We are called to be children of light and do so intentionally in our lives, no matter how little or big of acts.
Vicar Mollie Hamre
Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Lect. 25 C
Texts: Luke 16:1-13
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
My friends and I love a good board game.
I am not talking about shorter games such as Candyland, although Candyland is dear to many, I am speaking of the games that have instructions that take an hour to read and once you get around to playing the game itself–it takes even more hours. I am talking about the games where you spend time standing around the table, investing in reading the rule book, leaning in close, and asking questions about strategy.
As I read the parable for today, I wanted to know: what kind of game the manager is playing.
The Gospel tells us that the manager who, in a last-minute attempt to find some security in his life, changes the debts of people that owe his master. That way, when the manager no longer works for the master, he will be welcomed into the homes of the people whose debts he lessened.
Unexpectedly, when the Master discovers this, he commends the manager for his quick thinking. Instead of getting angry, the master praises the manager for being wise, or shrewd as the text says. This tactic pays off for the manager: he receives security in his future, gains friends, and gets a pat on the back from his boss. What a win!
Except for the parts of the text that makes us shift in our seats.
The parable describes the manager as both shrewd and unjust. How can this person, who has been unjust, be taken seriously? We are used to stories where the person we learn from has integrity and seeks honesty, but the person we are left to look to, the manager, does the opposite. Instead, we see that he plays the game. He finds his opening and takes a risk against the odds for a big reward.
And that leaves us asking what Jesus is saying and how we are involved.
Jesus tells us “for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” Here is where we begin to see that Jesus is making a parallel between two groups: the children of the manager’s generation and the children of God. Leaving us asking what is the manager doing with his own generation, that we, the children of God, are missing?
The most prominent feature of the manager is his responsiveness to the situation.
We can tell the manager knows the rule book and acts in order to seek out his goals. As Jesus turns to the disciples to tell this story, he knows these people before him should understand what’s going on. The Triune God is among us, have the disciples not been listening to the parables? If this manager can act with this level of intentionality in his own generation, why are the disciples, the children of God, not? Work for justice, care for the neighbor, and love one another. This is what God tells us to do.
Yet, these lines get blurred.
These two lines which are supposed to be parallel, begin to intersect. We focus more on our finances than our neighbors and our mental energy centers on getting ahead instead of living in the moment. We assume someone else will figure it out, rather than asking what we can do. While it is obvious that the manager has his own agenda and goals in the story, we know that ours, as children of God, are different. We look to the Gospel for freedom, we look to the law to guide, and we look to the cross, knowing that God with us, is amidst it all. The manager knows where his priorities lie and what he values. Do we know ours as children of God? Whose values are we following and for what reasons?
In these questions, we look back at the Gospel.
Jesus tells us “Whoever is faithful in very little is faithful also in much” and consequently, “whoever is unjust in a very little is unjust also in much.” Jesus tells us that even if we have little faith, we are doing much. So if we are moving towards loving God and the neighbor even when it does not feel significant, we are doing God’s work. And when we are engaging in things that feel bigger than ourselves, we are doing God’s work. Reaching out to check in on a friend. Picking up litter on the ground. Going on strike to call out exploitation in power structures.
The manager knows that these odds can be turned when he acts, because he knows the world around him. He has an awareness of the challenges he faces and pushes on regardless of them. What would happen if we trusted God with the same conviction? Jesus tells us that once we begin to live intentionally by doing those acts of little faith towards peace, justice, and loving the neighbor, they become big. Not only in the sense of the world to come, but the world that is happening right here, right now. With intentionality, People will know they are loved. Oppression will disappear into justice. And our world will find peace.
We know being a child of God is not a game, it is a way of life that pushes us to be intentional, held by grace to turn ourselves towards God.
Despite the strategy that the manager uses, he seeks out creative ways to solve problems and knows that he needs a community to do it. Similar to my friends and I playing board games, the manager invests his time, leaning in close, learning about the world and people around him. What would it mean for us to do the same in our faith lives? We have a community full of ideas and neighbors that are reaching out. We just need to ask, Children of God: how will you live with intentionality?
In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.