Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Hardest Parable

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 that I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be a manager any longer.'" 
Luke 16:1-2.

I confess, this parable always had me stumped. Author Robert Farrar Capon calls it "the hardest parable." Space doesn't permit me to share all his insights, but I'll blend a little of his with a dash of my own and maybe the mix will be more than duck soup. To begin with, Capon equates Jesus with the manager in question.

The opening lines of the story are what tripped me up. I assumed the manager was a crook. However, it says he was accused of being corrupt, but not that he actually was. I see this portion of the parable centering around the relationship between Jesus and the religious establishment, who considered themselves the masters of all things concerning God. Just like the manager in the story, Jesus refused to defend himself of the charges leveled against Him while He stood before the High Priest.

Jesus, the upstart young whippersnapper had the audacity to refer to God as Father...even worse, as His Father. Rather than curry their favor and good graces by promoting the establishment's agenda, Jesus wasted time with the people. All kinds of people. Many the likes of whom they'd wouldn't be caught dead with. Bottom line-He had to go. Jesus couldn't care less. He was on a mission from the real Master - His Heavenly Father. His methodology was more in line with a shrewd businessman than a theologian.

Bill collectors are hired to recoup unpaid debts. One way this is accomplished is to arrange settlements for less than the amount owed. The creditor doesn't suffer a total loss, the bill is cleared off the books and both sides now start over with a clean slate.

Jesus, playing the role of the shrewd manager, approached humanity on our level. He offers mankind a deal that's too good to pass up. It's ridiculously unfair and one sided. We don't have to do anything but accept that He's already squared the books with Father God. It's a win-win. We are back in relationship with God (we always were but didn't realize it) Who gets back what was stolen from Him and Jesus has a cadre of BFF's. Everyone is happy. Well almost everyone. The religious establishment wasn't thrilled. The One who really counts is ecstatic and that's all that matters.

As a master storyteller, Jesus crafted the gospel in terms that the business world with its focus on profit, loss and the bottom line could easily comprehend. It's a brilliant approach to reach a segment of the population often ignored. The real Master's delight over the shrewd manager's creative solution that averted a total loss mirrors our Father's enthusiastic endorsement of the plan of salvation. No one could possibly afford to pay for their sins, so Christ did it for us. Now we, who believed we are estranged from God, discover we're not and that He's overjoyed to have our company back again. Things are as they should always have been.

How about you? How have you interpreted this parable? What do you think of Jesus' application of business principles to the Kingdom's method of operation? Intent on reaching everyone, Jesus spoke in terms each segment of the population can understand. What creative ways can you think of to share God's great news with others?