The Dishonest Manager

How many of you have seen or heard of the 1973 film “The Sting”?
How about any of the “Ocean’s Eleven” films (The George Clooney or the Frank Sinatra versions)?“Catch Me If You Can” by Leonardo DiCaprio?
How about the BBC TV Series “Hustle”?
How about “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe?
What do all of the lead characters from these titles have in common?
Don’t answer now – just think about it for a moment.
Reading 1: Luke 16:1-9 (We used the Message Translation)This is one of the most puzzling of Jesus’ parables. A dishonest manager rips off his boss. He’s a con artist, a rip off merchant, a thief. And he’s used by Jesus as an example for us! Does Jesus want you to be like Danny Ocean? Like Frank Abignale Jr.

The short answer to that question is: Yes! But that can’t be right, can it?

We tend to read parables in a very religious way. Nice, polite examples of how to be a good person. Not the sort of people we see in the cinema.

You see, if you go to the cinema to see any of the films we’ve just mentioned you’ll find yourself cheering the main character on – I mean, sure they are lying, cheating, thieving individuals who have only their own interests and personal profits at heart but hey! They are likeable rogues, Robin Hood characters. Every time they succeed we’re pleased, every time they rip someone else off we cheer them on. We don’t want them to get caught; we want them to get away with it.

I think Jesus is using a technique not too dissimilar to this when he paints the picture of this dishonest manager. Here is a guy who thinks on his feet. He knows how to look after himself, how to make money, friends, influence. Every time he cuts someone’s debt in half the people listening to the story think “YES – Get in!”

At the end of the story Jesus turns round and says “that’s an example of how the world works. A world where people rip each other off left, right and centre, a world where dishonesty is normal.

But here’s the thing, it’s also a world where people use their best efforts and their cunning and their most creative ideas to be ‘streetwise’. You need to learn from that”

Why? Because we’re playing for much higher stakes. We aren’t just aiming for money, power, friends or influence. God calls us to work for him – advancing his kingdom. We need to be just as bold, just as cheeky, just as creative, in fact more so! But for a much bigger story and a much more exciting plot.

For a different Kingdom. For a very different boss. Why would we do that?

Because we’ve got a much bigger vision. Because we know that what we do lasts forever. It’s a different kind of kingdom. A different kind of master. A different kind of friendship

Reading 2: Luke 16:10-13 (We used the Message Translation)

Jesus says learn from the cleverness and the determination of people who are motivated by money. Be just as clever and motivated as them but use whatever money or power or influence that you have to get eternal treasure.

So to end here is something you weren’t expecting to hear in a sermon this week: Jesus wants you to be more like Robin Hood:

“…on constant alert, always looking for angles, surviving by your wits. Be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behaviour.”

For eternal treasure, and above all for the sake of our master who gave everything for us.

The activity that followed this talk was:

Using My Gifts