There are two things we have to get right in our own minds before today’s Gospel makes sense. First, we have to understand why Jesus commends the dishonest manager. He does not commend him for his dishonesty. The manager is stealing from the master. He is not obeying the Seventh Commandment by helping him to improve and protect his possessions and income. However, Jesus commends the manager for his shrewdness. What does it mean to be “shrewd?” As the dictionary defines it, to be shrewd is to have an insightful awareness and a realistic discernment. In other words, the manager knew himself well, he knew how desperate the situation was, and he knew how he could take a bad situation and make it work out for himself. He knew how all the moving parts had to come together for the best outcome.
If you take today’s Gospel, the Parable of the Unjust Manager, at face value and compare it to today’s Catechism quote, you would find that they don’t seem to go together. It seems like Jesus commends the unjust manager, who does the opposite of helping his neighbor to improve and protect his possessions and income. So, does Jesus want us to waste people’s money and con our employers out of their money to bribe our neighbor so they will treat us kindly when we get fired? Not quite. We have to remember how we read the Parables. The Parables are always about how things work in God’s Kingdom, which is different from how they operate in the earthly kingdom. Parables always reveal something about God’s relationship to us. Though this Parable may seem to teach us lessons contrary to Christianity, Jesus uses it to reveal the vast mercy and grace of our God.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.