By Rev. Eric Brown
“What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.”
Although many translations now call the fellow in this story the “dishonest” manager, the old King James is more accurate when it calls him “unjust”. I mean, he is utterly sleazy, and he isn’t exactly straightforward with the people he deals with. And he robs the rich man blind – he is not just.
However, this dishonest, unjust manager has a moment of utter and brutal honesty about himself. When the accusations come in, he doesn’t try to defend himself to the rich man. He doesn’t spin a tail about how it’s not his fault. He knows he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. And then, when considering his prospects for life, there is no bluster or big talk. He doesn’t strut around saying, “I’ll find an even richer man to work for and he’ll be an even better boss than you!” Nope. Simple, brutal, honesty. I can’t dig. I’m not strong enough. I couldn’t bear to beg. This fellow is utterly honest about his own lack and limitations. And because of that, he knows that the only way he can live is by living off the master.
You and I, we’re dishonest. In and of ourselves, totally unjust. We are sinners, and we too get caught with our hands in the cookie jar. So, what then? Do we try to explain what we have done away? Do we blame someone else for our misdeeds, or talk about how our sin isn’t that bad because someone else is a worse sinner? Or do we try to bargain, try to work things out and make things up to God (as though works could dig us out of that pit)? Do we put on a brave face, or do we finally just admit that we are ashamed.
The simple fact is that we need God. We know our lack, we know our need. There is no way for us to live apart from God. But here’s where the analogy with the story ends. God’s not merely some rich man whose worked about bilking us for profit, worried about what He can gain by making us jump through hoops. No, He created us to live with Him. Our foolish, sinful attempts to live apart from God was never what He wanted in the first place! So, when we are brought to the truth that we in our sin can’t live apart from Him, He says, “Good, because of Jesus’s death and resurrection, all your debts are paid and you do in fact live with me scot free, and will do so for all eternity, because not sin, not the devil, not even death itself can separate you from My love.”
The dishonest manager’s moment of self-honesty meant he had to scramble and come up with some plan. Our moments of self-honesty, when we are brought to see our own sin, they are taken care of already, because God in His love already had planned your salvation in Christ well before you were born. You never need to pretend your sins aren’t real. No, be honest about them, strive against them – and know that in Christ Jesus they are forgiven.
Rev. Eric Brown is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Herscher, Illinois and the co-host of the HT Gospeled Boldly Podcast.