“You’re fired!” Remember those famous words pronounced by Donald Trump in the TV show called “the Apprentice”? Mr. Trump has since moved on to bigger and greater things. But for the person who’s fired, the opportunities are stopped, the plug on the dream is pulled, and the rug is pulled out beneath you.
“You’re fired!” has anyone heard or known someone who’s been told those stinging words? You want to fight back. What do you mean I’m fired?
I gave the best years of my life to this company! Fantasies of revenge start to creep in. Emptying out the supply closet. Leaving condemning comments on Facebook. Slashing the bosses’ tires. However, most of us would rein in our impulses and behave ourselves and, in fact, try to be on our best behavior for one thing only: a good reference.
Today’s gospel lesson is one of Jesus’s most unusual parables. People have tried to make heads and tails of it for centuries. It appears Jesus is applauding the actions of a crooked man who cheats his employer. How can this be?
The story is clear. A rich man, with lot of properties, has an incompetent manager who apparently is squandering his employer’s business. He’s not being a good steward in other terms. He’s mismanaging the business and losing money and resources.
The rich man learns of this so he calls the manager in on the carpet and reads him the riot act: he calls for an audit and by the way, he says, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. The manager sees the writing on the wall. The boss is going to find out the extent of his subpar work and how he has been slacking on the job all this time.
The manager faces a dilemma: “I got a bad back so I can’t dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. I need to keep these business contacts so I can be welcomed, fed and clothed, and get by.
So the manager comes up with an ingenious plan. One by one he goes to each of his employer’s debtors and gives them generous discounts. He reduces their debt by 20 percent, 50 percent. The olive oil guy, the wheat guy, the carpet guy, the grape juice guy, the fig man. All the vendors. He earns their gratitude for the discount so know he can bank on their support in the unforeseen future.
Did the rich man get angry when he found out that his manager had not only been a poor steward but now swindled him out of all this money?
Imagine if someone owed you a debt of $50,000 that was suddenly reduced to $25,000. How would you feel? So this astute, rich man praises, even commends, his crafty manager for his shrewd, proactive ways, even though it was sinful. Too bad he hadn’t been so industrious like this all along -- he might not have lost his job.
Jesus says something important here: the children of this age are shrewder in dealing with their own generation than are the children of the light.
Does this mean that we are to become like Bernie Madoff, the great fraudster, and rip people off? No we are to learn to understand the world we live in and see that everything works for the kingdom of God.
Jesus wants us to see ourselves as managers of God’s wealth – which includes everything – our very bodies, nature, the goods of the earth, our talents, our wealth and money. It all belongs to God.
Will we be good, shrewd managers, or poor managers? To use another parable of Jesus, The poor manager is like the slave who buries the talent in the ground out of fear. The good managers are the slaves who invest their talents in the world and double their return.
God wants us to be good managers. To work hard to get a return on our investment. Managers who are honest, generous, hard workers, even shrewd, clever for the kingdom, willing to invest and keep the kingdom running well. So God wants us to get involved shrewdly in the world for the kingdom’s sake.
So we take risks and invest in the world – not just here in our church or where it’s safe, but out in the world—in the community – in the homeless shelters, in how we advocate for peace and justice issues, in immigration matters.
We reach out to those who are unchurched, and invest in them because God wants us to invest in this way. We take risks with our resources, we don’t hoard on to them.
That person on the subway? Help him.
That woman with the grocery cart of bottles? Stop and help her.
That hurting, acting out teen? Get involved.
John G. Wendel and his sisters were some of the most miserly people of all time. Although they had received a huge inheritance from their parents, they spent very little of it and did all they could to keep their wealth for themselves.
John was able to influence five of his six sisters never to marry, and they lived in the same house in New York City for 50 years.
When the last sister died in 1931, her estate was valued at more than $100 million. They were like the kind of person Jesus referred to "who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God"
These are important issues to guide us as we gather on this homecoming Sunday to kick off a new season in our church life. Time and wealth are precious.
We don’t want to bury our talent in the ground. We don’t want to act selfishly like the unjust manager and swindle God’s wealth, or hoard the wealth we have been given.
We want to be the source of new life, the purveyors of hope, we want to bring forth the wealth of God’s kingdom to God’s people – especially those new to Christ, unknown to Christ, who know nothing of the church.
So that is our choice today, as Jesus says, “to be in the world but not of the world.” “To be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
As we celebrate homecoming and being church family, we also celebrate the completion of a Mission Review.
A mission review that took over three years to finalize. This mission review reveals some of the true riches of Union church.
A vision to Spread the Good News of Christ as Our Lord and Savior.
A vision to Worship God. To inspire our members/ attendees to be creative and constructive participants in the message of the gospel.
In addition, there is a vision now for the new pastor who is very active in the community to ascertain its needs and opportunities for Union Church to serve those needs. To organize volunteer programs to reach out to help with community needs.
To encourage members to participate in community activities.
To be active in meeting with other heads of houses of worship in Bay Ridge.
To work with leadership to create worship services/ programs to attract younger adults who are new to Bay Ridge. To work with leadership to create social activities for members/ attendees.
In other words to be good manager of the riches here at Union Church.
These are the true riches that all of us, as managers in the kingdom, need to sign up for. It’s either one or the other, Jesus says.
We can’t serve two masters. One will be loved, the other, despised. We cannot serve God and wealth. We must choose the world or the kingdom. Let us choose True Riches.
In 1928 a group of the world's most successful financiers met at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Collectively, these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the U.S. Treasury, and for years newspapers and magazines had been printing their success stories and urging the youth of the nation to follow their examples.
Twenty-five years later, this is what had happened to these men: They ended up broke, in prison or several committed suicide. All of these men had learned how to make money, but not one of them had learned how to live.
This is this message underneath it all that Jesus wants to lead us to.
The worldly cleverness of the dishonest manager may be admired in the world, but he doesn’t cut it by kingdom standards. Worldly wealth is not number one value.
So God say’s: You’re hired! To be my servants in the world!
God says: You’re hired! To preach the gospel of Jesus Christ – in your words and deeds.
God says: You’re hired! So be the true riches that proclaim God’s love and the salvation of Jesus Christ in the world. Amen.
inspired by: file:///C:/Users/Gracie/Documents/The%20Parable%20of%20the%20Dishonest%20Manager%20%E2%80%93%20Pastor%20Mark%20Driscoll.html