Reflection on 25th Sunday: 22nd September 2019

Wise Management

“Give me an accounting of your management.” It may not have been those exact words but at some time in our life, probably many times, an accounting has been demanded eg from our loved ones, HMRC, our boss, our examination of conscience. Giving an accounting can be an uncomfortable and even a fearful time. We review our words and actions wondering, “What have I done? What have I left undone? What will happen to me? What will I do?” No one likes to have to give an accounting. We’re pretty private about our books. Not only do we not want others to see the balance, sometimes we do not want to see the balance ourselves. We do not want to face and deal with that reality. But that’s what this accounting asks of us.

Today’s gospel calls us to account for our management of all that we are and all that we have. The demand for an accounting often sounds like someone is in trouble. That’s how today’s parable begins. The manager has been charged with squandering his master’s property. He is going to be fired. He will lose his job, income, reputation, and status. A part of him is dying. At some level he will lose his life as he now knows it. We would expect the manager to get what he deserves. But that’s not how the kingdom of God works and parables rarely give us what we expect. So we ought not to be too quick to come to a final or definitive interpretation of this parable. The parable offers ambiguity and tension, not a neat resolution and that feels a lot like real life. The accounting that should have been the manager’s ruin became the starting point for a new life, new relationships, and a new home. The accounting demanded of this manager was both an ending and a new beginning, a death and a resurrection.

What if accounting is not about finding wrongdoing but new life? What if it’s about grace rather than punishment? That certainly changes our usual understanding of an accounting but isn’t that what parables are supposed to do? They change the way we see and understand. If a parable makes sense we’ve probably missed the point. The accounting of our management isn’t about numbers, wrongdoing, or punishment but about helping us see and orient our lives in a new direction. It enables us to respond to Jesus’ invitation: “Make your home in me as I make mine in you.” (John 15:4)

Michael Marsh