Our Sacred Stories ~ Openness to a Flawed Humanity: Seeing with God’s Eyes
The Gospels present us with many stories told by Jesus. These parables offer glimpses of what God is like. In Luke’s Gospel (Luke 16:1-13) we catch sight of the generous loving God as revealed by Jesus himself. This parable tells the story of a rich man who had a servant managing his wealth. The manager was accused of “squandering” his wealth and so was fired. Recognizing he was in a tight spot, the manager decided to change the debts owed to his former employer. This he thought would make him new friends at this difficult time. Surprise - the rich man commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. What a strange story! What is the point Jesus is making here? Perhaps there are many.
One key point is clearer when we see the location of this story in Luke’s Gospel. It follows directly after a parable which is very familiar to us, the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Here the younger son of a man demands his share of the family wealth. He goes away and “squanders” his share. In dire straits, he decides to return home to his father. But filled with guilt he determines that he can no longer be regarded as a member of the family, only a slave to his father. Surprise – the father spots the son returning. Overwhelmed with joy, he runs out to gather the wayward one into his arms. No mention of the “squandering”, no mention of the thoughtlessness of the son and his desertion of the family. These two parables shown together are revelations of how God sees us.
As persons, as communities, as a global humanity we are gifted with many resources, much wealth. These are ours to use, in trust from God. How do we use this wealth of resources human, natural, economic? Sometimes we “squander” what we have been given. The temptation to treat it as held only for our own use or to seize it from others can overtake us, as individuals, communities or nations. In this, like the manager or the younger son, we betray the trust.
The two stories reveal God’s response. It is a surprising one. God’s eyes are ever ready to see beyond the failings. The debts and sins, the hurts and broken trust cannot stand in the way of God’s vision. God’s unconditional love ever recognizes the goodness of each and every person, even if the person themselves may be blind to it.
Luke presents us with these two parables as Jesus’ way of proclaiming a faith in God as ever ready to reconcile and heal. The stories express a faith in a God who challenges us with wealth, gifts and resources, in trust. At the same time, they present a God whose unconditional love can see beyond our failures to live up to this trust. It is a love that can see beyond our failures to the goodness with which God has gifted us.
The two parables express a further point, another challenge. The central characters in the stories, the prodigal son and the manager undergo conversions, changes of view and heart. In their own individual ways, each of them begins to see that their life is threatened and that they must change direction. Both recognized that what they thought was theirs, was in fact not something they held in permanence. The young man needed to reconnect with his family. The manager needed to find a new circle of connection with the debtors.
One might question the routes each character took for this change, but Luke indicates that the very effort to undertake a change of heart and direction does begin a rebuilding of trust and connection.