1. Then Jesus told His disciples a very different type of story. He said, "There once was a certain rich businessman who had reason to believe that the manager of his entire operation was exploiting his place of authority by running up huge, personal expenses, and was just basically wasting his possessions.
2. So one day he called the manager in and said, 'All right..what's going on with you? Something's not adding up with your accounting. I want you to give me an updated report of all your transactions, and an audit of all your books, because I'm going to have to terminate your position here.'
3. Going into immediate damage control, the manager said to himself, 'What in the world am I going to do now? My employer is taking away my wonderful job, and I don't have any alternative prospects. I'm not strong enough to do manual labor, and I'm definitely too proud to beg.
4. All right...I know what I'll do, so that, when I do lose my job and income, and am possibly living on the street, people will welcome me into their houses.'
5. So he called in each of his employer's debtors, and asked the first one, 'How much do you owe my boss?'
6. 'Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. So the manager told him, 'This is what I want you to do...take your bill, sit down right here, and re-write it for four hundred and fifty.'
7. Then he asked the second one, 'And how much do you owe him?' The man replied, 'A thousand bushels of wheat.' He told him, 'Then take your bill, and make it out for eight hundred.'
8. When the dishonest manager's employer found out what he had done, he actually commended him because of the shrewd way in which he dealt with the situation. The point is that the people who operate in this present world system are generally more savvy in dealing with their own kind...and of understanding their own generation...than are the people who walk in the light.
9. This is what I'm telling you...be streetwise when you need to be. Don't be reluctant to use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when your money runs out, you can call in some favors and be welcomed into permanent dwellings.
10. Whoever is trustworthy with very little will most likely be trustworthy with very much...and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
11. So think about it...if you haven't been trustworthy in dealing with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
12. Furthermore, if you haven't been trustworthy with someone else's property, who is going to give you property of your own?
13. The bottom line is this...no one can serve two masters. You basically will hate the one and love the other, or you will be committed to the one and reject the other. You can't be submitted and servile to both God and the god of the world system called Mammon."
14. The Pharisees, who were submitted to Mammon, the money-god, heard all this and dismissed Jesus as being hopelessly naive.
15. Unaffected by their disdain, He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows what's really behind the masks. Besides, what people generally value highly is just gross in God's sight.
16. The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until the days when John the Forerunner was at the height of his influence. Since that time, the Good News of the Kingdom of God is being preached, and people are still trying, in one way or another, to literally force themselves into it through their own efforts. Men of passion, like John, have demonstrated this effort, and, frankly, it has been allowed, because there was basically no alternative until now.
17. But, even though the Kingdom is now so easily accessible, the Law is still going to be completely fulfilled, in a sense. In fact, it's easier for both the heavenly realm and the earthly dimension to totally disappear, than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of what's written in the Law.
18. For example, the Law says ‘Whoever divorces his wife must simply give her a certificate of divorce…no questions asked.’ But I tell you, whoever just casually dismisses and divorces his wife for no good or valid reason, such as unfaithfulness or infidelity, will inadvertently cause her to go out and commit adultery herself. And whoever marries a woman who has been divorced in this way will inadvertently commit adultery with her, seeing that she will more than likely still consider herself married to her previous husband."
19. While He was still in the mode of changing their paradigms, and creating new realities through the use of fictitious stories about rich men, He told them this allegory: "There was a certain rich man who was in the habit of clothing himself in purple and fine linen...the wardrobe of the wealthy in his world...and he regularly reveled and feasted fabulously, basically throwing an extravagant party for his snobbish clique every single day.
20. Meanwhile, at the gate of his mansion there was an indigent and impoverished man named Lazarus who had been left there to beg. Not only was he utterly destitute, he was also diseased, and covered with ulcerated sores.
21. Day after day he begged for any leftovers that might come from the rich man's abundantly furnished table, being in such poor physical condition that he couldn't even care for himself. The only relief that he had from the pain, itching and burning of his abscesses was when the stray dogs came and licked his sores, providing a natural antiseptic that canines carry within their saliva.
22. Anyway, it happened that the pitiful beggar finally died on the rich man's doorstep, and was mercifully carried by the angels into the realm where Abraham watched over the captive, departed spirits of men and women until they could be reconciled. Ironically, the rich man also died right about that same time, and was buried.
23. And in the realm of the dead which the Jews call Sheol, and the Greeks call Hades, he lifted up his eyes in torment and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his company.
24. And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have pity and mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this purifying flame.
25. But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that in your lifetime you fully received an endless flow of comforts and delights, and Lazarus had nothing in his life but discomfort and distress...but now he is comforted here with me, and you are there in anguish.
26. Besides, between us who have been purified through suffering, and you who are indifferent to those who suffer, a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who want to pass from this place to you may not be able...and no one may pass from there to us without going through the fire. You didn't even notice the suffering going on all around you in life, so in your callousness you have violated the most basic principles of the Kingdom of God, in which the first will be last, and the last will be first! So, all those, like you, who are uncaring...indifferent...unfeeling...will go into the fire for a period of time...into a fiery trial that will ultimately burn out everything in them that causes them to be blind to the needs of others.'
27. And the man said, 'Then, Father Abraham, I beg you to send him to my father's house.
28. I have five brothers there who are just like me...selfish and self-indulgent...and I want him to warn them, so that they can avoid this place of torment.'
29. But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets...let them hear and listen to them for themselves.'
30. But he answered, 'No, Father...if someone from the dead goes to them, they will have a paradigm shift, and will embrace the Kingdom in their lifetime, feeding the poor, caring for the dying, creating a new way to look at the condition of the world.'
31. But he said to him, 'Listen, if they don't hear Moses and the Prophets, they won't be persuaded and convinced, even if someone should rise from the dead.' And in giving them this extended metaphor, He revealed to them the new way of thinking that would be required for them, if they desired to live the Kingdom-life.