The parable we read today from the gospel of Luke, I believe is part of the same teaching lesson from chapter 15, Why do I believe that? Because some versions, including King James in Luke 16:1, includes the word also, “And he said also unto his disciples” the use of the word also means that it is a continuation of what is before. With that in mind, we can say that what Jesus taught in chapter 15 is relevant also for chapter 16. Last Sunday Jesus taught His disciples how important the lost sheep are. They are so important that the Shepherd left 99 sheep in the wilderness, just to go look for one in the mountains. They are so important that a woman can sweep and clean a whole house –even when it is dark- just for one coin. Coin and sheep represent souls, that is why the woman could not wait until the next day for daylight; that is why the shepherd couldn’t wait for other shepherds to come and help.
If we removed today’s parable from the context of the lost, we will have problems trying to interpret it. If we do it, we will have questions like, is Jesus praising the wrongdoing of the manager? Is Jesus insinuating that the “means justify the end? Is Jesus teaching his disciples and us that we should do wrong things to accomplish good things? I do not think so. Why not? because listen to Jesus’ conclusion of the parable: “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? In other words, sooner or later whoever is not trustworthy like the steward from the parable will be fired, will have the same reward, the same fate. Why? because he has been unfaithful with what he received. Therefore, we can conclude that Jesus is not praising what this steward did.
The manager or steward of the parable loved money more that he loved his master; he never thought in his master’s welfare, but in his own interest. In the performance of his job, things were upside down…you see… he was hired to put all his abilities to his master’s service but instead, he used his master’s resources for his own personal interest, it’s like if the manager, the steward was working for himself instead of his master. This manager according to Jesus had two masters: one was the one who hired him, and the other was the one who moved him.
If you check a couple Bible commentaries on this parable, you will find almost the same complain. It’s a hard parable to interpret. And I think it’s hard when we take it by itself. Because –as I said before- it is part of the “lost parables” lesson. The question is: why –according to Luke- Jesus put together this parable with the previous three? The answer I believe is to continue teaching about the importance the little and lost have for Him; to teach His disciples that they must invest all their abilities and resources to reach them. For teaching this, Jesus is using what we now call reverse psychology, “For the people of this world are more shrewd (shrood) in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Jesus is taking a bad example of management to provoke in His disciples the desire to do everything better.
What Jesus is saying, is: look at the people of this world, look what they do to please themselves; look what they do to serve money or mammon, and learn from them. They use their abilities, their resource and their imagination to serve themselves. Now, you must use your abilities, your resources, and your imagination to obey God’s call of “go and make disciples to all the nations.” When the disciples heard this parable, for them it was a reminder that all the talents, the gifts and everything they received from God was to be used to serve God’s kingdom; that everything they received from God was to be used to serve God’s interest and not only theirs. But it was not like that for the Pharisees, The Pharisees, who loved money, -Luke says- heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. They could not understand why they had to leave the 99 sheep just to get one; they could not understand why they had to leave the comfort their positions give and had to serve others. So, they sneered Jesus.
The question now is: What are we going to do now that we have heard the same parable? Are we going to sneer Jesus too? Or are we going to pay attention to what Jesus is telling us?.
Let me share two things I believe we can learn from the Gospel this morning.
First, this morning Jesus is inviting us to invest more in people than in things. The manager or the steward of the parable used the resources of his master for his own benefit. In contrast Jesus is asking us to use our possessions and resources; our talents and gifts to bring eternal benefit to ourselves and others. Verse nine says, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Jesus is saying that our possessions should be used in ways that go beyond purely material significance. Remember, our physical possessions belong to God. We are only managers over His goods. Jesus’ question for us are church and as individual is, are you investing what my father has given you in things or in people?
Second, Jesus in reminding us that we are called to invest more in the soul than in the body. This contrasts with the manager or steward who was more concerned with his immediate future and security than with his soul’s integrity. We live in an era in which great emphasis is placed on our body, on physical health. Eating the right foods, getting enough rest, drinking enough water, and exercising regularly. All these things receive much attention and its fine we must do all this. But let us not forget, we must equally emphasize the care of our souls. How different would things be if we paid much attention to the things that concern the welfare of our souls as we do with the things that concern with the welfare of our temporal lives. If we invest as much time, energy and care in the well-being of our spiritual lives as we do with our temporary things, we would be spiritual giants!
I was told a story of a man who dreamed he arrived in heaven. In his dream he was anxious to see his mansion, he asked an angel to take him there where his mansion was. As they walked on the golden streets, they passed mansions beyond description and while they did, he kept asking, “Is this one mine?” “No,” the angel answered. They walked on to the outskirts of the city, where the mansions were not nearly as nice, then into the suburbs and the angel kept going. The man was certain they had missed his mansion, but the angel assured him they had not. They finally arrived at a small cabin in the country. The man was shocked to hear the angel say, “Well, this is it. It’s all yours.” “Surely there must be some kind of mistake!” the man said. “No, this is yours.” The angel replied. “Why? Why didn’t I get a mansion?” the man complained. “Well,” said the angel, “this was all we could afford to build with what you sent ahead!”
Brothers and sisters, we must invest more in eternity than we do in tomorrow; we must invest more in our spiritual life that in our earthly positions. How can we do this? By investing more in people, God’s people than in things; by investing more in our souls than in the bodies.