What Is He Saying?

Today’s reading from Luke was and remains thoroughly shocking to most “conventional” understandings of morality or of Jesus. Here, Jesus praises a cheater. He tells his disciples to use “dishonest mammon” as a means to be welcomed into eternal homes. And he says it’s impossible to serve both God and mammon at the same time. Maybe the last of these three isn’t so shocking. But the first two?
shrewd_manager[1]Do not attempt to blunt or explain away the shocking elements. They simply are shocking. They seem entirely out of character with most pictures of “gentle, benign Jesus.” This is “crazy, weird, dangerous” Jesus. Using a dishonest manager as a positive example? There was no account of virtue in the ancient world that could make sense of what Jesus is doing here. It was just shocking.
On purpose.
To shock people into just how radically new and different the way the kingdom of God and disciples in that kingdom are.
It is while his disciples, others who heard him, and perhaps we ourselves are still reeling in shock from what Jesus has just said that he introduces something we think we might understand. Maybe. “Whoever is faithful with little is faithful also with much.”
But given what Jesus has just done with our “conventional” ideas of morality and money, what in the world does “faithful will little” mean? Faithful to whom? Faithful in what way? Whatever it is, it’s not about playing by anything like the usual rules.
Maybe in verse 13, we see a glimmer of an answer. “You cannot serve God and wealth.” So maybe the faithfulness being commended is faithfulness to God?
Which begs the question: How is the dishonest manager faithful to God? He seems to be faithful only to himself.
Perhaps so. Perhaps he is only out to avoid having to do hard physical labor while still having a roof over his head at night.
However, the point of this gospel is not really about honesty or how to handle another’s property. This gospel pivots around something much more serious: our ultimate future. This is ours to squander by the choices we make every day. This gospel is about the final judgment and the fullness of life.