Updated: Nov 29, 2020
The parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16 has confused many Christians because Jesus seems to be admiring how a rouge manager, cheated his master. Of course Jesus would never encourage dishonesty, but I have to admit being confused by my 1.0 understanding of this story for many years myself. So let’s dissect this story and see if we can find the real meaning in this parable. “Jesus told his disciples: There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 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.’ 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—I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘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.’ Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ 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.” Luke 16:1-8
But here’s where it gets interesting. Jesus isn’t encouraging dishonesty. He’s encouraging generosity! Read on.
“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 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. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? 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.” Luke 16:9-13
The shrewd manager 2.0 Jesus is reminding us that everything we think we own, actually belongs to God. The shrewd manager didn’t own a gallon of oil, or a bushel of wheat. It all belonged to his boss – his master.
Since everything “we own” actually belongs to God as well, Jesus is commanding us not to hoard it, but to be generous with whatever he’s entrusted to us. Jesus is telling us to use God’s money to help others. We’re not cheating God out of his money, that’s exactly why God has given us worldly wealth to begin with!
Here’s a modern day parable of my own: Suppose a wealthy Christian has a foundation worth $10,000,000. He, or she dies but leaves these instructions to their child. “We want you to use our money to bless others. Please don’t hoard it, but pay off people’s debts, pay their medical bills, feed them, translate the Bible into their language – get these funds working! And remind them, this is not your gift to them – it came from your father.”
Grace management So when we give to others sacrificially, cancel debts, and forgive those who sin against us, we are being God’s grace managers. Here’s another word picture for you, I heard from my pastor Jim Samra: Imagine a long, thick fire hose coming straight out of heaven, and you are holding the nozzle end. That hose is filled with “graces” from God. In this parable, it’s money, but it could also be filled with forgiveness, love and compassion – all kinds of good things.
You have a choice to slow up the flow, divert the majority of it to yourself, or you can let it run full force to others. If you keep most of it for yourself, Jesus says you’re being untrustworthy. And if you’re untrustworthy with money, why would God entrust you with true riches? (Contentment, a good name, and eternal rewards)
What does your tax return, or personal budget; tell God about who your master truly is?
“No one can serve two masters.”
How following Jesus works in real life.
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