10 Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much. 11 If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
This statement from Jesus comes at the end of perhaps his most bizarre parable. It’s one where he appears to praise a dishonest bookkeeper who is about to lose his job. The bookkeeper decides that the best way to land on his feet is to write off a portion of all his master’s debts, so that the people for whom he canceled the debts will become his forever friends.
Sounds crazy, right? Not like a Jesus story at all. But you can read it for yourself beginning at Luke 16:1. The tale is so extreme that many scholars would say these verses, appended to the end of the parable, are the gospel writer’s attempt to make sense of an otherwise nonsensical story. Who would praise a thief?
There are two important ideas in these little verses: first, that you can’t be trusted with much until you’ve first shown yourself to be trustworthy with little. Second, that compared to the “true riches” of the kingdom of God, everything is little!
What then does it mean to be trustworthy with these true riches?
Well, if we look at the parable, we’re back to this one core message – to be considered “trustworthy” in the kingdom, you’ve got to learn to give its riches away. This lines up exactly with the accusation made against Jesus every time he healed people with the words: “your sins are forgiven.” The religious experts would tell him, “you can’t say that! Only God can do that!” Jesus didn’t care. He just kept writing off people’s debts, like he owned the place!
Because here’s the thing the religious experts didn’t know: it turns out Jesus does own the place! And he’s willing to give it all away. He’s deputized us to be like the dishonest bookkeeper, giving away the riches of the kingdom – even though (and perhaps especially because) they never belonged to us to begin with!
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Does recognizing that the riches of the kingdom of God – mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love – don’t belong to you make it easier to give them away? After all, isn’t it easier to give away someone else’s stuff than your own?
Whose debts to you do you need to write off today?