Page One: The Lenient Master

I still don’t get this one.  The Bible says that Jesus says to make friends through “means of dishonest wealth”.  I guess there is wisdom in knowing how to get out of a mess of your own making.  I don’t want to make too much of this, but where is the grace?  It’s just that this guy didn’t really leave all of his mess behind.  Fred Craddock points out that the first line says “There was a rich man…”  This parallels the parable in 16:19 as couplet of parables about rich men.  As Craddock points out, we often mix up who the parable is about.  Why do we dwell on the son who returns home and call it the Prodigal Son (which precedes this parable in Lk. 15).  The story actually begins “A man had two sons…”  It is about the Father and the grace he bestows upon both of his children.  Perhaps the same attention can be applied to this week’s story: “There was a rich man…”  This rich man got suspicious of a manager below him.  He then got screwed financially by said manager.  The natural reaction would be to exact revenge or punishment, to have the manager arrested, sued, imprisoned, enslaved until restitution is paid.  That would be justice, right?  The manager simply did what was necessary to save his own hide.  He was wise in the sense that he saw he was going to lose his job and wise to win the favor of others so as to help himself.  He took a bad situation and found a way to make some good out of it.  Nevermind that the bad was of his own doing.  So, what about the rich man?  From what we;re told, he commended the manager for his shrewdness.  It sounds like he just accepted that he got screwed financially.  Certainly he had the means to exact some justice, but he chose a different course.  Grace is a different course.  I have benefitted greatly from others having chosen this course.  Perhaps the rich man saw or remembered all the ways that others have been gracious to him.  Maybe he counted all of his friends and took as to how much more important friendships are than money.  Maybe he was rich due to the generosity of others.  Maybe he was envious of the way the shrewd manager made friends.  Jesus tells the story not for us to focus in on the shrewdness of the manager, but the graciousness of the master.  Jesus is about to tell of a rich man who does NOT do so well and does NOT practice graciousness.  So with all the talk about dishonest wealth, perhaps the focus ought to return to the rich man, what he does and what he does NOT do.  He does fire the manager; he does demand an accounting; he does commend the manager.  He does NOT demand repayment or exact revenge; he does NOT punish the man; he does NOT restore the man’s job.  We get away with so much.  Those who constantly demand justice of others have NO idea just how good they have it.

Page One is the first page I write for the sermon–one page, long-form, stream of consciousness.  It does not go in the sermon, it is a simple practice whereby I just write reflecting on what I have encountered thus far in the sermon-preparation process.

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