Scriptures

The Parable Of The Shrewd Manager

Introduction

‘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. 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 16:1-13

In the audience listening to the Lord Jesus were very religious Pharisees and Scribes, Luke 15:1-2. When some ‘tax collectors’ and ‘sinners’ joined the crowd, they criticised Him for having anything to do with them. They regarded such people as beyond reach, beyond the reach of salvation, not worth bothering with, to be kept at more than arm’s length. So, following on in Luke 15, the Lord told the crowd the parables of ‘the lost sheep’ and ‘the prodigal son’.

Note how in this second parable, ‘the prodigal son’, Luke 15:28. ‘The older brother became angry and refused to go in.’

The other brother was angry at how excitedly the father had welcomed back his long absent brother. A more suitable title for this parable might be ‘the unforgiving brother’.

The Lord Jesus then told them ‘the parable of the shrewd manager’, Luke 16:1-13. This parable was targeted at the self-righteous ones who were in the crowd. He was reasoning with them at their level of understanding. Like Solomon said, ‘Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.’ Proverbs 26:5

In this parable He targets another hypocritical trait they had, they coveted riches whilst claiming to be spiritually minded.

‘The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 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.’ Luke 16:14-15

They were obsessed with acquiring riches whilst at the same putting on a show of being very religious. Energy which should have been directed to God was directed to acquiring wealth. Almost as though wealth was god. That is why in this parable the Lord Jesus personifies wealth saying ‘you cannot serve both God and money.’ Luke 16:13

They claimed they were devoted servants of God whilst really, they were devoted to the god of wealth. Yet they alienated those whom they regarded as worldly wise, the basest of folk, only fit for hell, whom they disparagingly called ‘tax collectors and sinners’, Luke 15:1-2

They were quick to criticise their failings whilst ignoring their own.

So, the Lord likens them to a manager who squanders his employer’s property. He was probably pocketing his manager’s wealth to his own advantage. His employer threatens to sack him, he was worried about what he could do to secure his future. So, he craftily sweetens the favour of those whose friendship he would need when he became unemployed.

The Lord’s critics were far from whiter than white. They saw themselves as ‘the people of the light’, Luke 16:8

Yet it was they who had abused the privilege they enjoyed as servants of the Lord God. So, when called to account on the day of judgement they would be cast out, James 5:1-5 / Matthew 25:41-43.

They would finish up spending eternity with many of those they had alienated. So, he advises them they would be wiser using their ill-gotten gains to make friends of them. Then when they finished up in hell along with them, they would be welcomed by them.

‘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 16:9

The Lord Jesus isn’t recommending that the children of God should copy the corrupt manager’s tactics. He was answering the self-righteous folk present according to their own hypocrisy. I see this as being one of those occasions when the Lord Jesus answered blatant hypocrites with irony so as to try and bring them to their senses.

They regarded the outcasts as the type of people who would stoop as low as the corrupt manager did. They couldn’t see that fault in themselves. But since they were at risk of spending eternity with them they needed to sweeten their favour so that they would be welcomed by them into eternity.

‘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.’ Luke 16:8-13

These self-styled ‘people of the light’ anticipated the coming of the Messiah to restore the kingdom to Israel and expected to have prominent roles in that kingdom. Since they were incapable of handling their dubiously acquired wealth wisely, so as to make friends of those with whom they would spend eternity, how could they expect to be entrusted with the spiritual wealth to be had in that anticipated kingdom? Luke 16:11.

The self-styled ‘people of the light’ expected to inherit wealth and privilege in the Messiah’s kingdom as theirs by Divine right. If they couldn’t be trusted with property they have extorted from others how could they expect to be given wealth and privilege in the Messiah’s kingdom? Luke 16:12.

Conclusion

The manager is a symbol for the Pharisees, in this parable, Jesus is telling the Pharisees how they should behave, rather than just commenting on their behaviour. The Pharisees refused to have anything to do with sinners. In the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus is simply saying this.

The debt that sinners hold is their sin against God, God is the creditor, you are just the manager. If God is able to forgive their debt, you should be able to. It would be better for you to forgive their sin on this earth and welcome them to God now than it would be for you to hold them accountable for a debt that isn’t even yours to collect. It costs you nothing and shows the love that God expects.

‘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.’ Luke 16:5-8

I think the last point of pleasing ‘the master’ is when the manager repents and changes, rectifies his cheating ways.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

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