September 22, 2019: Come, O Unexpected Jesus

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Shrewd? Dishonest? Clever? How can these translations coexist in the world of biblical interpretation? No one seems to agree on what this parable of the “shrewd/dishonest manager” actually means, but almost everyone agrees that it is strange. Or is it?

If we’ve learned anything throughout our lives as Christians, surely it is never to expect the expected from Jesus. That would be too easy. And yet, this parable is extreme. When is the last time you were reprimanded for being dishonest, responded by being even more dishonest, and then were commended for it? It simply doesn’t make sense.

It makes about as much sense as loving your enemies, throwing a party for your irresponsible son, a newborn baby who is savior of the world, an empty tomb when someone has died . . .

Whenever Jesus does or says the unexpected, I’ve learned to look for the relationships in the story. Jesus has a way of surprising us with God’s generosity in relationships. It has nothing to do with our idea of fairness and everything to do with God’s grace.

In this case, did the manager value relationships by putting them ahead of money? Did the owner care more about the manager than his bottom line? Does the radical generosity of God extend to and through those whose worth the world might question? This is a parable that leads us to more questions than answers.

May we experience God’s generosity in community as we ask, struggle, discern, and wonder together.


Melissa Johnson, pastor, Advent Moravian Church
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania