The Dishonest Manager
In this Blog we're looking at the verse: Luke 16:1-13
" 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[a] 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[b] 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. 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.”
Heres the short answer
A Gospel Coalition article on this passage sums up the point as "... the wise person sees the end approaching and makes an intelligent plan".
Jesus is saying that the worldly are often more crafty or cunning about worldly things than the believer is wise about spiritual things, and it shouldn't be this way. It should be the opposite way around.
More specifically, this passage speaks of our use of money and what God's principles concerning money are. Everything we have is from God. We are all like the dishonest manager, using, and making decisions with our master's money. When you stand before God with your checkbook or bank account record what will God say? Hopefully he will say "I gave you my money to use, and you have done well, my good and faithful servant". The wise person knows it's not just this life, - food and clothes for tomorrow or whether they have enough for retirement that they need to consider, but that life goes on into eternity and they need to consider what has eternal value and consequences.
How are you using the life, the time, and the resources God has given you to manage? Is it used for your own comfort and security over the purposes He has for it? Do you give generously and out of joy, - day dreaming about the opportunities and testimonies that your resources can play a part in? Or is it painful to give?
Verses and passages to read -
Here in Luke Jesus follows this passage with a confrontation with the Pharisees about money, (Luke 16:14-17) and then the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Do you think maybe this is on purpose?
Other passages similar to this are -
Luke 19:11-27 and Matthew 25:14-29.
Also read - Luke 12-13-48
Here's the long answer...
How to Read a Parable and How to Discern Scripture -
This is an understandably tricky passage. The obvious difficulty we have with it is that it feels like Jesus is commending a dishonest person! I almost doubt that there is anyone who doesn't raise an eyebrow at how Jesus laid out this story.
That's why this is an excellent time to talk about how to read a Parable and how to find the answer when a peice of scripture puzzles you.
Perfect, now, even if I miss it, and don't explain the passage well enough to give you the answer you were looking for then I'm off the hook and you have no excuse! Find it yourself! Ha!
The first thing to consider when reading a Parable is - that with parables there is usually one straight point Jesus is making, one key detail, and we need to remind ourselves that that's the point, and everything else is secondary. We can get off track and forget the point when we try to decyfer a meaning from every word of the passage.
In our passage Jesus is saying, "The spiritually wise person makes money decisions by thinking about eternity, with the desire to be called a good and faithfull servant by God because of the fruit they bore (souls they won). Use your money to win souls for the kingdom so that they can vouch for you to God that you were his faithfull servant".
Jesus is not saying, that God commends dishonesty and trickery like the rich man commends his manager. Jesus is probably also not hiding any secret truths within the details of the passage like - " why did Jesus say the first debtor was owing a hundred measures of oil!? Does that mean something? Does oil represent an anointing that is owed!?"
Now, If there are details that do have meaningful significance to them, remember that they still aren't the main point itself but only serve to help make the main point.
Another parable Jesus teaches (this one about prayer) that has some similar eyebrow raising details is the woman who nags the stubborn judge. Luke 18:1-8. I'll let you read that one yourself.
The second principle I would like to encourage you to use to find an answer to a tricky passage is - keep reading. Often, a passage is better understood when we put it in the greater context of scripture and see a bigger picture. Often we find that another passage sheds light on the one we are wrestling with.
There are other parables and passages that have some similar characteristics or similar main points to them that might give you a bit of a different perspective on the truth you're studying. They also may have a different twist to them that helps grow a bigger and richer understanding of that truth. Take a look at some of these other passages that speak of faithful servants, thinking about eternity, using money for the kingdom, or being spiritually wise.
Luke 16:14-17, Luke 16:19-31, Luke 19:11-27, Matthew 25:14-29, Luke 12:13-48, Matthew 19:16-26, Luke 18:28-30, Luke 19:1-10, Luke 21:1-4.
The third thing I would say to try is Google. Yup. I would say to look up your passage in some commentaries, but I know a lot of people people don't have commentaries but most people have the internet and a search engine.
There are some great tools available online for free and some great little articles on blogs and sometimes a sermon on YouTube on your passage.
As an example, I simply googled "dishonest manager parable" and found a good little article by The Gospel Coalition and another one at Desiring God. Then I googled "how to read parables" and found one by Crossway. It's often quite easy to find some good writing available on what you're studying. I'll post the links to these articles at the bottom because there are a bunch of great articles with great little nuggets of insight that I read but I'm not passing on to you .... (insert smug grin). You have to read them yourself.
Here is a free little nugget I'm glad to give you! An easy online bible I like to use is biblegateway.com . And if you want dig in a bit, the blueletterbible.org is an online bible that has the Strong's Concordance built into it! What that means is that you can click on any of the individual words in a verse and it will tell you the Greek or Hebrew root word and it will tell you all the verses that it is used in!
As an exercise, once you're at the site try searching "kingdom of heaven". Notice that all the verses that come up are from Matthew. It's a phrase that only Matthew used! Cool. Then click on the "tools" button on the first verse and it breaks it down to all the words in that verse. Choose one that you think is a little tricky, like "is at hand" and click on the Strong's number "g1448" and on that page you can click on a few different options to get more info on that specific word.
These are only two resources out of, I don't know how many, online bibles and study tools that can be found on the internet. I was just browsing around and found an app for a online study bible you can download for free that looks good - the faithlife study bible app. I think I'll give it a try!
If I haven't lost you yet, let me say this, and I hope it's humbling - I read somewhere that we in the West have access to more than 90% of the Christian literature that's available in the world! China, India, Africa, South America, the middle East, - they get the remaining 10%. And remember most of the world's Christians aren't in the West anymore.
I hope you took the time to read this far and understand the reason that I took the time to talk about these resources, whether you found them that exciting or not. We don't have very legitimate excuses for not knowing scripture. We're usually just not taking the time to read it.
The last, but really the first, is start your devotional time with asking God to show you the answer. Pray, and recognize that he is glad to give you wisdom when you ask. - James 1:5
Where your treasure is your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:21
Websites I used
How to read the parables -- https://www.crossway.org/articles/how-should-we-read-jesuss-parables/
The dishonest manager -
Why did Jesus commend the dishonest manager? -
A big list of bible study and research tools - https://www.wycliffecollege.ca/current-students/biblical-research-tools