Miranda Threlfall-Holmes blogs on the dishonest steward (Luke 16, if you’re keen). I pointed out her theories on the passage to Revd Nathan, thus throwing him into a panic. He’s got a six-baby baptism in the main service at Little Tremlett on Sunday, but his rule is always to preach on the Lectionary at all the churches so everyone knows where they are.
Apparently Nathan always used to preach the same sermon at every baptism but, small places being what they are, people who’d been to a few – the regular baptism punters, if you will – the cognoscenti of the new-baby circuit – they all got to know it. When they all started shouting out the punchline, he changed strategy.
So what a thing to preach on for a baptism. Personally I think Revd Miranda’s idea – of Jesus as shrewd manager, giving away the boss’s dough – is imaginative and interesting, but possibly a bit hard to get over to the christening crowd. Also, the Chalcedonian in me says – a bit subordinationist? Jesus as son is both equal and obedient – forever inheriting all that is the Father’s. Jesus as sacked manager…. And Revd Nathan will be wise to steer clear of that sort of stuff for the christening crowd.
So I reckon the dishonest manager is me. Or – if you’re the solipsist and I don’t exist – you. Trusted with life and breath and a certain amount of the readies, I’ve wasted them. In theory I should be held to account. If I was meant to be manager of just my own life, or of assets, the Earth’s resources and the care for other people – I’ve failed. I’ve ignored the written warnings, sat sulkily through the disciplinaries – all the time saying it’s not my fault – and I’m being summoned in for a discussion brought to me be the letter “P” and the numbers 4 and 5*.
But daft as it sounds, and possibly counteractive and counter-intuitive, I start to use the boss’ s assets to buy myself friends. The steward does his magic on the ledger. But what do I have?
I have the boss’s money. Sure, I act like it’s mine, but it’s not. Every Sunday Revd Nathan says about all the stuff that we offer coming from God. One day I’ll die and the wealth I hold will go on to someone else – who in their own turn will only be renting it. So I can give some of that away. I was enjoying the use of it, but it’s his really.
And then my time and energy – can probably spend some of that. It’s not mine, after all. I can give some of that away to people who might help me get another job later.
And there’s a third thing I can do – I can forgive people’s sins against me. Again, in a weird kind of way, it seems they weren’t just against me – David, saying sorry to God for what he did because of Bathsheba – says “against you, you only have I sinned”. You may think that’s doing down Uriah ( who, let’s face it, has had a lot to bear already) – but look at it this way. It’s easy to think that shallow acts of selfishness and spite – or even massive acts of evil – committed against unimportant people; or our enemies; count for less. But if every vicious act is seen as against God himself – that’s another matter.
I digress. The point is – even forgiving wrongs against me is – in one sense – using God’s capital.
So it seems that the answer when in this hole is, in a way, to keep digging – keep “wasting” God’s assets.
There’s a kind of nightmare I have, based on this parable and a few other sayings of Jesus. Where, at the End of Things, we line up for the great roll-call in the sky. And it’s like one of those school football matches where everyone gets picked – one by one – by the captain of the two teams. And you know how it helps, in those circumstances, if the people already on the team you really want to be on – the captain’s mates – are whispering in their ear about who their mates are. And they’re all the people I could have forgiven, or helped, and they all look like Jesus.
So give away the boss’s possessions. And – as far as they’re under your area of responsibility – cancel his debts. You may as well – after all, what have you got to lose?
* (apologies to American readers – the Brits will get it).