Summary: We are stewards of God’s property and, as stewards, will be held accountable for our managing of what has been entrusted to us.
The Bottom Line
For obvious reasons, this is Jesus’ most difficult parable. How could Jesus use such an
obviously dishonest man as an example for His disciples? I think God uses evil things that we
are familiar with to illustrate a particular point, without praising the thing itself (as Paul used
things like war and slavery as illustrations of the Christian life)
There was a man who had taught school in New York City. The situation was so bad that there
were policemen stationed in the halls. Teachers were routinely assaulted and intimidated. He
learned the realities of life quickly.
On his first day of class, things seemed to start off well. The students all sat relatively quietly in
their seats and gave some attention to him. But, at a pre-determined time, the entire class got up
out of their seats and went to the back of the classroom, where they proceeded to “shoot craps.”
This teacher did not react. But the next day he came prepared. He had taken note of the fact that
at the place where they “shot craps” there was a metal plate. (This plate seemed to give them the
right surface on which to play on.) He wired the plate, and that day, when the class went to the
back to carry on their game, he charged the plate. Things happened quickly, as you would expect.
One extremely large fellow walked up to the teacher and said, “Nice touch, professor. Nice
I think you can tell that, on the one hand, the fellow did not appreciate getting zapped with
electricity. And yet, on the other hand, he had a kind of admiration for the way in which this
teacher had handled things. The teacher was shrewd in dealing with this difficulty.
The same can be said for the rich man in our text in Luke chapter 16. He didn’t appreciate being
“ripped off” by his manager, but he did at least have an appreciation for the shrewdness of the
manager in making provisions for his future. The manager, who was about to get fired, had used
his position and his master’s possessions in such a way as to “make friends” and thus prepare for
his own future. Even the master had to agree that the manager was shrewd. Perhaps, in the words
of that young thug, the master could have said to his manager, “Nice touch!”
Both the unrighteous manager and his master appreciated the same thing—shrewdness. You don’t
commend a man for something you disdain. The contemporary expression, “it takes one to know
one” fits here. The master could recognize and appreciate “shrewdness” because he valued it and
he practiced it. I don’t think that I’m out in left field to say, then, that the master commended his
manager’s shrewdness because he knew that he would have done the same thing in the same
circumstances. You do not praise what you would not do.
We talked last week about the lost sheep and lost coin. In verse one of today’s scripture, Jesus
gives an example of a man who “found” himself, came to his senses regarding his dishonesty, and
found a way out of an almost certain disaster by using both his money and intelligence wisely.
“There was a rich man who had a manager.” Large estates, then and now, are frequently managed
by a person acting in the name of a landlord, who himself is frequently an absentee. This manager
would have full power to enter into contracts, sell goods, manage personnel, etc. much like a
modern day CEO. Of course, the owner could call an audit anytime. In this case, there must have
been more than enough evidence of extortion or incompetence for the owner to call an audit. In
fact, he seems to have made up his mind even before the audit as to the outcome.
In verse three, the manager said to himself, “now what do I do?” He obviously knew the
outcome as well. Considering his options he found only one he could live with. Not used to
actually working, he couldn’t dig ditches and he was too proud to beg, he came up with a plan
which would at least assure him “friends” among those whom he formerly cheated. You have to
picture this now - this guy - knowing that he has done a poor job and that he is going to get
canned changes the bottom line on all the debts that are owed to his master.
This was probably a business where merchants received goods on credit and gave promissory
notes in their own handwriting to the manager. Now, Jewish law prohibited charging interest to a
fellow-Jew. To get around this, debts were translated into commodities like wheat and oil. The
business could have dealt in anything, but the books were kept in those terms. And we have the