There was once a rich man who had a manager… Luke 16:1 (MSG)
The Big Things – Small Things Series – Part 1
I was so inspired by my friend Alana's reflection on small things that I asked her if I could include it as a devotion (yesterday's post), and then decided to write a whole series on it.
Because the small things are the big things.
A scripture came to mind:
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Luke 16:10 (NIV).
But as I read it, I realized that this verse was included in a bigger, more complicated parable. One that many theologians and Bible commentators say is Jesus most confusing parable.
At which point, I sighed heavily and with force (maybe a bit too much) planted my palm on my face.
SIDE NOTE: This is how Spirit often guides me. I get an itch for a verse or an idea, and as I dig and read and search, something else unfolds. I begin most writing sessions thinking I have it all sorted, and in the process, I get unsorted and then somewhat put together in a new way.
And that’s the power of parables, right? They’re not sweet little feel good stories; they’re tales that rage against the machine, the convenient, and the accepted; they make us question and think and sift the structures of belief in our hearts and lives. Which is always a good thing. Remember that faith is not a full stop but an invitation to experience life in all its fullness; to jump down the rabbit hole not knowing what's at the bottom, but knowing you’re not alone in the leap.
Back to the confusing parable that the scripture above discovered for me. Jesus said those lines to make a point at the end of this strange story (Luke 16:1-8 MSG):
“There was once a rich man who had a manager. He got reports that the manager had been taking advantage of his position by running up huge personal expenses. So he called him in and said,
‘What’s this I hear about you? You’re fired. And I want a complete audit of your books.’
“The manager said to himself, ‘What am I going to do? I’ve lost my job as manager. I’m not strong enough for a laboring job, and I’m too proud to beg… Ah, I’ve got a plan. Here’s what I’ll do… then when I’m turned out into the street, people will take me into their houses.’
Then he went at it. One after another, he called in the people who were in debt to his master. He said to the first,
‘How much do you owe my master?’
He replied, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’
The manager said, ‘Here, take your bill, sit down here—quick now—write fifty.’
To the next he said, ‘And you, what do you owe?’
He answered, ‘A hundred sacks of wheat.’
He said, ‘Take your bill, write in eighty.’
Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager!”
Yep. Jesus told a story where the bad guy wins.
He went on to say:
“The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”
This is a story about honor and shame, lightness and heaviness, greed and responsibility. It's about how the little things are the big things, not just in the height and joy of life, but in the mistakes and mess, too.
Written by Lizzy Milani