The Smooth Operator

 By Peter Minson


The parable of the dishonest steward, in modern form.


A skit based on Luke 15 & 16


Richie (A rich man)
Sly (Richie's business manager)



Narrator: Jesus was talking to the crowds about how difficult it is to be the sort of people who grab hold of life with both hands and shake it.

The trouble is, every story Jesus told them started off being easy to understand, but then his punch-line left them reeling. He kept turning their expectations upside down, talking about the "people of the Kingdom of God".

The way Jesus out it, these "Kingdom People" sounded like some new race of aliens!

He's just told them the story you've probably heard as the "Prodigal Son. You remember: a spoiled teen-age boy blows half his family's money on girls - expensive drinks - fashion clothes plus a cherry red Mazda MX-5 for fun.

But then what happens? The kid loses the plot and totally wrecks the car, and because he was drunk, he got no insurance.

But this Einstein did have one smart thought left in his head. He remembered he had a home and a family, once.

So he hitch-hiked home hoping to get a job in his father's factory, but the father spotted him, ran out of the house to welcome him. And that father forgave his son for all his expensive stupidity, and treated him just like the rest of the family &emdash; the ones who'd stayed on the straight and narrow.

And then Jesus hit them with the punch-line. He said this is the sort of thing God approves of - a chap who even after blowing the lot, still knows there's a welcome at home - with God.

Well, that certainly got the crowds rolling their eyes! They thought that good people and only good people are acceptable to God - y'know the types: prominent family, expensive education, go to Sunday School, never bunk classes, who grow up with a perfect 10 body and brush their teeth 3 times a day.

They never heard a religious teacher praising a loser like the kid who wrecked the car.

Then Jesus tells them another story about Kingdom People.

There's this businessman - right? Lives in the best suburb. Cigars, suits, Jaguar, diamonds and furs.

This rich businessman has got a manager running his firm for him. Now the manager's a smooth operator, who's busy making his boss rich.

[Enter Richie, sorting through papers]

Richie: I'm rich! I'm rich! My shares are going though the roof! Oh! Isn't this economic recovery wonderful! [stops short at a yellow paper] Hey! Hang on! What's this? A new Ford LTD? A week surfing in Bali? What? A $2000 heli-skiing week-end in Queenstown? What's going on here? Am I running a charity? Is this a church or something? [shouts] Get my manager, in here, now! I'll sort this out!

[Enter Manager}

Manager: [smarmy] Well hi there Mr Boss-man How's the share-market treating us?

Richie: Don't give me that slimy "Hi there!" patter. You just explain this Credit Card Statement! [passes it]

Manager: Oh. Um. Ah. [hastily dreaming up excuses] Would you believe ... promotional expenses?

Richie: No.

Manager: Ummmm. How about .... Entertaining clients?

Richie: Don't believe it.

Manager: Ahh. What about ... Wedding presents for Prince Edward and Sophie?

Richie: What a lot of rot!

Manager: [relenting - the boss has to believe this] The truth is I left the firm's American Express card in the company car, and my teen-age children got it, and booked up holidays .... and by the time I realised, those purchases had already been made, and I was too embarrassed to tell you, so I decided to cover it by making sure the firm earned a record profit and...

Richie: Shut UP. I've heard enough lies!

Manager: But the car really is for business purposes!

Richie: Stow it! I'm calling in the Serious Fraud Squad. You can expect a summons. Meanwhile, give me your keys, AND that credit card! You have five minutes to leave the building. You're out of here, on your ear, Mister.

What a waste! You were the best manager I've ever had. [snatches keys & card, walks out]

Manager: What am I gonna do? I've never been very good at anything else. I can't get the dole for 6 months! I'm not strong enough to prune Kiwifruit, and the people I've ripped off will come and laugh at me if I get a labouring job. [thinks] Mmm .... wonder if there's still a chance I could get my job back as a manager, AND get the Serious Fraud Squad off my back at the same time. Even if my plan doesn't work, I might still win some friends and influence some people before I'm turfed out on the street.

Narrator: So this smooth operator went at it. One after another, he phoned every client who had unpaid accounts

Manager: [on cell-phone]: Yeah Jack? Sly here. Yeah, Jack, we're running a special ... Ahh ... promotion here. Big savings! It's a new idea .... um .... a percentage thing. Yeah. Basically it comes down to this. If you IN-crease your usual order, we'll DE-crease your existing bill, by the same percentage. You scratch our back, we'll scratch yours. Here's the catch, though. I want your order now and you gotta pay by the end of this week. What do you think? Yep, we'll cut your entire 3-month bill. OK -20%? Great! Jack, that'll cost you another thousand, but it'll save you two-grand over-all. Cracker, my son. I'll do the paper-work right now.

Narrator: And so he went on. 20% here, 5% there, 12 and a half percent over there. Even the churches ordered extra photocopy paper! And the result? Well - there was a flood of forward orders, and old accounts got cleared - the kind of turnover such as the company had never seen before.

[Richie enters with papers and 2 cigars in his pocket]

By the end of the week, the Boss-man noticed the cash-flow boost, and of course he recognised the style. He knew immediately that the smooth operator of a manager was behind it. He called in the manager he'd just sacked.

Richie: What's this then? I thought I'd sacked you. Now I find you've been running my firm from your home.

Manager: Yes, boss, it's true. I decided to give you a going-away present.

Richie: Did you now? [pause] .... well ... the figures speak for themselves. I realise you've been running some .... what shall we call it? ... "creative" book-keeping, but we've never had a cash-flow like this in the past. I'm reinstating you on full pay.

Manager: I kinda hoped you might.

Richie: If only a few more of my sales people would think as laterally as you. What a rogue! Here. Have a cigar. BY the way, have you got any other smart scams .... Ahh ... schemes like this?

[they begin to move off]

Manager: Thanks, boss. Nice cigar. Well, now that you mention it, there's this idea I've been working on to hit up the churches and the doctors and lawyers ..... [they exit]

Narrator: Now Jesus wasn't prepared to just let his audience laugh and forget what was really going on! He rubbed it in! He said that the master had nothing but PRAISE for this street-wise, crooked manager! And why? Because the man worked out how to use his talents for the sake of the boss, instead of just being a sly, selfish customer looking after Number One.

And Jesus reckons people like him are smarter than most of you! See how he was always looking for the angles, surviving by his wits? Jesus is saying: "I wish you were all smart in the same way, but smart for the RIGHT things and the RIGHT reasons. The Kingdom of God needs smooth operators who'll use every opportunity and crisis to stimulate them to creative survival, who'll concentrate on the bare essentials, so that they live, really live, not just coasting along complacently thinking good behaviour will get you through.

If you have ears to hear, then hear!



© Copyright Peter Minson 1994
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed.
He may be contacted at:
Or at: Anglican Vicarage of St Timothy's, 46 Kendal Avenue, Christchurch 5, New Zealand.