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Monday, November 24, 2014

A Strange Parable in Luke

There is a strange parable in Luke 16:1-13 that has puzzled people for hundreds of years. What do you make of it? Some wise commentators have even suggested that Luke made a mistake in putting it in his gospel--that Jesus could never have said such a thing. And it does appear that Jesus is praising dishonesty! Admittedly, this is a hard nut to crack, but if we succeed, there's a sweet kernel inside.
What's the story? This manager worked for a rich man, and embezzled his money. When he knew he would be fired, he made friends with a lot of his master's debtors by cheating the master all the more, and ingratiating himself with them by slyly reducing their debts to the big boss. Then when he got thrown out on the street, he had some place to go; these people, grateful to him, gladly took him in. So at least he had room and board for the rest of his life.
Now, here's the shocker: the big boss praised the wit and cleverness of the rascal, and Jesus tells us to go and do the same. He says that such clever street-wise people have more sense than God's people! Now, what can this possibly mean?
(1) It's obvious, the Big Boss in the story is the Lord Himself.
(2) It's not so obvious but equally true, the scalawag steward is you and me; yes, WE have embezzled our Lord's goods. Don't try to argue out of it; we are eternally and infinitely in debt to Him. It's too true, we have no righteousness of our own, not even 1 percent. Now, if you can't get beyond this, you'll miss the sweet kernel in the nut.
(3) We're all going to get fired. Jesus says in verse 9, "when YOU fail." (The King James Version rendering is correct, not when IT fails, that is, your money.) And it's not IF, PERHAPS, MAYBE. It's WHEN WE fail, for fail we shall, most assuredly, for in the judgment we won't have an iota of our own righteousness to help us.
(4) So, says Jesus, get busy right now and ingratiate yourself with needy people all around you; use what time or money you have left to make friends for eternity.
(5) Then when you get to the pearly gates and you know you don't deserve entrance, some dear soul will step up and say to the Lord, "This person helped me out when I was in distress; he gave me the gospel, that's why I'm here. Please let him in."
(6) THAT will make you happy!
--Robert J. Wieland

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