”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.” Luke 16.1-8
This is a rather interesting parable by Jesus. It’s part of a larger teaching he offers on riches and rewards which comprises most of Luke 16. In this short eight verse segment, Jesus speaks about a shrewd but wasteful manager who was called out by his master for not being fruitful or responsible in handling his possessions.
So the manager, who knew his job was in jeopardy, went to settle the masters debts. He understood that he needed to gain favor with others if he was about to be out of a job. So he reduced everyone’s debts by a portion of what they owed — from 900 gallons of olive oil to 450 and from 100 bushes of wheat to 800. The master “commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly.” (I guess getting part of the debt paid is better than nothing.)
But then Jesus says something profound — “for the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light — i.e. Christians. But these last words of Jesus, “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings,” is some what confusing. Is Jesus asking us to use our wealth to gain eternal blessings?
John Wesley, on his notes on the New Testament offers this explanation— “And the lord commended the unjust steward – Namely, in this respect, because he had used timely precaution: so that though the dishonesty of such a servant be detestable, yet his foresight, care, and contrivance, about the interests of this life, deserve our imitation, with regard to the more important affairs of another. The children of this world – Those who seek no other portion than this world: Are wiser – Not absolutely, for they are, one and all, egregious fools; but they are more consistent with themselves; they are truer to their principles; they more steadily pursue their end; they are wiser in their generation – That is, in their own way, than the children of light – The children of God, whose light shines on their hearts.” [https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Bible.show/sVerseID/25629/eVerseID/25629/RTD/jwn/version/nkjv]
There is a wisdom of this world that Christians do not always have. It’s kind of the joke made about children who are only homeschooled and thus isolated from the real struggles of the world. But true wisdom comes from God, even those who put faith and hope in riches, and use these wisely, may not have godly wisdom. Jesus is suggesting we imitate the managers actions but for kingdom purposes. As Wesley says, “with regard to the more important affairs of another.” Again, for God’s Kingdom.
Are you being wise in you dealings? Are those dealings being used for the advancement of God’s kingdom? How can we pursue God’s purposes while imposing some of the wisdom of the world that might allow us to grow as disciples? And besides, all we have and all we are are Gods and for his glory. We are only stewards of his care and his gifts.
Let’s lean into the Lord today. As “children of the light,” let us be wise, pure and holy so that the world might know a God who loves them deeply and for eternity.
”O Lord God, you’ve endowed all human beings with you characters and qualities. We are all made in your image. Even those who do not yet follow you are made to be like you and for you. I pray that we might approach everything we do, be it church or secular business as ministry. I pray that we might use all our resources to glorify your holy name. Come now, Holy Spirit, make us one with you, one with each other and one in fellowship with all the world — so Jesus might be made known. Thank you for loving me and for allowing me to be all you have called and created me to be. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen