February 12, 2018 Luke 16:1-13
THE SHREWD MANAGER
MEDITATION: Many Bible scholars believe that Jesus’ parables were originally passed on by word of mouth for several years before any applications or interpretations were added onto them. It is plausible that the present parable originally ended with verse 9 and that another teaching of Jesus (verses 10-13) was connected to it at a later date. One reason for thinking this is that in verses 1-9 the “dishonest” behavior of the manager is held up in a positive light (see verse 8) whereas in verses 10-13, dishonesty is contrasted with faithfulness, and is clearly seen as a negative character trait. Those concluding verses seem to take away the sting of Jesus’ praise of dishonest behavior. But let’s sit with that discomfort for a moment and consider why the parable might extol the manager’s “dishonest” actions. One possible explanation is that his “dishonest” act of forgiving debts actually challenges the unjust and oppressive system that made them debtors in the first place. If that reading is correct, this parable may be an early endorsement of what we would today call civil disobedience (the refusal to abide by unjust laws), which was a cornerstone of Martin Luther King’s non-violent resistance.
FOR DISCUSSION: Under what circumstances might you be justified (or perhaps even compelled) to violate an unjust law? In what situation (if any) would you be willing to break the law and suffer the consequences?
LINKS/OTHER RESOURCES: Visit radicaldiscipleship.net for an interpretation of this parable as encouragement for “using capital to build social relations, rather than sacrificing social relations to build capital.” See the interpretation here.