I have been arrested for the past couple of weeks in the sixteenth chapter of Luke. I have read it morning and evening, and it seemed to me to be nonsense for a great while. I decided it must be a secret. I would wait for God to explain it to me. Here is the parable as Jesus told it. A man was mismanaging his boss’s business, wasting his resources. People complained to the boss, so he called in his manager and asked for an accounting, but strangely there is a short time period before he is fired outright. So he goes to his boss’s debtors, and starts forgiving huge debts so these people would take care of him when he was thrown out—which seems on its face to prove the point that the guy was a crook to start with, and his response to being found out was to be a greater crook. That’s not how Jesus explains it.
“And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely.” Luke 16:8
One of the driving forces in my life is a strong sense of justice. I want to crush evil wherever I see it. I want to advocate for the widow and the orphan. I pray always and in all situations, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” At every point on earth where God’s will is ignored or rejected, there is suffering and death. Micah the prophet wrote that God requires us to do justice. (I know the rest of that verse—love mercy, walk humbly…I’d rather focus on the “do justice.”) So why didn’t the boss smash this guy and throw him into outer darkness?
I now understand how much God loves mercy more profoundly that I could ever grasp before. God is the rich man in this parable. He has given me His vast resources to manage on this earth, and I have wasted them. How could that scoundrel be me? For a month or so when I was a teenager, the Holy Spirit called me to account, and I still hear His gentle voice within, pushing me past an ugly pride to repentance.
It is interesting that in this story the manager of his Lord’s riches never said, “I’m sorry.” It looks like he is just protecting his own skin. Not so, my fellow hoarder of wealth. We truly own nothing but what our Lord has entrusted to us, and one day soon, we will be called to give an accounting. This parable teaches the brevity of life, and the urgency of opportunity. We must act quickly. When the unjust manager began forgiving debt, he was demonstrating the mercy of his rich Lord. Mercy that did not throw the unjust steward into hell on the spot. Mercy that forgave debts that could not be paid. Mercy that should have made the rich Lord angry, but instead brought His favor.
I am an unjust steward. I was born a sinful creature, and have wasted precious years, precious resources, precious talents buried rather than multiplied. I will not wallow in sorrowful repentance, though I will turn from my sin. I still have no righteousness of my own. I have only the blood covering of my just Lord for a little while. So what should I do? I will give away my Lord’s resources to a world that is dark with the weighty debt of sin. Come and drink the water of life freely! Come and receive the favor of my Lord, who in mercy has given me a short time to lay up treasure in heaven. I extend to you the generosity I have received. He commends wise giving away of what is rightfully His alone.
The parable ends with a proper explanation—“you cannot serve God and mammon.” If I am enslaved to my (His gift) worldly resources, there is no way to serve God. Come quickly friends. Time is short. Take your debt, and write paid in full! Take what the Lord has given you, and give it to a hungry world!