This is a hard parable. Is Jesus actually telling us we should cheat people and then cheat the one in charge, because that's what it looks like. A parable makes us dig deeper though. It's supposed to make is ask questions, it's supposed to make us uncomfortable and so usually with this one we run to the comfortable spot. This one ends with Jesus' admonition not to serve two masters, God and mammon or money. Now this part is totally easier to explain. So we run for its shore and forget all the questions the parable leaves us with. Well today we are going to struggle with it.
We have to start with where and when does all this happen. This helps us to frame this parable a little better. So last week we heard the Pharisees and scribes complain about who Jesus was eating with, tax collectors and sinners, the dregs of society. Jesus turns to them and tells them about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost or prodigal son. Then he turns to his disciples and tells them this parable.
Don't you think the Pharisees and scribes see him as giving away the kingdom of God cheaply? Just to get the crowds to follow him. I mean look at Jesus in Luke's gospel. He heals on the sabbath not once but twice. He has crowds following him and we are the only ones who knows Jesus warns them. Following him will not be easy you will have to leave everything, cause problems in your family and dare to follow, now.
Jesus wants his disciples to know its ok to be lavish with forgiveness, it's ok to give out more grace, it's ok to tell people they are loved by God, even the tax collectors and sinners. This is why Jesus turns and gives this parable to the disciples. They are already searching out the lost. Don't be afraid to show Gods grace. To cancel the debt owed and make it lighter. To ease the burden another feels. And don't be afraid to end up standing with no extra resources as your reward.
On Tuesday PBS will be airing the new Ken Burns documentary called "The Sharp's War". It caught my attention because this was what he said, "I wanted to know what it was in a person who decided to defy the Nazis" then a little later he sai this, "They don't teach you in seminary how to falsify documents, they don't teach you how to be a spy, and yet this is what they were doing." Canceling debts, working behind lines to save people, not because of the dollars it would bring or any game from this. Simply living out this parable. Being shrewd for others.
There are still questions I have, even after wrestling with this all week. It may be something else entirely. It's worth it sometimes to chase down the question. To really become involved in trying to work it out. When we do we may disover something more of ourselves and this God thing we believe in. That is becoming a disciple. Remember a lot of this they had to struggle with and ask questions about and we are no different. Why would we be? The gospel is a living, breathing truth and truth changes the more we wrestle with it. Don't be afraid to dig in. To ask questions, to have doubts, to wrestle with a text. We may find new meaning. Come and see.