Monday, September 16, 2013

The Parable of the Crafty Trade Union Leader

Luke 16:1-13 (NIV)

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager

16 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?’
“‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
“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.
10 “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. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

This parable must have sounded impossible to the first hearers of it. I am sure they were not sure what Jesus was telling them. I remember telling my mother this story once and she did not believe that it was actually in the Bible. If we were to update the parable, perhaps it might sound a little like this:

Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was an extremely powerful trade union official who held the highest office in a major trade union federation. He was well known and widely respected of in the world of politics and and exercised influence in the whole country.  But charges were brought against him that he had appointed a junior staff member in an manner that was contrary to the rules of his organization and that he had engaged in an inappropriate sexual encounter with this person outside his marriage.  So he said to himself, “What will I do, now that they may take my 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 they won’t be able to take my position away from me, I will call together the best of my friends and all those who owe their own high office to my power, and I will say to them, “With great care and subtlety of language I intend to refute this accusations whether what I say is true or not, and you will stick by me, no matter what is said, for I know everything about everyone one of you, and all that I know will go into the public domain if you don’t give me your undivided support.  If I fall you will fall too, so you’d better stand by me.’  And all the office bearers and friends did exactly that.

And Jesus said, ‘So I tell you, take full advantage of the power given into your hands so that you may be able to stand against the accusations of your enemies.  For it is better that you wield power, even with dishonesty, than others take that power from you.’

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Peter, an interesting modern spin on an interesting parable. It is also important to get the point that Jesus is making - which is that we must use whatever we have for the Kingdom. But great update on the scenario.