And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
What is Jesus saying? The dishonest manager is not condemned by the boss, but praised. Is Jesus also commending his loose ethics? And what on earth does he mean by:
“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.”
I frankly believe that Jesus was being sarcastic, telling his followers, “Look, if you’re worried about what’s going to become of you, cozy up to people who can help you… but if you want to follow me to the eternal home I can prepare for you, it’s a different strategy.”
The ways of God and the ways of the world are different and sometimes incompatible. We hear it in God’s voice in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord…” (55:8) and in Paul’s writing to the church in Corinth: “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God....” (I Cor 2:12) We see it in the way Jesus instructs his followers to behave in ways that are not “natural” – to turn the other cheek on attackers, to give up one’s possessions if asked, to risk one’s life in service to others. These are not the ways of the world, nor of those who would succeed on the world’s terms.
Those who follow Christ are called to be in the world, to love this life we’ve been given and all its gifts – and to hold it lightly, not to confuse it with the realm of God. We have dual citizenship in both realms, and we need to be clear about which ‘reality’ is the most real.
Who are the “children of light” in your life, for whom you can give thanks today?
Who are the “children of this age” around you? Do they influence you? How might you gracefully influence them?
Jesus didn’t withdraw from the world or from “worldly” people. He fully engaged them, building relationships in which many found themselves transformed. This is the world for which he lived and died and rose again. This is the world for which we are called to give ourselves, in love. We do that best when we are conscious that we are children of light, transparent, full of integrity and love.