Here is a helpful look at Luke 16:1-13 and some thought out questions to help you reflect on Lukes take on these series of events. Please take time to read the passage and to prayerfully reflect on what God may be saying to you.
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 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.”
This is a parable that when we read it we usually feel a little uncomfortable with the fact that the dishonest manager is commended for his actions instead of reprimanded. Jesus kind of tells us to be like this manager and I get a little uncomfortable with that.
But, this would be missing the point.
A tip on how to read a parable is this – there’s usually one key truth a parable is trying to communicate and that’s it. When we go on to trying to get a third and a fourth point out of it and we analyze every detail about it we go off track. That’s why Jesus is able to uses a dishonest manager as an example for us, to teach us something else. (Jesus’ story in Luke 18:1-8 about being persistent in prayer like a nagging woman before a stubborn judge is another one that has a good point but can be a little uncomfortable and confusing for us if we forget what the main point is and get lost in justifying the details)
You probably already know the key nugget of truth that Jesus is using this parable for.
That truth is, that the wise (or shrewd) person thinks about the long term when they use their money. The foolish person uses it up only thinking about gratifying their immediate personal desires. And Jesus gives a bit of thought on the payout of acting shrewdly with our money. If we are generous instead of selfish with our money then we will see reward in this life and the next. In this life – if, and when, we come on hard times ourselves, we are more likely to be helped by others who we have helped then if we had acted selfishly while they were in need. And in the next life! – because God has a different sort of economy than the world, He will reward us for seeking his kingdom first with our money. The amount of payback for us when we think eternally with our money that we have now is immeasurable.
Now that’s a wise use of money. That’s a wise investment.
A detail I find surprising in the parable is that, if Im not misunderstanding it, the manager is essentially giving away his boss’s money! Shouldn’t the boss be furious when he comes back? Now, without getting lost in a detail that isn’t the main point I think you could say that this is true to how God’s economy works. Each of us is given what we are given and some day we will have to give account for what we did with it. Yet, God isn’t like a worldly boss. Money isn’t His top priority. It seems that this boss in the parable is not primarily concerned with money. And like the boss, God wants us to give away His money! That’s a bit backwards from the world but its true.
The world says – “get all you can for yourself and always make sure you come out benefiting from a deal. You have to ask yourself what’s in it for me? And, when do I get my payout? Remember the sooner the payout the better because then you can “invest” it right back into yourself! And the more you get for yourself the more and more you’ll have! After all, you only live once!”
God says – “Forget about yourself. I have given generously to you at great cost to myself. Now I want you to do the same. Give to those who can’t repay you instead of those who will. Bless those who curse you. Forgive them, and keep forgiving them. Give everything you have to investing in my kingdom and if you do you will live again and you will be repaid more than you can handle.”
In one way – Im a little more comfortable with the parable because it makes sense to me.
In another way- Im still a bit uncomfortable because I still have my selfishness to do battle with.
“Oh Father, your ways are amazing and beautiful. Your words are challenging and humbling and exciting. I want to do it your way but I lack the courage, and i’m prone to make excuses. Please help me. I love you. Amen”