A young man in Montana bought a horse from a farmer for $100.
The farmer agreed to deliver the horse the next day.
However, when the next day arrived, the farmer broke his promise. “I’m afraid the horse has died,” he explained.
The young man said, “Well, then give me my money back.”
The farmer said, “Can’t do that. I spent it already.”
The young man thought for a moment and said, “Ok, then, just bring me the dead horse.”
The farmer questioned, “What are you going to do with a dead horse?”
“I’m going to raffle it off!” The young man said.
The farmer told him, “You can’t raffle off a dead horse!”
The young man replied, “Why not? Surely I can. Watch me. I just won’t tell anybody he’s dead.”
A month later, the farmer met up with the young man and asked, “What happened with that dead horse?”
The young man said, “I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars apiece and made a big profit of $998 . . .”
The farmer said, “Didn’t anyone complain?”
The young man said, “Just the guy who won the raffle. So I gave him his two dollars back.”
We have mix feelings about this young man’s action. We do not approve his way of conducting business, but somehow we admire his shrewdness. He is facing with a problem; and he knows how to handle it. He turns the problem around for his own advantage.
Jesus is telling us a similar story about a rich man and his manager.
As the owner of his wealthy estates, the rich man has to protect his property from being loss. He depends on the manager to manage his property and make profits for him. If the manager is doing a good job, his property will be protected. His wealth will increase and secured; so he can continue his comfortable living and take good care of his family. He has every right to expect his manager to be loyal and productive in managing his property. Unfortunately, he has learned that the manager is squandering his wealth and property. He finally decides that he has had enough. He calls this manager in and tells him he is finished. He demands the manager to provide an accounting of his work, and hand it over.
Clearly, the manager is being laid off because of his bad job performance. He is squandering his owner’s property. That means he is negligent, slack, careless, sloppy and wasting his master’s property. His master cannot trust him any longer. He has to go. He also knows that he cannot defend himself. He is terrified with fear. And of course he worries for his future.
“What shall I do now?”
“My master is to let me go.”
“My positision is being taken away.”
“I will have no income.”
“How am I going to take care of myself and my family?”
“I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg.”
He does not have experiences or skills in other fields!
He comes up with a plan.
He calls in each of his master’s debtors one at a time.
He asks the first, “How much do you owe my master?”
“One hundred gallons of olive oil,” the first debtor replies.
The manager tells him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write if for fifty.”
Then he asks the second, “And how much do you owe?”
“One hundred kors of wheat,” he replies.
The manager says, “Take your bill and make it eighty.”
This guy is a crook. His ethics are certainly out of line. He is taking his last opportunity as the manager to buy himself some friends so that he would have somewhere to go and someone to turn to when he is out of work. But interestingly Jesus says, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted prudently.”
What’s the matter here! Jesus is not condemning but commending the dishonest manager! Is Jesus commending a crook? Last week at the liturgy preparation meeting Jennifer Dinh, our music director told me that she was puzzled of this parable. She could not understand why Jesus was commending this dishonest manager. Many of us would feel this way as well.
It is similar to the story of the young man who raffled off the dead horse. We do not approve his unethical approach to raffle off the dead horse to make money, but we admire his way of dealing and facing problem and taking action for his own advantage. Jesus is not commending the manager’s dishonesty and disloyalty. He is admiring his efforts to take action to secure his future. We may say that both of these men, the manager and the young man who raffled off his dead horse, are enterprising, creative, innovative, inventive, imaginative, resourceful, adventurous, ingenious, intrepid, and resolute etc. They are motivated to act for their own advantages. They have the wisdom of the children of the world. Jesus makes his point at the end of the parable. “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
Being let go or laid off is a terrifying experience to everybody. When you are called into your boss’ office to be informed that you are being terminated. You realize that he does not want you to come back to work. How would you feel? You would feel like the world is falling down on you. Thousands of negative thoughts would come to your mind. Feelings of sadness, anger, disappointed, worrisome are racing in your heart. You wonder where do you go from there. What action do you want to take? This is exactly what Jesus wants to alert us. Sooner or later, our earthly life will be terminated. We will be laid off from the market of this world. Jesus wants us to be prudent. He wants us to take actions to secure our eternal future. The secret he tells us is to make friends for ourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, we will be welcomed into eternal dwelling.
According to Jesus, the dishonest wealth is everything in this world. It is the dishonest wealth because it does not have lasting value. Everything in this world is only the means to serve our needs here on earth. Money and earthly wealth are not our masters but servants. Only God is our Master. This is the difference between the children of the light and the children of the world. The children of the world work to accumulate their dishonest wealth by all means for themselves. They sacrifice to make more and more. They worship their worldly wealth. The children of the light worship God and use the wealth of this world to help others. The use of their worldly wealth to help others here on earth will make their friendships in heaven. What we need to learn from the children of the world is to plan, to invent, to produce, and to invest for our eternal dwellings in heaven.
An 80 –year-old woman told the reporter that she had just married for the fourth time. She said her new husband is a funeral director. “That’s interesting,” the reporter said, “What did your first three husbands do?” She said, the first was a banker, the second was a circus ringmaster, and the third was a preacher.” She explained, “I married the first one for money, the second one for the show, and the third one to get ready, and finally the fourth for to go.”