A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
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. 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.’
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. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’
So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 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.’
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. 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.
“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. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 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.”
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.
There once was an honorable man.
He was well respected, and he dealt fairly with the business people in town.
He treated his tenant farmers generously- he kept the houses and improvements in good repair, and he saw to it that there was fertilizer to put on the fields.
He was rich in money and friendship and respect.
But one day some of the other leading people in town came to him in privates and said, “Your business manager is squandering your money.”
There are several things he could have done.
He could have his manager thrown into jail.
He could SELL his business manager, and his entire family, into slavery.
Instead, he called the business manager into his office and questioned him.
The business manager offered no explanation.
Just as significantly, he did not beg for mercy.
He was silent, because he’d been caught and there was nothing more he could say.
So the honorable man did the least that he could do: He fired him, and asked him to bring the accounts.
You might ask why he would handle the situation that way, and there is only one answer: Because that’s the kind of a man he was.
If you ever lived in a small rural town, you may have been lucky enough to know someone like that. Someone who had done well, but still knew life was hard and that even though he had worked hard and made smart decisions, he’d also been lucky. Someone who didn’t squander what he had but didn’t hoard it either. Someone who was generous in thought as well as with his money.
So, the manager went to do what he’d been ordered to do. But while he was on his way, he did what any one of us would have done: he worried about what he would do next.
He took stock of himself, and when he did, he was pretty honest: he had nothing to work with.
Note that he did not think, “I do not WANT to work in the fields.”
Instead, he thought, “I am not strong enough to work in the fields.”
Field work is hard work, and especially hard work in that region, where the crops were grown on terraces, on the hillsides, in rocky soil. If you go there today, you’ll still see those terraces- built by hand, the way the rock walls at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church were built, by hand.
So the farmers in that vicinity didn’t just hire any person who came along. Anybody who wasn’t fit had to keep going.
And the other thing that he thought was, “I am ashamed to beg.”
Besides that fact, nobody would give him anything anyway.
He wasn’t blind
He wasn’t lame.
He wasn’t sick.
So when he took stock of himself, he realized that he had nothing.
Not even an infirmity that might elicit pity.
The only thing he had that had any value at all
Was his master’s wealth.
So he gave it away.
Now- when Jesus told this story, it made the Pharisees sneer.
What kind of example was Jesus teaching, anyway?
And it makes us squirm, because we don’t get it either.
I’ve not preached on it before, and depending on what you tell me on your way out the door, I may not ever preach on it again!
But you see, this parable is not about money and it’s not about a manager who embezzled, it’s about an honorable and merciful man, and it’s about a man who was neither of these things. But that second man came to understand that he had NOTHING, except the grace and mercy that first man had given him.
He DIDN’T throw him in jail
And he DIDN’T sell him into slavery.
And he DIDN’T even disgrace him.
SO, if we remember that this is NOT a parable about money- It’s a parable about God-
Then we might ask ourselves, what was the manager giving away to those farmers, if it wasn’t money?
He was forgiving their debts, and in no small amount.
Now, Jesus used the word “Shrewd” to describe the manager’s actions. But another word that describes those same actions is “risky.” One scholar says “He risked it all on one throw of the dice” because the honorable man- the wealthy man- could have become enraged, thrown him into jail, and sold his kids off as slaves.
But the manager took that chance- and really, it’s kind of the same chance we take whenever we forgive each other. We can DO it, because we know that God has forgiven us, and trust that God will forgive everybody else as well.
Finally, the manager’s knowledge of his master was confirmed when the master congratulated him on his shrewdness. Because you see, the master was a rich man, which means two things:
The first was, he could afford the loss. Those sums that were marked down on the account sheets were enormous. They equaled much more than a strong laborer might make in the course of a year. But to the landowner, they were pocket change.
And second, we have already said the landowner was rich in several things- and money was not the most important. He was rich in money and friendship and respect.
So when the former manager acted in a way that made him look even MORE generous, he became richer than ever before. Therefore, let us go, and give away what is only God’s to give.
Let’s practice grace, and let’s practice mercy. Let’s practice the art of forgiveness.
Let’s practice giving away what’s not ours to give away. Because when we do, God gets richer and richer.
And we? We get welcomed into an eternal home
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.