The Parable of the Shrewd Manager is much deeper than a simple call to put our love of God above our love of money. It is a call to be wise in balancing the claims of law and love in our judgements and actions. At one extreme upholding the law without love is tyranny and destructive. At the other extreme, love without the law is chaos - and equally destructive. Balancing the apparently opposing claims of law and love in our daily lives is critical to our spiritual life.
1. Law without love is tyranny
How did you respond to the Parable of the shrewd manager? You might have been surprised to hear Jesus apparently suggesting dishonesty is good. Were you upset at the dishonesty of the manager? If you were, as I was, then you are probably reacting out of the “law” side of the “law - love” balance.
- Law is good when it brings order to life. If there was no sense of trust in the law, modern commerce would cease to exist.
- Law brings security into our lives – we know what to do / not do
- God is a God of order. To see this you can just look at any part of creation - a tree, your hand or a flower. What you see is order - order based on rules or laws of nature. The best proof of the existence of God is the argument from creation. If creation follows laws, then there must be a creator who makes the laws.
- Law is good but can become destructive if it is interpreted out of context and used to control or manipulate others
- Narrow interpretations of law can lead to destructive actions. For example in the Parable, the manager would be fired and possibly without friends to help him get employment. This would be legally correct - but destructive to him as a person.
2. Love without law is chaos
Imagine what would happen if every manager was full of love and just forgave all debts. This would be very loving - but there would be chaos. The system of commerce would collapse. Nobody would be willing to risk giving credit or lending money.