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Thursday, September 15, 2016

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Many times as Christians we expect that the church will help us teach our children and grandchildren important values and guidelines for living. If that's the case for you, I wouldn't recommend starting with this parable! It's a strange story. It doesn't have an edifying message you'd want to pass on, like love one another or be generous. Here the "virtues" Jesus seems to be praising are dishonesty and creative book keeping. But fortunately this is not a parable that ends with Jesus saying "Go and do likewise!"

This parable goes against all of our common understanding of fairness and good business sense. Recognizing that this story comes in Luke right after the story of the prodigal son, may help us understand it better, because this is a prodigal manager. He cancels debts that are owed. He forgives extravagantly. When we recognize that we too are on the receiving end of this kind of strange bookkeeping, we can be grateful for the creative accounting techniques of the Kingdom!

Good and generous God, thank you for forgiving our debts so extravagantly. Thank you for "cooking the books" in our favor. Amen.

Sandy Van Zyl, '88
ELCA Pastor serving United Congregational Church, Butte, Mont.

Luke 16:1-13 (NRSV)

1 Then 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.
2 So 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.'
3 Then 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.
4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.'
5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, "How much do you owe my master?'
6 He answered, "A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, "Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.'
7 Then 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.'
8 And 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.
9 And 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.
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.
11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?
12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?
13 No 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."

This God Pause daily devotion is brought to you by the alumni of Luther Seminary.