September 22: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1; Luke 16:1-13
July 29, 2019 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa
The prophets of the Lord were not just proclaimers of the will of God, nor merely purveyors of God’s truth; they were shepherds, caring deeply for God’s people for God’s people was their community; they belonged to those communities. We get a sense of the prophet Jeremiah’s pastoral heart for his people, for God’s people. Just like the Book of Lamentations, the lection from Jeremiah 8 expresses the prophet’s solidarity with his people, mourning and weeping for Israel and the desolation that has besieged Jerusalem in the midst of idolatry. His is a plaintive cry for the Lord’s deliverance and a fervent petition for Israel to be faithful to the commandments of the Lord.
The lection from Luke 16 is the so-called parable of the dishonest manager. The point of the parable is not so much about the dishonesty of the manager, as it has more to do with the savviness of the manager who knows how to handle business, who understands what needs to get done, who knows the boss and how the boss operates and how to deftly relate to debtors so that the manager’s future is secure no matter what happens with the job. It has less to do with managerial ethics, and a lot to do with using money in the right way; in the manager’s case, it’s using money and levers of the position to survive and guarantee a job. Jesus teaches this parable to call forth an examination of how do we view money, what is the mission-vision-value of wealth, and how do we use money properly – both the money that is our own and the money to which we are entrusted with by someone else?
Both Jeremiah and the manager in the parable share the common trait of being entrusted with the care of the one who calls them: Jeremiah is called by God to be with God’s people, to be a prophet (and pastor) among them. He does so with the heart of a pastor, mourning and weeping with them at the funeral home, or in the hospice care of the nation’s illness. The parable’s manager is shrewd, demonstrating that she knows how to deal with money and how to effectively relate to clients. The implication is: if the manager can do that with money that she doesn’t own, imagine what she could do with money that is hers. Imagine what if that same shrewdness for customer relations management and that same savviness for investment strategy were applied to the kingdom of heaven, imagine for a moment the return on investment, not so much on monetary returns, but on positive impact to the glory of God? In short, be faithful with people, be faithful with resources, be faithful with your smarts – and put all of it to use for God’s good purposes.