Parable Season continues with a doozy of a parable this week. As I said in yesterday’s sermon, Jesus’ parables aren’t fables: we can’t just pick them up 2,000 years later and find a universal truth in them. This is especially true this Sunday, as we are forced to deal with what might be the trickiest of Jesus’ parables, “The Parable of the Dishonest Manager.”
The story begins with an abrupt scene change. After three parables directed to the Pharisees and scribes who had been grumbling about Jesus’ tendency to hangout with sinners and tax collectors, Luke tells us that this parable is told only to the Disciples. Most preachers might wish it had stayed there, but alas, it is in Luke’s Gospel and assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary. I’ll get to the details of the parable later in the week, but what has my attention this morning is what many preachers will likely focus on when they punt this Sunday.
After telling a very strange story, Jesus summarizes the lesson to be learned by talking about honesty and dishonesty. He ends with perhaps his most famous saying about money: a topic he dealt with in 11 of his 39 parables and in 1 out of every 7 verses in Luke’s Gospel (Source).
“You cannot serve God and wealth.”
What is interesting about this pithy quote is that Jesus assumes we are going to be slaves to one or the other. Yes, I said “slaves” because that’s what the Greek word means. We are either going to be slaves to money and the stuff, power, and prestige that goes along with it, or we are going to be set free from that bondage to be devoted fully to God’s will for our lives. You simply cannot do both. You cannot have two masters. There will come a time, sooner rather than later, when you will be forced to pledge your allegiance to one over the other. It might be a work decision: will I choose the honest path and lose money or not? It might be a family finances decision: will I give to the church instead of buying that new toy I really want, but ultimately don’t really need? It might be a lifestyle decision: will I work 80 weeks to accumulate wealth for the family I never see to spend? These are choices that we all have to make at one time or another. You cannot do both. You cannot be a slave to money and be faithful to God. Which will you choose?