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Parables of Patronage

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Ever been troubled by Jesus’ parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-8? Jayson Georges says it makes sense if we understand the patronage culture in which Jesus was speaking.

Keith led a Christian ministry in Asia. He employed Donghai, a national believer, to manage local projects for the ministry organisation. Keith began to hear rumours about Donghai misusing funds. So Keith summoned him, and asked, “What is this I hear about you? Tell me how you are spending the money, because you can no longer work here.”

Then Donghai said to himself, “What will I do, now that I am no longer employed by this international organization? I’ve worked there twenty-five years, so I have limited prospects for another job at my age. I am too ashamed to ask relatives for money, since I was always the person who helped them. I know what I will do, so that when I am dismissed in two weeks, people will welcome me into their homes!”

Donghai secretly took 3,000 dollars from the organization’s bank account and shared it with friends and family in the community. He told all of them that the money was from Keith to bless local families. Keith arrived at work the following day, completely unaware of what Donghai had done. Everyone gathered at his office to thank Keith with words of praise for his generosity.

When Keith realized what Donghai had done, he commended Donghai for acting so wisely and sensibly, “Usually unbelievers understand how to deal with these situations better than Christians. I tell you, it is good to build a relational network with unauthorized funds, so that you can depend on those relationships when the money runs out.”

- Jayson Georges, Ministering in Patronage Cultures, p53

 

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