A Sermon on the Parable of the Dishonest Manager

Year C, Proper 20

In the Name of the + Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I.  Introduction:

This is an odd parable.  The protagonist is a lying, cheating, stealing manager who gets caught and then compounds his wrongdoing in preparing for his termination. He is a bad employee. But, Jesus tells this parable, not to be placed in an employee handbook, but to tell us how to understand our preparation for the life to come. Jesus tells us this parable and upholds the dishonest manager to show us how to prepare for the future.  The Children of Darkness know how to make preparations, and so should the Children of Light.

II.  Retelling:

Let’s look at this parable again and how Jesus tells us we should prepare for the future.

  • The manager is working for a rich man (probably not an honest businessman)  
  • The manager gets caught skimming some off the top.  He’s been dishonest with his master. 
  • The manager knows he is about to get fired.  He knows that his present life is over.  And he needs to prepare for the next phase of his life. 
  • Too weak to dig and too ashamed to beg.     
  • He knows that he cannot go forward without help.   
  • So what does he do?  Two things:

1) Compounds his dishonesty to his Master. Dishonest before, more dishonest now; and

2) Makes a deal with the debtors and form a relationship with them.

He goes to a debtor and says: you owe 100 measures of oil, let’s sit down and make it 50.  And you owe 100 measures of wheat, let’s sit down and make it 80. He acts dishonestly towards his Master, but makes deals with the Debtors SO THAT, he has a place in the life to come. He makes friends with debtors using his dishonesty so he will be received by them.

III. Application to Us

What does that look like for us? How does this parable speak to our preparation? Jesus tells us to be prepared for the world to come in TWO WAYS: Be Disloyal and Make a Deal. Be Disloyal and Make a Deal.

1.  We must be Disloyal. 

The parable tells us that we should disloyal and dishonest with the master of this world.  Who is the master to whom we are to be dishonest? Jesus says at the end of our reading “You cannot serve both God and Wealth.”  The Master to whom we owe no loyalty is Wealth.  And by Wealth, we are not simply looking at money and property.  But also, the Wealth of social and political capital.  The Wealth of family, as Jesus said two weeks ago unless you hate your mother, father, wife, and children you are not worthy to be my disciple. 

We are not to be loyal to this Master because this Master is not going to be loyal to us.  One day, like the Manager, we too will be fired by this Master. We will be let loose. When you die, if not sooner, your Wealth will be of the same benefit to you as the Rich Man was to the Manager – which is none at all. If we are to prepare for the future and for the life to come, why be loyal to the Masters of this life and of this world?  For, as Jesus says, what does it profit a man to be loyal to this world and to gain its wealth, only to lose his soul in the world to come?

2. We need to Make a Deal.

Like the Manager, we need to make a deal with the debtors of this world in order to have a place to go in the world to come. Jesus says: “Make friends for yourself by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.” Who are the debtors to whom we are to make a deal and build relationships?  Who owes a 100 measures of oil that we can help out? Amos and the Psalm provide that answer.

If you remember, Amos prophesized in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. And he went to Beth-el, which is where the Temple where the Northern Kingdom worshipped God was located and where the King of Israel sat. Beth-el is analogous to Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. And there Amos saw people who obeyed the rituals but not the substance of their religion. He says:

“Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

And in Psalm we read this:

5 Who is like the Lord our God
 who sits enthroned on high *
 but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?
6 He takes up the weak out of the dust *
 and lifts up the poor from the ashes.
7 He sets them with the princes, *
 with the princes of his | people.

These are the debtors of this world with whom we are to make a deal and befriend.  The poor and the needy.  The weak and the trampled.  And not simply those who are monetarily poor, but socially and spiritually needy as well.  For we too are called to stoop down and pick-up the downtrodden and to bind the sick.

Jesus himself, tells us this same thing in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats.  Like Amos, Jesus tells us that we are not prepared for the world to come because we go to church every Sunday, or because we uphold contemporary social standards, or because we vote for the right political candidate.  Rather he will tell us this:

31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:31-40

When we, like the Manager, go to the Debtors of this World, we are going to Jesus Christ himself.  For it is he that will welcome us into the eternal home.


Let me give you three quick examples of what this looks like in our congregation.

            1.         Mobile Meals – Rick Stall, Tim Arthurs, and others of you are involved in mobile meals. Every day volunteers with Mobile Meals take a prepared meal to someone who is homebound.  Some are bedridden, but all have physical challenges that it makes very difficult for them to prepare their own food.  And once a day, someone knocks on their door, reminds them that they are a child of God, and gives them something to eat.

            2.         Freedom Readers – Children learn to read so that they can then read to learn. Bratton Fennel is involved in a program called Freedom Reader where once a week for ninety minutes these volunteers teach at-risk children how to read at grade level.

            3.         Boys and Girls Club – Amy and I and Anna Grace and Samuel are involved with the Boys and Girls Club of Myrtle Beach.  The Club gives at-risk children a place to be that’s not on the streets and keeps them in school. It tells them that you matter and that you are a child of God. 

Serving in each of these programs isn’t simply a matter of writing a check.  Jesus didn’t say, I was hungry and you wrote a check or voted for the right political candidate. Rather, he says, I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.  Serving means establishing relationships with the least of these and through them with Christ himself. No one being served by Mobile Meals will probably ever be able to return the favor. No one obtains wealth or privilege teaching a third grader how to read or helping a teenager off the streets.  Rather, these programs require you to give up wealth and the pursuit of privilege and power. Engaging in these programs is being disloyal to the master of this world.  

Therefore, go, be like the Manager.  Be dishonest and disloyal towards the wealth of this world, and seek out the debtors, the downtrodden, the brokenhearted, and the stranger and go befriend them in order to prepare for the world to come.


In a few minutes, Fr. Ferebee will Celebrate the Eucharist at this Table.  During the Celebration, remember this: Jesus Christ, like the Manager, was disloyal to the Master of this world. The Messiah was expected to come in great splendor, but he was born in a humble manager and often had nowhere to lay his head. The Messiah was expected to come with great military might, but it was the Roman military that had him crucified. The Messiah was to restore the worship of Israel, yet it was the religious leaders that handed him over. Jesus Christ was disloyal to the worldly expectations of what he should have been.

Rather than come with might, and power, and splendor, he came for the meek, and the lowly, and the sinful.  He came to those who were in rebellion against God and indebted to the Almighty.  He came to serve us, not to be served by us.  And on the Cross, having been placed there by the powers and masters of this world, he made a deal, for you.  To each of us, he says, “Come, how much do you owe? Take your bill, sit down quickly, and tear it up.” 

So as you come forward to receive that very Body that was broken on the Cross, and that very Blood and Water that flowed from the Centurion’s spear, remember your calling. Remember your preparation for the world to come. 

Be disloyal to the powers and expectations of the world.  Be disloyal to the wealth and privilege given to you. And go to debtors.  Go where you are called to serve. For there you will find Christ.  For there, you will find your eternal home. AMEN

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