O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of glory,
touch our lips with the fire of your Spirit,
that we with all creation
may rejoice to sing your praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem;
Jerusalem, built as a city
that is at unity in itself.
Thither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,
as is decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there are set the thrones of judgement,
the thrones of the house of David.
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
‘Peace be within your walls
and tranquillity within your palaces.’
For my kindred and companions’ sake,
I will pray that peace be with you.
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek to do you good.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 16.1-8
Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.” Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.’
In modern bibles we are often given a clue as to what we are about to read in the form of paragraph headings. As today’s reading can give rise to so much confusion I looked up a few to see what sort of manager I should be thinking about. Across several different translations I found the rich man’s manager described, not just as a manager, but also as a servant and as a steward. His actions were described as dishonest, unjust and shrewd. Is it any wonder that this passage gives rise to confusion? Is the manager, servant or steward to be commended or condemned? What does Jesus want us to take away from this parable?
Obviously, Jesus is not advocating anything dishonest or underhand. To understand what the rich man’s manager is doing we have to understand a basic principal of Jewish law. Jews are not allowed to lend money at interest. However, that had become twisted over time and those who did lend money often charged their interest in the form of other commodities, such as oil and wheat. It is a perfectly plausible reading of this passage from scripture that Jesus’ listeners would have seen the manager as behaving in a totally honourable way, taking off the interest that never should have been charged in the first place. If we accept the validity of this interpretation we can see that the rich man had no option but to praise his manager because he was helping him to keep Jewish law.
This reading can also be seen as moral teaching on a different level. The rich man was guilty of building up his wealth at the expense of others. The rich man’s manager, servant or steward used that which was being exploited to build stronger relationships with others, and especially those who were in a weaker position. Because we, so often, view this parable through our ‘worldly-wise’ and ‘world-weary’ eyes, we reduce it to a question of whether the manager has been dishonest, unjust or shrewd. In reality the manager has been open-hearted and adventurous in the way God was open-hearted and adventurous when he sent Jesus to share the whole of the human experience. Rather than picking over the minutiae of financial management, let us join in the honesty, justice and innocence of Jesus’ love for the whole of humanity.
Prayers of Intercession
For the grace of faithful service to the Church and to the world, let us pray to the Lord.
May the Church be wise in all her ways without departing from holiness. Sustain your people to be strong in prayer for the needs of the world.
We pray for those in authority, that they may lead the nations in peace and just government. We pray that all who are entrusted with responsibility may be faithful and honourable in their work.
Bless our families with peaceful lives. Keep us free from any failures of honesty in our work. Give us the grace of integrity in all our relationships.
Have mercy on those who have suffered from the dishonesty of others. Be with all who have lost their employment and feel in despair for the future.
As it is your will that all shall be saved and come to knowledge of the truth, have mercy on the departed. Receive them in the love of Christ who gave himself as a ransom for many.
That we may be good stewards of Christ, we offer our prayers in his name.
Prayer for the week
we praise and bless your holy name
for your saints of every time and place
who have served you faithfully in their generation
and have enriched the world by their lives,
their witness and their example.
Help us, by your grace, to follow them
as they followed Christ,
that with them we may be partakers of your everlasting joy;
through the merits of Jesus our Saviour and our Lord.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Stand up, and bless the Lord,
ye people of his choice;
stand up, and bless the Lord your God
with heart and soul and voice.
God is our strength and song,
and his salvation ours;
then be his love in Christ proclaimed
with all our ransomed powers.
Stand up, and bless the Lord,
the Lord your God adore;
stand up, and bless his glorious name
henceforth for evermore.
James Montgomery (1771–1854)