Psalm 37 begins, ‘Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.’ (Psalm 37:1-2) These are reassuring words for those who witness dishonesty and cunning being rewarded with greater opportunity at school, at work or at home. The Psalm continues with encouragement to the believer to ‘Trust in the Lord, and do good […]’ (v. 3) because in time, ‘the wicked perish, and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish […]’ (v. 20).
While Psalm 37 is not listed among the readings for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, its message can be linked to the Gospel for this Sunday: Luke 16:1-13, the parable of the Dishonest Manager. This is a thorny message to work through for, at the end of the parable, Jesus says to His disciples, ‘And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.’ (v. 9). What do we make of this seeming approval of the dishonest manager’s behavoiur?
Upon closer inspection, though, is it really? Let’s consider for a moment that a parable is a story used to teach a spiritual or moral truth. Let’s consider the ‘rich man’ in the parable to be God to whom all are accountable. Let’s consider the manager to be ourselves whose responsibility it is to look after God’s ‘estate’ (see Genesis 1:28).
So, here is a rich man who left his manager in charge of his estate. The manager, abusing his authority and dominion, takes advantage of those subordinate to him to make the most for himself. In due time, the rich man learns of the manager’s dishonesty, calls him to account and announces that he will be dismissed.
The manager quakes at this point for he must find a way to survive once he has been dismissed. So, what does he do? He reduces the bills of those indebted to the rich man. In what was a clever turn of events (hence Jesus’ words in verse 9), the dishonest manager reduces the debts owed to the rich man and earns favour among the rich man’s debtors who now have lower bills to pay. Caught in a bind, the manager, sought simply and possibly to recover only what the rich man was owed, as opposed to padding the bills for his own selfish gain. The manager who would have had a reputation for dishonesty and greed sought reconciliation with the debtors of the rich man after he had been called to account to the rich man. On this note, Jesus warns His disciples, ‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.’ (v. 10). Jesus’ exhortation is to be a faithful steward of the things that have been given to us, for those who acquire their wealth and position using less-than-honest means, those who live oblivious to what is right and moral will pay dearly.
So, whatever your status in life: at school, at home or at work, you are to be faithful, honest and true. Perform your duties for the honour and glory of God. There will be the dishonest among us. However, as Psalm 37 points out, the wicked perish and vanish. They, like the manager, will be held to account and will be dismissed for their misdeeds. So, your classmate cheated on an exam, your boss is dishonest or plays the favourites game, your spouse is an adulterer or an abuser, forgive them and pray that they repent and are reconciled with those whom they have wronged.
Friends, life catches up with us. Eventually, we will have to face either the good or the bad that we have done. Do not fret yourselves because of the wicked and the evildoers. Do not allow their sin (remember: we all sin) to distract you from your purpose which, we discussed last week in my piece entitled, ‘Without Me, You are Nothing‘ is to walk in step with God’s will for us. What is God’s will for us? To love God, and to love our neighbours, even those who have done (us) wrong, as ourselves. You do this, and nothing will steal your love, peace or joy!