The unjust manager is a confusing parable primarily because is isn’t a parable in the Sunday School “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning” way. It is more an argument from lessor to greater. Jesus is teaching his disciples, look at the people of the world (this generation). They know how it works and they know what to do to get what they want. The manager wanted a cushy existence and he did what was necessary. Why don’t the children of light act that way? Starting with Jesus Christ there is a new generation. The old one is passing away. Why don’t the children of the light act with Kingdom values and goals?
And that is a practical holiness or sanctification question. Know which generation you are part of and act appropriately, act shrewdly according to its rules. And the rules of the Kingdom? The King wants to call sinners. The king wants the banquet hall to be full. Are our lives, both personally and as a congregation aligned around Kingdom values. If we can’t be trusted in little – this stuff which is passing away – how will we be trusted with the greater?
The core of Lutheran preaching is Law and Gospel. Jokingly it is to make you feel really really bad and then make you feel really really good. It is also supposed to be a little thing called scriptural. And by that I mean taking its general outline and shape from the text. Instead of using the text as a pretext to talk about what you want, the text itself is proclaimed anew to a new generation. This text is very law centered. There is a first use of the law (civil) is the parable itself. Look at how the world works. That is law. And unsurprising in a fallen world, law leads to unrighteousness. There is the third use of the law (a rule for life), Jesus’ exhortation about being faithful in little. That third use can also be a second use (a mirror to show us our sins). How one hears that depends upon how one thinks of themselves. The gospel is less evident.
This sermon takes the whole structure of Jesus’ argument to be the gospel. This unrighteous generation is passing away. With Christ the new one starts. That is the gospel. The proclamation of a new order directed as the poor, the blind, the lame, the prisoners. If you are part of that new generation, if you are part of the kingdom, how then should we live?