August 22, 2022
This week’s reading was Luke 13 through 18. Luke shared many of Jesus’ parables. I love the 3 parables of the lost sheep, coin, and prodigal son. These are easy to understand and bring hope that God cares about each of us individually, will seek us out, and welcomes us with open arms, even when we have made bad choices.
The parable we are going to spend more time on is one that is difficult to understand. This parable is called the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16: 1-15. You may be wondering why I titled this heavenly treasure when the parable is about a shrewd manager. This will be explained at the end of the post and will make more sense.
Here is the text from the NIV Bible:
The Parable of the Shrewd Manager
16 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[a] 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.
In this parable we have 2 main characters: 1. A rich man, 2. The rich man’s manager. Managers in this day were usually trusted by their employers, and took care of everything and everyone inside and outside of the home. They also took care of finances and loaning of money.
We find out that this manager has been wasteful of the rich man’s money and possessions. It is not surprising that the rich man fired him. After the manager was fired, he had to think of something he could do in order to live. He knew no other employers would hire him because word would get around that he was wasteful. He also knew he was not physically capable of labor, and was too ashamed to beg. The manager had to do something, so he made a plan that would cause people to welcome him into their home. He called the debtors and gave them discounts on the money they owed the rich man. They only had to pay 20-50% of what they owed the rich man. And do you notice that the debtors did not ask questions why they were getting these discounts? They went along with the plan.
While they no longer owed the rich man money, and they saved a lot of money making the deal with the manager, they were indebted to the manager. If the manager needed something or a place to stay, he could go to the debtor and say, “Hey, remember what I did for you, let me stay with you?” and they would feel obligated to help the manager. They were also part of the scheme because they did not ask any questions. If the manager needed something, they had no choice but help him out.
After the manager made dishonest dealings and caused the rich man to lose money, something surprising happens. The rich man and Jesus compliment the “dishonest manager” for acting shrewdly. Why would the rich man and Jesus say the manager did good? This is where the parable gets difficult to understand.
We first need to define shrewd. According to dictionary.com and Merriem, it means having or showing sharp powers of judgement, or taking advantage of a hidden opportunity. This is someone that understands a situation quickly and uses it to their advantage.
This makes since. Even though the manager was dishonest, he was looking ahead to ensure he had a way to live in the future.
But we still ask, “How can a dishonest situation be praised by the rich man and Jesus?
First, Jesus was not praising the dishonesty. He was praising how the manager acted shrewdly.
In verse 8 Jesus says, “For people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are people of the light.”
What Jesus is saying is that people of this world (non-Christians) will do what they need to secure their futures, but people of the light (Christians) do not do this when it comes to spiritual matters.
In verse 9 Jesus says, “I tell you, use worldly money to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
What Jesus is saying here is that Christians should look ahead into the future and use money for eternal purposes, like missions, discipleship, and other ministries that bring people to Christ so that when money and resources run out, they will be welcomed by more Christians into “eternal dwellings.” Darryl Bock said in a commentary, “When the end comes and no more money is available, the one who has seen into the future and acted prudently will have handled the resources and stewardship God has given wisely.”
This is why I titled this week “Heavenly Treasure.” This parable is about how we should handle our resources. Matthew 6 states, “19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Thus, Jesus is saying that Christians should look into the future and invest their resources in the kingdom.
- What are ways to invest in the kingdom?
- I know I felt convicted about where I should invest my resources. Were you?
Next week’s reading is Luke 19 to 24. Let me know how you are doing keeping up with the reading.