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Summary: Parables for Stewards, Pt. 5

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NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL (LUKE 16:1-12)

I searched the web for what makes a good hire and what makes a bad hire to the following quotes:

“A good hire is hard to find.”

“Making a good hire is important, keeping a good hire is far more important.”

The cost of making a good hire is high; the cost of making a bad hire is even greater.”

“A bad hire is the worse mistake managers can make.”

“A bad hire is worse than no hire.” (the most popular on the Net)

A management company (Right Management) surveyed 444 human-resource professionals to determine how much it costs a company to replace an employee who doesn’t work out, including the cost of recruitment, training, severance and lost productivity. 15% say it is equal to the employee’s annual salary, a high 42% claim it costs them two times the annual salary, a lower 26% answer to three times annual salary, a surprising 6% maintain it is four times, and a shocking 11% insist it is five times! (USA Today 7/25/06, “High Cost of a Bad Hire”)

No parable of Jesus is more controversial to tackle and more difficult to understand than the parable of the unjust steward, and critics of the Bible have a field day pointing to the apparent contradiction and questioning the propriety of the metaphor. The target group in Jesus’ parable was the Pharisees even though it is addressed to the disciples. He used a dishonest crook not to teach his disciples to learn from his dishonesty but to learn despite his dishonesty; not to learn from him, but to learn about him.

The Intuition Quotient: Don’t Be Inept on the Job

16:1 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.’ (Luke 16:1-2)

There is a premium of Internet advice on what not to waste money on besides specific video games, computer accessories and movies:

“Do not waste money on useless lotions.”

“Do not waste money on expensive course prep stuff.”

“Do not waste money on home equipment or health gyms.”

“Do not waste money on superfluous jerseys, scarves, over-coats.”

“Do not waste money on nice covers or binders.”

“Do not waste money on fancy bows and glittery wrappings.”

“Do not waste money on scholarship searches that charge a fee.”

“Do not waste money on fad diets.”

“Do not waste money on web sites that will submit your web site to 1 million search engines. “

“Do not waste money on gas masks or bio suits.”

“Do not waste money on bargains that you see on your computer screen.”

The Greek word for “manager” or “steward” (v 1) has been translated elsewhere in the NIV as “city’s director of public works” (Rom 16:23), “trustee” (Gal 4:2), and “those who have been given a trust” (1 Cor 4:2). The manager in the parable was not a servant belonging to his master that came cheap or was inexpensive; he was hired and paid handsomely for his services. The hireling was often compared mistakenly with Joseph, who was a slave and not an employee (Gen 37:36), so Joseph’s services were free and his master did not have to pay extra for his work.

The steward was fired not because of corruption, embezzlement, fraud or theft. He wasn’t cooking the books or lining his own pocket. He was not accused of wrongdoing but of wasting his employer’s possession and resources – of being careless, spendthrift and wasteful. The Greek word for “wasting” (v 1) is the same word applied to the prodigal who “squandered his wealth” in wild living (Luke 15:13). Worse, the steward never did something about it or did not have an answer for it. Maybe he thought the employer wouldn’t miss the money. The employer was rich, but he was not a bank, and even if he could afford to absorb the loss, he wouldn’t want to maintain the payroll. The owner had to revamp or end the business or cut the manager and trim the payroll. At this point, he was not thinking of profit but of stopping the bleeding.

The manager had a Washington or Sacramento big-government spend-spend or tax-tax mentality, spending the money of others and socking the bill to the taxpayers - or the owner, in this case. In today’s term, he was guilty of poor management and bad decision-making, but not of shoddy business practices or white-collar crime. He did not commit a crime or he would have been arrested, charged and jailed. Still, the man was clueless, naïve and oblivious to the problem. The Greek word “accused” (v 1) is used on no other person and in nowhere else in the Bible. He did not bring up the mistakes or missteps to the employer; the owner had to take up the matter with him. The manager had nothing to say and nobody to blame. The rich man had to let him go; he was losing money on the manager who had no clue on how to repair the damage, repay the debt or recover the loss. The hiring was a disaster. The manager was paid good money to make more money, not to lose revenue or post losses for his employer.

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