Oskar Schindler (has anyone seen Schindler’s List) has been on my mind recently. He was a Nazi businessman who exploited cheap Jewish labor. Looking at his biography, he definitely wasn’t a good, trustworthy person.
He did do a good thing. Out of self-interest, at first, he protected his Jewish employees from being sent to the concentration and death camps. Later, more benevolently, he protected whoever he could in the surrounding Jewish neighborhoods. By the time the war was over, he was broke from doing it, all his wealth was spent.
However, he didn’t work in the light. There was no virtue signaling to the Nazis that they were wrong. That would’ve been an excellent way to get killed and ultimately saving no one.
Instead, he worked from the background. Oskar used bribery, flattery, and political coercion to protect as many Jews as possible.
I sort of struggle with the methods on a head level since I’m a relatively black and white thinker, morally. There’s not much room for gray.
Yet, in my life, I’ve instinctually used my power to protect people from behind the scenes, too. There must be some cognitive dissonance between my head and my heart.
Looking at Schindler’s story, three things come to mind.
The first is hearing about missionaries and pastors having to bribe their way in and out of countries and security checkpoints so they can reach the lost.
Secondly, what Jesus said to his disciples when he sent them out in Matthew 10:16. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
The third thought is the puzzling parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-14. Verse 9 reminds me of Oskar.
Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels[b] of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”
Maybe what I’m wondering is what’s more important, the moral stand itself or the principled stand backed up by action, be it in light or darkness.
Where do you draw the line? What actions do you refuse to take?
I’ll end with a quote from Captain America: Civil War when Cap was talking to Wanda.
“…we try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn’t mean everybody. But if we can’t find a way to live with that, then next time maybe nobody gets saved.”