There used to be an ABC television show called What Would You Do? where hidden cameras would catch challenging public situations and how people respond. For instance, a camera might be set up in a restaurant and two actors stage a fight between a rude customer and a helpless employee. Afterwards, the hosts would interview people about what they thought about everything. What Would You Do? would even interview psychologists and other professionals about the various social issues explored by the show. For example, it is much easier to stay quiet than to stick up for what is right, especially when you might be the only one in a crowd of passive people.
To some extent, viewers of the show were also part of it. As you watched the scenes play out and interviews after, you could not help but ask yourself about the ethical dilemmas. If someone were to insult an immigrant, would you stand up for him or her? If you witnessed a group of people belittling a disabled person in a wheelchair, would you stay silent or speak up? If you saw someone being picked on for a speech impediment, what would you do?
Parables, in many ways, are a lot like that television show. Throughout the gospels, Jesus laid out many scenarios and essentially asked the disciples, “what would you do in this situation?”
You see a helpless person on the side of the road. Do you keep on going along your way, or do you stop and render aid? That’s the parable of the Good Samaritan.
You see someone receive grace after they fell short. Do you get jealous and critical, or do you rejoice with them that God can make anyone new? That’s the parable of the prodigal son.
You notice someone who is completely lost and lonely. Are you going seek them out and show them God’s love, or will you ignore that one lost person? That’s the parable of the one lost sheep and the shepherd who left the 99 behind to find it.
In all these instances, Jesus challenged his disciples, and by extension, us today, the timeless question: what would you do?
So what would you do with the parable of the dishonest manager?
As we talked about on Sunday, we explored this challenging teaching of Jesus and how deep down, this odd teaching was about how we use the resources God has given us in life. We are called to heed Jesus’ famous teaching of not loving both God and money.
Leaders in the church throughout the years have offered up one particularly interesting interpretation of this bible passage. God is the master, with endless resources of grace and love. Israel, throughout the Old Testament, could have been the dishonest manager. Only instead of spreading God’s goodness to all people (as in Genesis 12:3–all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham), they kept it to themselves.
The manager in the story offered up a critique of Israel. Instead of hoarding God’s resources for themselves, God hoped that they would share recklessly, as did the shrewd manager.
When considering this parable, Jesus asks us that ageless question: what would you do?
What would you do? God has given each one of us abundant life. God has given us new life and hope–more than we could ever imagine. Are we going to be like the shrewd manager and share this with other people, eventually making friends for eternal homes? Or will we just keep the good news to ourselves?
D.T. Niles was a Methodist pastor and missionary to what is now known as Sri Lanka. He had such an inspiring outlook on what Christianity itself means. He is quoted to have said that “Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”
We’ve been offered up the eternal bread of life. Let’s always remember to share it and push the boundaries of God’s kingdom no matter what.