15th Sunday After Pentecost
In the Name of Jesus
There are many stories can be told about that job. The job that was an educational experience, a job that taught perseverance, a job that fits us like a right-handed pair of scissors to a left-handed man. For some reason we don’t like clocking in, we don’t care for the work, and clocking out and going home is the highlight of our day. Imagine such a job. You just plain don’t like it. Your supervisor is frustrating and the guy who owns the store is oblivious to it all. Honestly you could run it better.
It is a bland Thursday morning when you get called to the HR department, and you are told that your brilliant pension plan idea that doubled the company’s bottom line in three years was wasteful and frowned on by the CEO. You’re told that you need to finish out the week and clear out your office by the end of the Weekend.
The job market isn’t hot right now, and actually there is a good chance that you won’t find a job quickly so you think to yourself, “What shall I do? I am getting fired and I can’t dig ditches and I am too proud to stand on the street with a cardboard sign!”
You wrack you brain for a few minutes for what to do. You are terrified at the prospects. You are too proud to beg, but you also are too proud to ask for a second chance. These terrible you-know-what’s are not worth your time. You could probably get a job in the janitorial department, but the company never treated you well, and you have had enough of them. You hate these loathsome suits who act all holier-than-thou with their perfectly kept account records and chummy lunch room attitude. How in the world could anyone like it here?
Then it hits you. You’ve made modifications to the accounts before, why not once more? So you call up your clients and reduce their bills, officially making them owe almost half of what they ought. And before you hang up you ask if they are looking for anyone to fill some managerial vacancies, and you get a few good offers. [especially from Mr. Corleone, the nice Italian gentleman who got the 50% discount and said there was always a place in his organization for a go-getter like you.]
Your manager commends you for your shrewdness during the exit interview. “Well, it seems you’ve made good use of your time [and talents] here at our company. Good luck, but fair warning: there could be hell to pay, pleasing your new boss].
Perhaps you now see the irony of Our Lord commending the Dishonest Manager for his Shrewdness. The Dishonest Manager got what he wanted, but what he wanted was anything but what he needed. What he wanted was the freedom to keep sinning, but what he needed, excuse the cliché, was a relationship with the Lord. He was shrewd in getting what he wanted, but he did not know what really was good for him. He betrayed his master in order to be well received into the homes of the enemy. Where does he work now? Let’s just say it’s a warm; a bit humid, slight odor of sulphur, mud baths, but relaxing. Like a high-end spa.
One cannot serve both God and Mammon, either he will hate the one and love the other, or love the one and hate the other. This is the point of the text. It doesn’t matter how clever you are in your dealings with the divine: if you don’t love God for no good reason, you’ll work for the Devil. If enlightened self-interest draws your attention more than the Blessed Savior, you’ll not reach the pearly gates.
Mammon is a false deity from the Syrian mythos. John Milton has an interesting account of the demonic deity. Before he was a fallen angel, he was always more interested in the golden streets of heaven than he was with the eternal beauty of the Most High. It is no surprise that when Satan rises up against God in Milton’s epic poem that Mammon joins his ranks, thinking it is a waste of good gold to just walk on it. Mammon is shrewd; he sees a way to use the gold of heaven so our interests and God’s coincide. And why shouldn’t they, always?
The “dishonest steward” is shrewd like Mammon. He cut the pension plan 50% and put the money to executive bonuses. And the bottom line doubled in 3 years! And the master calls him into his office and fires him? Says he is wasting his goods?! No, you’re not firing me! I quit! Mr. Corleone knows how to deploy gold so self interest and divine interest work for everyone’s best interest, their best life now!
You’d never be like that. Would you?
How then are we to be faithful in what we have been given? Understand the purpose of your life. We are made to glorify God in all that you do and to contemplate his wonders. How do we do that? We do that by confessing Him to be our savior and by meditating on his wonderful works of salvation that He has done for us. Our Lord did not come down from Heaven to liberate you to serve Mammon, to serve your job, or to serve your political party. Our Lord came to liberate you from death, sin, and the demons.
Therefore, how are you to be faithful in what you have been given? Firstly receive the good gifts of life and salvation that Jesus has prepared for you. You are here in church today, that is what you have come for. You have sacrificed the bulk of your Sunday morning to come and adore the hidden savior.
Secondly, strive after a godly life. You no longer serve sin, your serve the Lord in all that you do. And when sin sneaks upon you and you transgress the Law of God, don’t get angry at the Lord for telling you that sin is bad. Return to the Lord your God with hat in hand and ask for mercy. The shrewdness of the Dishonest Manager is knowing that his boss prefers mercy over justice. So too it is with our Lord. He loves mercy more than justice to such an extent that he would take the just punishments of our sin upon himself rather than have you be damned to the hellfire. The problem with the shrewdness of the Dishonest Manager is that he prefers his shrewdness more than the Lord’s mercy. The manager gets what he wants, in this case: a home with Mammon and his pals. But the Lord will not forsake the soul that trusts and loves him alone for no good reason. If you love God more than you love your sins you will be saved.
Thirdly you must see the demons in the world and know that they want you in hell with them. They are out there trying to convince you that no one loves you and looks out for your interests better than you. Think of C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”. The demonic foes don’t come right out and say, “We want you to come to hell with us.” No one would agree to that. Rather they try to convince you that God isn’t shrewd, he doesn’t deploy capital pragmatically, and your best interests and his might conflict.
But the Lord by his Cross and Passion has delivered you from all of this. You are no longer enslaved to Sin, Death, and devils like Mr. Mammon. You are set free through the devotion of Christ. You have been given a new perspective to see the eternally good thing. You have been recreated into the image of Christ and have been forgiven all your sins. The difficult part is over. You needn’t worry about getting grilled for your mishandling of what you have been given, because you have confidence in the great mediator who loves you to the end. He loves you. He forgives your sins. You do not fear the Loving God just because he died for your sins, you love him and adore him for all he is, and all he gives even when it comes in the shape of a cross. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.