Amos 8: 4-7 1 Timothy 2: 1-8 Luke 16: 1-13
Of the variety of examples or stories that Jesus uses to describe the response he wishes to receive to his message, perhaps the one we heard today is more familiar or easy to understand. Rather than speaking of sheep and vineyards, he describes an incident of price manipulation.
In the Gospel story he speaks of a steward, a property manager, who is accused of abusing his position and being dishonest. What did he do to protect himself? He did not cut out the proceeds that were owed to the owner. Rather, he cut his commission. The prices that were owed had been jacked up to increase what he would make. He was willing to take a loss now in order to provide for himself later on.
It might seem strange to hear the steward being commended. What was being admired? The steward was finally showing some common sense by looking ahead. He was getting away from a concern only for the immediate gratification he had grown used to. He was recognizing that there were more important things in life that he had to consider and for which he needed to plan.
Part of what is described in this story is familiar. We encounter it often and are enticed by it – price manipulation. Consider the variety of ways in which discounts are offer on so many things, and we are enticed by them. Profits are still being made. The hope is for a greater amount of sales. Or consider all the hype that surrounds “Black Friday” – the day after Thanksgiving. Bargains are offered to draw customers in, that they might spend even more. Much of this is the same as we heard today- manipulation in order to achieve a beneficial goal.
Jesus’ message is that a clear effort is made in order to achieve a superficial end. This ought to be surpassed by the effort we make to achieve what is truly important. Living and making choices in life are to reflect a faith and trust in a loving God. We are to recognize what is truly important, what is genuinely valuable to us. At times this may seem to be too demanding, too difficult, too unattractive and inconvenient. But the lesson offered to us today is that we are too look long-term, with perspective on life and on living that reflects what is important and has value for us. Being trustworthy in small things will lead to being trustworthy in larger things.
A similar way of thinking is found in the reflections offered in the other messages we have heard today. Amos, the Old Testament prophet, condemns strongly the false worship and concern for the needy he observes. What is interfered with is instant gratification, cheating, selfish benefit. This can be present with us even now as we consider worship and an experience of God interfering with what is considered to be important or enjoyed momentarily.
Paul also says that we are to put things into perspective. Even though those he addresses are persecuted by authorities, they are to keep them in their prayers because this will encourage peace and order in society and all for the spread of the Gospel.
What the property manager demonstrated was good common sense, a good business sense. He made the decision now about what would affect his future. What we do now will have an outcome in the time to come. Jesus is calling on us to keep our faith in God and to keep what is important in life in proper perspective by acknowledging – as prayed earlier – that God is true source of peace, dignity, worth for all of creation. It is in this way that we live out the very best we are: reflections, images of our good & gracious god