Proper 20 Yr C—
The Shrewd Manager

Introduction

Well, now. Did you read this parable? Does it confuse you as it does me? We’re not the only ones. Many who write commentaries about this parable begin with their disbelief and confusion with the conclusion. There’s this really sneaky money manager who does even sneakier stuff to try to regain favor with his master—AND IT WORKS! So is that it? Is it something else? One commentator says Jesus was actually speaking to the listening Pharisees and scribes. Another believes it speaks to her difficult decision as a young woman between secure wages and working for a dishonest manager. How does this parable speak to you?

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Luke 15:1-10

. . . So he [Jesus] told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? . . . “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? . . . Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

From sermon4kids.com: “If we make sure that we are honest in the small things, then we can be sure that we will be honest in the big things. If people know that they can trust us in small things, they will know that they can trust us in the big things too.”

Scripture: September 22, 2019 (Proper 20, Year C)—Amos 8:4-7;  Psalm 1131 Timothy 2:1-7; and Luke 16:1-13.

Collect: Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Reflection: First Timothy 2:1–7 includes some important instructions on prayer: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone” (1 Tim. 2:1). In particular, the writer encourages us to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions” (2:2). In your own practice of prayer, how do you remember leaders and others in positions of authority in your nation or community? What kind of prayers do you think they need?

Eye Candy: “The unjust householder” by Chinese artist; image by unknown artist; “The wicked servant” by Ian Pollock

Ear Worm: “Where your treasure is” by Marty Haugen; “We will take what you offer” by John Bell; “Love Divine, all loves excelling” by John Zundel

Brain Food: commentary “Jesus makes a joke” by Rev. Peter Lockhart; commentary “What are we to make of the dishonest manager?” by The Rev. Dr. Janet H. Hunt; commentary “Faith, hope, love, and shrewd” by Rick Fry

Contemporary Parables (aka Movies):
The Parable of the Shrewd Steward” presented by CCTNtv; The Devil’s Advocate (1997) A stunning depiction of the seduction of power and money, and the twisting of reality to fit whatever goals we personally might have.

 

 

Study guide, group activity

 

 

 

: young elementary: activity; bulletin games; coloring;
older elementary: activity; bulletin games; puzzle

 

 

This story about the shrewd manager has some disturbing parts. Think on each of these and reach a conclusion for yourself. Share your thoughts, if you choose.

  • What does the manager do when his deception is discovered?
  • The rich man eventually “commends” his manager. Why?
  • Jesus says we can’t serve God and wealth. Why or why not?
  • How would this parable change if it were told today?

 

In the liturgy, the spiritual and the material are joined in Holy Communion. This reflects the Christian concern with both matter and spirit. We cannot be faithful to the gospel if we limit our values to either one alone. Today’s gospel reading about the unjust steward makes the point that how we use our material wealth is directly related to our relationship with God. If a “worldly” person like the steward uses money to secure friends, how much more should we, the children of God, use our material wealth to gain favor with God and our fellow human beings.

The first reading from the prophet Amos speaks to those whose material greed leads them to ignore the plight of the poor and helpless. He warns that a society that cares primarily for profit and acquisition will be destroyed by its own greed.

Today we continue the series of readings from the first epistle to Timothy. These letters, written after Paul’s death by his followers, give practical advice to Christian communities about church life. The church is to be an intercessory body of people who, through their prayer for all persons (even the emperor, their enemy), are the means of bringing about God’s salvation.

God’s love is for all of creation and we are called in both liturgical worship and daily living to be God’s instrument in bringing everything and everyone into God’s Kingdom.

From The Rite Light: Reflections on the Sunday Readings and Seasons of the Church Year. Copyright © 2007 by Michael W. Merriman. Church Publishing Incorporated, New York.

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