Jesus tells a story in Luke chapter 16. Like all of his parables, Jesus tells this story in a way that causes people to think deeply about the spiritual truth he is teaching. There are twists and turns and surprises that make the story memorable.
I first remember studying this story as an adult when we were hosting a Bible study in our home in NY a few years ago. With a varied group of people sitting in our living room, we wrestled with this story to make sure we understood what Jesus was wanting his followers to learn about money through the parable.
1 Now he said to the disciples: “There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions. 2 So he called the manager in and asked, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be my manager.’
3 “Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’
5 “So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one. 6 “‘A hundred measures of olive oil,’ he said. “‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write fifty.’ 7 “Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’ “‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said. “‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write eighty.’
8 “The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings. 10 Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.
11 So if you have not been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with what is genuine? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own?
At first, this parable may seem confusing. It is NOT teaching you to be dishonest in your business dealings because that would go against the clear teaching of Scripture. It is also NOT teaching you to be greedy because that goes against what the Bible says in other places. It is NOT teaching that you can purchase heavenly rewards. It is NOT teaching you to do things the way the world does them when those ways go against God’s Word. And it is NOT teaching you to be so focused on money that it comes before your love for God. Luke 16:13 makes this clear.
13 No servant can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
So what is Jesus teaching us in this parable?
- God is the owner of all things
- We are simply managers of what God entrusts to us
- We are to be wise (aka, shrewd) managers
- Use the resources entrusted to you for maximum eternal impact
- Serve God, don’t serve money