One of the things I love about Jesus’ parables is how unbelievable some of them are. He throws in so many unexpected twists and characters that there’s no possible way some of those parables could ever actually happen. A man who sells all he has to get one pearl? Sure. The story of the workers in the vineyard, where the owner pays the guys who worked one hour the same thing he paid the guys who worked 12 hours? Never going to happen in the real world. Imagine pitching, say, “The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant” as a TV show idea. Um, yeah, we can’t use this. Sorry, but it’s just too far-fetched. This guy’s debt is unrealistic, and there’s no way the king would just cancel it all because he asked him to. And then for him to be such a jerk to his fellow worker regarding his small debt is completely ridiculous. Give us something people can believe. But here’s the thing- this story has happened. And you’re one of the main characters.
This past Sunday my family was on vacation and attended a church that follows the one-year lectionary. The Gospel reading was Luke 16:1-9, the parable of the shrewd (or “dishonest,” depending on translation) manager. I’m not gonna lie to you, I’ve never really followed that one. That sentence at the end is so bizarre- “ I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Um, what? What in the world is that supposed to mean? That doesn’t sound like something Jesus would really say, especially as a summary of the parable. And unlike some of His other parables like the parable of the sower, Jesus doesn’t take His disciples aside and explain things to them privately afterward. We’re sort of just left to figure it out on our own. So again, what does it mean?