Luke 16:1-13 (NRSV)
Chapter 16Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. Verse 2So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Verse 3Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. Verse 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' Verse 5So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' Verse 6He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Verse 7Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.' Verse 8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. Verse 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. Verse 10"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. Verse 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? Verse 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? Verse 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
I remember my mom giving a stewardship talk at church when I was a child (because she had practiced it at home about 100 times!). She talked about how our single-income family of seven couldn't always put a lot into the offering plate, but that we gave generously with our time and talents — through serving on committees, in the choir, in the youth programs, and just about every other activity at church.
The dishonest manager in the gospel this week may not be the best model for stewardship and care of others. Yet, it would seem that even though his cooking the owner's books was, at best, self-serving and meant to save his own hide, his actions had a way of offering mercy and freedom to those overburdened by debt. We need to be wise in contemplating how our actions can perhaps build relationships with people even when at first glance we don't imagine such a possibility. Sometimes God uses even our compromised intentions to share God's abundant grace and mercy.
God of all that we are, take the entirety of our lives to offer to the world in love, hope, and justice. Help us use all that we have and all that we are in serving the world with your love. Amen.