Summary: We cannot misuse our responsibilities and interactions with people
The Gospel of Luke contains a lot of parables – stories told by Jesus to help us understand how we are to live our lives. Some of these parables seem to say one thing, but when you really think about them, they have a totally different meaning.
The name of this parable is the unjust manager, someone who has been given the authority to oversee something for someone else. In other words, a servant – even though a manager may have control over other people and resources, he is still a servant to the master. Managers can be responsible for the house or the fields, but still have to answer to the master.
Hear what Jesus says in Luke 16:1-13:
Jesus said to his disciples, “There was once a rich man who had a manager. He got reports that the manager had been taking advantage of his position by running up huge personal expenses. So he called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? You’re fired. And I want a complete audit of your books.’ The manager said to himself, ‘What am I going to do? I’ve lost my job as manager. I’m not strong enough for a laboring job, and I’m too proud to beg. . . .
Ah, I’ve got a plan. Here’s what I’ll do . . then when I’m turned out into the street, people will take me into their houses.’ Then he went at it. One after another, he called in the people who were in debt to his master. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ “He replied, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ The manager said, ‘Here, take your bill, sit down here—quick now—write fifty.’ To the next he said, ‘And you, what do you owe?’ He answered, ‘A hundred sacks of wheat.’ He said, ‘Take your bill, write in eighty.’ “
Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”
Jesus went on to make these comments: “If you’re honest in small things, you’ll be honest in big things; If you’re a crook in small things, you’ll be a crook in big things. If you’re not honest in small jobs, who will put you in charge of the store? No worker can serve two bosses: He’ll either hate the first and love the second Or adore the first and despise the second. You can’t serve both God and the Bank. (Luke 16:1-13)
Can you see the parallel between the master (Jesus) and the manager (us) in our everyday lives? Are we not responsible for ourselves and our families, but ultimately answer to Jesus and God?
In this case, it has been reported to the master that the manager is skimming from the bottom – is a dishonest man. . . he appears to be lining his own pockets. It is interesting that owner asks for an accounting but also fires him at the same time. Obviously something had been going on, because the manager immediately plots his ‘revenge’.
The manager realizes that he no inclination to go work in the fields; he has had a pretty cushy job and really doesn’t want to resort to manual labor. And his dignity won’t allow him to beg – after all, he has been the manager of a great estate.
He still wants to live in the way he had been accustomed to when he was the manager.
What to do??????
Aha, he thought.
“If I make deals with those who over the master, they will think kindly of me and give me a job. Then I won’t have to work in the fields or beg”. (Luke 16:3-4)
So, not caring much for the responsibility attached to this job, he calls in all those who owe his master and make deals with them: changing 100 jugs of oil to 450, 100 bundles of wheat to 80. This was done very quickly, so that no one would catch them making these deals.
Needless to say, those who owed had to be really happy about that arrangement. But, this was dishonest. Even though it was probably a relatively minor thing for the master, it was dishonest on the part of the manager and those who had obligations to the master.
If someone will cheap on such a small thing, what do you suppose they would do if the situation was REALLY important?