The Gospel of Luke

This devotional is written by Matt Coombs. Matt is one of the leaders at St Mary's and is married to Pip.

Luke 16:1-18

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 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 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.

Additional Teachings

16 "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

18 "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Reflection

This parable is about money and our attitude towards it. The passage can be broken into two parts: the parable (verses 1–8) and the application (verses 9–13).


In most of Jesus' parables, the protagonist is representative of God or Christ. In this parable none of the characters are good, suggesting that Jesus is not encouraging us to emulate their behaviour but is communicating a bigger principle.


The parable begins with a rich man calling his steward before him to inform him that he will be relieving him of his duties for mismanaging his wealth. The steward, realising that he will soon be without a job, makes some shrewd deals behind his master's back by reducing the debt owed by several of the master's debtors and making friends with them for protection when he will be unemployed. When the master becomes aware of what the wicked servant had done, he commends him for "acting shrewdly".


Jesus is drawing a contrast between the "sons of the world" (i.e., unbelievers) and the "sons of light" (believers) (16:8). Unbelievers are wiser in the things of this world than believers are about the things of the world to come.


"I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." (16:9). Similarly to Jesus' teaching on money in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus encourages his followers to lay up treasures in heaven (Mt 6:19–21), Jesus is encouraging his followers to be generous with their wealth in this life so that in the life to come their new friends will receive them "into eternal dwellings."


When Jesus says worldly (or unrighteous) wealth (16:9) he is not suggesting that Christians should gain wealth unrighteously and then be generous with it. "Worldly" is in reference to the corrupting influence that wealth can have that often leads people to commit unrighteous acts. Wealth is not inherently evil, but the love of money can lead to all sorts of sin (1 Tim 6:10).


So, the principle that Jesus is trying to convey is one of a just steward rather than an unjust one. The unjust steward saw his master's resources as a means for his own personal enjoyment and advancement. Conversely, Jesus wants his followers to be just, righteous stewards. Everything we own is a gift from God (Ps. 24:1) and we are his stewards. We are to use God's resources to further his goals. In other words, we are to be generous with our wealth and use it for the benefit of others.


How can you invest your wealth to build God's kingdom today?

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