The shrewd manager

This story was told not to the Pharisees but to the disciples of Jesus. It concerned a shrewd businessman whom the owner of a business appointed as manager. In this business, dealings were made by exchange of goods rather than payment of money, a practice that enabled the manager to cheat the owner. When the owner found out, he decided to dismiss him (Luke 16:1-2).

The manager then thought of a plan to ensure help from his business friends after his dismissal, as he did not want to become a beggar or a labourer. He therefore reduced the amounts that his business friends owed, so that they could pay their debts quickly. More importantly, they would feel obliged to return some favour to the manager after he had lost his job. The owner, being something of a scoundrel himself, appreciated such cunning (Luke 16:3-8).

Such, said Jesus, is the way of the world. If Christians had the diligence and foresight in spiritual matters that others have in worldly matters, they would be better people and enjoy a more lasting reward. If they used their material possessions to help others, they would gain true friends now and lasting prosperity in the life to come (Luke 16:9).

God’s people should realize that they are answerable to him for the way they use their goods and money. In God’s sight they are not owners of these things but managers. If they are generous in using what God has entrusted to them, God will reward them with permanent riches. If they are selfish, there will be no reward (Luke 16:10-12). They have become slaves to money and therefore they are disloyal to God (Luke 16:13).

The Pharisees considered wealth to be a reward for keeping the law, and they sneered at Jesus’ teaching. Jesus replied that God was not impressed with their show of righteousness, for he saw their pride-filled hearts. They did not realize that the old era of the law had passed and the kingdom announced by John had arrived. The only ones who understand the real meaning of the law are those in the kingdom. The godly are therefore zealous to enter it (Luke 16:14-17).

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