Sunday Readings: Amos 8.4-7, 1 Timothy 2.1-8, Luke 16.1-13
A wealthy man had a business manager. He heard reports that the manager was embezzling, so he called the manager in and said, “What’s this I hear about you? Give me your account books and get out—you’re fired!” The business manager thought this over to himself. “What will I do now that I’ve been dismissed? I’m not strong enough to dig for a living, and I’d be ashamed to live on handouts. I’ve got it—I know what to do so I’ll have people to take me in. Summoning his boss’s debtors one by one, he asked them the same question. “How much do you owe my boss?” “A hundred gallons of olive oil,” the first answered. “Here, take your promissory note and make it 50.” The manager asked the second, “Here, you—what do you owe?” “A hundred bushels of wheat.” “Here’s your note, write 80.” The boss commended this dishonest manager for acting so shrewdly. (Luke 16.1-8)
The parable upends our usual way of looking at things when the boss praises the embezzler. The good the self-serving manager does is reducing the debts of the poor, carrying out what Catholic social teaching calls a preferential option for the poor.
The avaricious owner admires the manager’s skillful exploitation of his accounts to create a future for himself. The owner makes little of having his profits plundered for the sake of the powerless. The parable stresses the manager’s ingenuity.
Luke’s gospel does not let the self-serving manager go without criticizing him. Luke follows the parable with a series of sayings that pass judgment on dishonest people. The sayings insist, whoever is dishonest with a little can’t be trusted with a lot. No one can trust a cheater. No one can serve two masters.
Sunday’s gospel challenges us to be as ingenious at investing in the poor as a wily manager, dishonest and dismissed.
How do you invest in people in need?