Luke 16:1-13

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

This is a parable of the street. Jesus is telling this parable with a glimmer in his eye and in the spirit of a guy on the street. It has a colloquial feel to it. It's about the relationship between rich men and their employees. Everyone in Jesus' audience knew what that was about. They all had to deal with rich men who owned the land in one way or another. Most of the time the rich men were arrogant. They were tough, gruff, and rough. That's the style of this rich man, which in turn creates the basic dynamic of identification with the shrewd steward (or the dishonest manager, or however you want to name him). This is the keystone of this parable.

The dynamic of the steward's dilemma and its narration have very similar dynamics to the parable of the rich fool. You may remember how that parable goes: "The land of a certain rich man brought forth a great harvest and he said to himself, 'What am I going to do because I don't have anywhere to store all my grain and my crops? I know what I'll do, I'll tear down my old barns and I'll build up new bigger ones and there I'll store all my grain and my crops.'" Jesus is doing the same thing in both parables, that is, the dilemmais one with which everyone can identify, and the dynamic is to create identification with these two characters as they try to figure out what they're going to do.

Another similar parable is the story the prodigal son. "When he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired hands have bread enough to eat and here I sit starving. I will arise and go to my father…'" and so on. He makes a decision. Well, that's what happens here. The steward figures out an approach to a crisis, the crisis of being fired. So this is the crisis of unemployment. What he does is to make deals with his master's debtors in order to insure his future.

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