trusted by rich master , come to him and tell him his manager, who is unnamed, is “misappropriating” resources from him. We assume it was friends or at least someone that rich man trusted more than his manager because if it were just other servants, the rich man would have surely investigated the charges. He doesn’t conduct an investigation; he trusts the words of his friends and effectively fires the manager. In contrast this manager says nothing. He is silent before his master. This is stunning. No pleading. No begging. I mean even Adam pleaded with God in the garden after he was caught taking what didn’t belong to him, and yet, nothing from this unjust steward.
Instead he has a conversation with himself. In this moment, I see his acknowledgement of his guilt. His crimes. He’s been caught, there’s no negotiating with this boss. That tells us a lot about his master, doesn’t it? The main issues are sin, grace, and salvation, not how to manage money properly. Jesus is often telling these stories not necessarily to instruct us in what do when we find ourselves in their situation, but to alert us to something significant about God, his grace, mercy, forgiveness, and how the Kingdom operates. The steward is caught . He’s silent. In this moment, he has to accept the mercy of his master. In this culture, at this time, if you steal and can’t repay, you can be imprisoned. Not just you, but your entire family, until you can pay back what is owed.
Jesus does not save us from God; instead, Jesus reveals just who God is! Jesus does not provide God with the capacity to forgive us; Jesus reveals God as forgiving love. On the cross, Jesus takes away our shame. Jesus definitely loses his life, but it isn’t a payment to a Father who demands satisfaction. The cross is a mystery, and we have to abandon our economic terms to describe what happens there. We need better language. In the parable of the unjust steward, Jesus is teaching us about the father here, friends. He’s saying with a strong voice that God doesn’t need anything from us.
Jesus is revealing a Father who loves us intensely.
Jesus is revealing a Father is merciful.
Jesus is revealing a Father who is full of grace.
TELL YOUR STORY
Find a time when you have 10-15 minutes without distraction. In your Bible, read the story of the shrewd manager (Like 16:1-9). Consider for a moment if there are any ways that you may not have managed the gifts which you have been given by God in the way that God may have desired. If so, you might reread the story from that perspective, while being open to perceiving how God is being present towards you. (If not, you might spend this time in thankfulness to God for his grace towards you.). In the story, the steward uses the master’s assets to make friends. The steward seems to have no assets of his own. How might that describe our situation in God’s eyes? How much of what we have is truly ours and how much are gifts from God? How might we use our assets in a way that is consistent with the future that we desire? Jesus encourages his listeners to be like the steward in dealing with their own kind. What does using God’s gifts in ways that win friends mean in your life? You might reread the story a third time with this question in mind. Then spend a minute or two in silence listening to God. Then close with a prayer of thanksgiving.
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.