Summary: Let us use our present resources to influence, to make a great impact, to make a lasting difference for our future, for eternity.
This morning, as we are about to enter our Missions Month, we will look into investing in eternity. Let us read the parable of the shrewd steward at Luke 16:1-13. We will look at what is dubbed as one the most difficult parables of the Lord. There are those who accuse the Lord of praising dishonesty in this parable. But, I think they missed the point of this parable. It is not because the parable is hard to understand but because it is hard to accept. Parables are called earthly stories with heavenly meanings. Usually, a parable has one moral lesson or one big idea. Keep that in mind as we look into this story so we can glean “Good Lessons From A Bad Example.”
The first lesson we learn from this parable is that money has the POWER to impact our future. We are not just talking of our future here on earth. We are talking here even of our future there in heaven.
Allow me to add a disclaimer. To our new friends today, the topic today is for the members and regular attendees of Makati Gospel Church. You may learn from this but the message is not aimed at you. We take money matters seriously in this church and we seek to follow what the Bible teaches us on how to handle our finances. We are not teaching this to enrich ourselves. We just want to obey the Lord even in our resources. Thank you for understanding.
Verse one says, “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.” Note that in verse 6 it says that one person owed him eight hundred gallons of olive oil and in verse 9 another owed him one thousand bushel of wheat. That was not a small-time business. This rich man was an oil and wheat magnate!
Then, he got someone to manage his business. “In Jesus’ day managers were often hired by wealthy people to care for the finances of their estates. Such a manager would be comparable to a modern-day financial planner or trustee who controls the finances of an estate for the purpose of making more money for that estate.” But, then the rich man found out that his manager was squandering his money. So, he called for a full-scale audit. In verse two, we read his order: “Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.”
It appears the accusation was true. He was guilty as charged. It was not a wrongful termination. Verse three shows that he thought more of his life after termination rather than proving his innocence: “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’”. He knew that once the audit publicly exposed his guilt, no one would hire him anymore. He would end up doing menial jobs. But he wasn’t strong enough. Worse than that, he would be reduced to a beggar. But he was too proud to do that.
So, he came up with a scheme to secure his future. Look at verses 4 to 7: “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?’ ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’ 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.’” He gave huge discounts left and right! Can he really do that? Constable explains, “The agent could well have received a commission for each of the transactions that he had negotiated for his employer and deducted these commissions from the debtors’ costs.” Can you imagine that? The fact that he can afford to give up to 50% discount off was because that’s how much he padded the prices of these commodities. That shows that he took up to 100% commission. He gave up his commissions. Now, by giving them substantial discounts, he won the favor of his master’s debtors “so that, when [he] lose [his] job here, people will welcome [him] into their houses.” They owe him now. So, in a sense, the manager did not really lose. The commissions he gave up can be considered investments.
Because of what he did, verse 8 says, “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.” That’s the punch line of the parable. This is where people thought the Lord commended his corruption. No, he was not praised for his dishonesty but for his decisive action to secure his future by investing in it. This was a case of a good lesson out of a bad example. The manager acted with foresight. “Jesus did not commend the steward for robbing his master or for encouraging others to be dishonest. Jesus commended the man for his wise use of opportunity.” The Lord made a lesser to greater argument. If those who do not believe in God can prepare for their temporal future, then how much more those who do believe in Him could also prepare for their eternal future.