Summary: "Financial Advice from a Crooked Manager" is an exposition of the Parable of the Unjust Steward in Luke 16:1-13. Sermon Point: There is no discipleship where there is no stewardship. The sermon teaches three godly principles of financial stewardship: (1)
FINANCIAL ADVICE FROM A CROOKED MANAGER
Some people avoid church because they feel the preacher is just after their money. And some pastors and churches intentionally avoid the subject of money. Their motives may be sincere. But their strategy is misguided. You cannot be a devoted follower of Christ or biblically functioning congregation if you avoid the fundamental subject of financial stewardship. Did you know there are more than 600 references to prayer in the Bible? And there are almost 500 references to faith. But there are over 2,350 references to money. One out of every ten verses in the Gospels is about riches, wealth, or material possessions. In fact, Jesus talked about financial stewardship more than heaven and hell combined. And over half of the recorded parables of Jesus address money matters. No wonder Jesus follows the three parables about SALVATION in Luke 15 with two parables about STEWARDSHIP in Luke 16: the parable of the unjust steward and the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
The parable of the unjust steward and its application is considered the hardest parable of Jesus and the most difficult passage in Luke’ Gospel. But this complex text makes a simple point: THERE IS NO DISCIPLESHIP WHERE THERE IS NO STEWARDSHIP. Your money management is an objective indicator of your true commitment to Jesus Christ. In fact, your financial stewardship may be the only aspect of your Christian walk that you cannot fake. You can fake prayer, Bible knowledge, worship, holiness, or concern for the lost. But you cannot fake stewardship. Your checkbook will inevitably tell on you. Your life story can be written from your bankbook. It reflects your time, goals, priorities, convictions, and relationships. Whenever government, law enforcement, or business suspect fraud, they determine the facts by following the paper trail to see where the money went. Ultimately, good intentions, personal testimonies, and character witnesses do not matter. What happened to the money is all that matters. In a real sense, this is what Jesus does when he tells his disciples about a crooked CEO who cooked the books in order to maintain his lavish lifestyle after he was fired for embezzling his boss’ money.
In verse 1, Jesus introduces us to a rich man who had manager or steward, which translates the Greek term oikonomos – oikos means “house” and nomos means “law.” It refers to the servant who oversaw the master’s estate. He ruled the house on his master’s behalf. Of course, a steward had to be a man of impeccable character. After all, a steward was entrusted with his master’s receipts and records. He had power-of-attorney over his master’s estate. So verse 1 describes a manager’s worst nightmare. He was charged with wasting his master’s goods. The word charges denotes the malicious intent of the accusations. In other words, whoever told it was trying to get him fired. And the word wasting is the same word used in Luke 15:13 to describe how the prodigal son wasted his inheritance in the far country. So in Luke 16:2, the master confronted the manager, demanded an audit, and terminated his employment.
In verses 3-4, the scene shifts to the steward’s internal boardroom where he holds an emergency meeting with himself. He says: “Now what! You know I have a bad back. I can’t do manual labor. And I have my pride. Begging is absolutely out of the question. What in the world and I going to do now? Hmmm. Yes. I’ve got it! I know exactly what to do so that someone will take me in when my master kicks me out.” So he calls his master’s debtor together. And he says to one of them, “How much do you owe my master?” – a question the manger already new the answer to. The debtor said, “A hundred measures of oil.” Or about 850 gallons oil, which was the yield of about 150 olive trees and was worth about 1,000 denarii. The manager said, “Here, take your bill and quickly change it to fifty measures. Then he said to another debtor, “And how much do you owe?” “A hundred measures of wheat,” came the reply. It was about 1,000 bushels, the yield of about 100 acres, and was worth about 2,500 denarii. News of this meeting traveled fast. And the master heard about it. But when asked to respond, he commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. And the parable abruptly ends there. Verses 8b-13 record Jesus commentary on this parable, in which he uses the bad example of this dishonest manager to teach three godly principles of financial stewardship.
I. USE YOUR MONEY WITH STRATEGIC GENEROSITY.
One of the reasons why this parable is so confusing is because of the commendation the rich man gives the dishonest manager in verse 8. The steward misappropriated his master’s money and falsified official documents to provide himself a golden parachute. He is even called the unjust steward or dishonest manger in verse 8. Yet the master commended him for his shrewdness, which refers to the wise, prudent, or sensible manner in which one conducts himself and his affairs. No, the master does not commend the manager’s dishonest activities. He commends him for his strategic wisdom in devising and executing a plan to ensure that he would not go from being a CEO to being a bum on the street. Even though the master had been cheated, he had to give this crook his props for being smart enough to think about his future in the midst of a crisis. And Jesus cosigns this commendation in verse 8b: “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.”