COLUMN: We can learn from the 'bad manager'

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By Steve Gettinger

Today’s scripture passage is from Luke 16:1-15:
Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg — I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
“‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’
“Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”
Holy Scripture tells us that it is appointed for men to die once and after that to face judg­ment (Hebrews 9:27). That can be kind of a scary thought some people.
Have you ever stopped to think that every birthday pushes us one day closer to end of our life. Day-by-day, hour-by-hour, moment-by-moment, we are getting closer and closer to our last day on this earth. On that last day, we will stand before the judgment seat of God. There we shall appear before the God of the universe who knows everything we have ever done — good or bad.
Just in case you think you can conceal anything from God, let me remind you of a few things.
•Remember God is the creator of the eye and has seen every greedy gaze, every lustful look, everything we have done when we were alone.
•Remember God is the one who created the ear and has heard our lies, our half-truths, our exaggerations, our hateful words, our gossip, our slander.
•Remember God is the one who shaped the hands and knows everything we have stolen with our hands as well as everyone we have hurt with them.
•Yes, God knows it all, the sins we can remember and are ashamed of, the ones we have forgotten, and even those we didn’t realize we committed.
On the day that our life ends and we stand before God to be judged for the things we did in this life, what will we say to God? What would you say to God if he asked you this question: “After all the sinful things you have done, why should I let you into heaven?”
In earthly courts, we have the advantage of being innocent until proven guilty. In earthly courts, we have the opportunity to hire good attorneys that might find some loophole in the law to get us off the hook.
Approaches like that are hopeless in God’s courtroom. God knows it all; there is no fooling him. In God’s courtroom we know that we are guilty, we know that we have broken his rules, his laws, his commands over and over and over again. There is a mountain of evidence against us and there are no loopholes, and no dream team of lawyers to get us off of the hook.
On judgment day, each of us will be in the same kind of a situation as the bad manager, in the parable that Jesus told. The bad manager was caught red-handed wasting his master’s goods. His master gave him notice that he would soon be out of a job. Since he was too weak to dig and to ashamed to beg, he acted shrewdly to plan for his future. He called in each of his master’s debtors and drastically reduced their bills. He did this to please the debtors so that when he lost his job they would help him out.
What do you think the master did when he found out what his manager did?
Once he discovered that his manager had messed with the books, he couldn’t change them back. He knew that his debtors were very happy that their debts were reduced and they probably thought he was a wonderful and generous fellow. The master could have had the manager arrested, tried, and jailed for his misdeeds, but he didn’t, because he was a man of mercy.
Isn’t this the same kind of a situation that we find ourselves in with God?
God has given us life, abilities, family, jobs, cars, house, clothing, food, money. God has allowed us to manage all that he has blessed us with. How good of managers have we been with the blessings of God? What do we do with all that God has given to us? Do we spend it on ourselves and the things we want with no thought of those around us in need? Do we share our time, talents, and treasures to help the kingdom of God and his church as it reaches out with the life-saving message of the gospel? Do we take for granted and misuse the things he has blessed us with? Do we put trust and confidence in the things we have? If we do, it is the sin of idolatry. Repent.
What do poor miserable sinners like us do when we have mismanaged what God has given us? Is there any hope for us when we sinned in this way?
Yes, there is hope for us and that hope is in Jesus Christ the Son of God. Why? Jesus was the perfect manager for God. He died for all of our sinful mismanagement of our God given resources. Jesus did all the work needed to please God and save us, so we can have confidence that trust in Jesus is our ticket to heaven when our work on earth is done.
As a repentant child of God we do not have to worry about being fired and sent to hell forever, because Jesus justifies us through the faith we have in his finished work on the cross. Amen.