Summary: Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus: The Parable of the Dishonest Manager: Living Shrewdly
Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus:
The Parable of the Dishonest Manager: Living Shrewdly
September 27, 2009
In the parable of the Prodigal Father we saw the younger brother squandering his inheritance and now we see how a manager squandering his master’s wealth. The point of this parable is not to squander what God has given us but to be faithful managers of it. Jesus is telling us to be shrewd.
1. The Parable Explained (vs. 1-8a)
This rich guy had a household manager who was the person in charge of the day to day affairs of an estate. If you liken the estate to a business, he would be the business manager. He managed the staff, property, money, representing the master in day to his day affairs. Translating that for most of us, he would be our investment broker, banker, or accountant. The master hears that this manager was squandering his assets and fires him and asks for an accounting of his books. Now the manager is thinking ahead, maybe for the first time, realizing he must make some radical decisions to set himself up so when he is unemployed he will be able to support himself (v. 3). This guy is white collar to the bone; he is not strong enough for manual labor and too proud to beg. So he comes up with a plan to get in the good graces of his masters’ debtors so that when he is unemployed others will take him in. His plan is to go to each debtor and cut their bill; the two examples given shows that these debtors were wealthy people. To the one who owed 100 measures of oil, he cut it in half and to the one who owed a hundred measures of wheat he cut it by twenty percent. To give you a feel for the quantities here, 100 measures of oil is 875 gallons. It would take 150 olive trees to make that much oil and it is about three years worth of wages. The one hundred measures of wheat represents between 1000 and 1200 bushels and was 100 acres worth of harvest and eight years wages.
The master finds out what he did and praises him for his shrewdness. Shrewdness can be used in positive or negative ways and that is why Jesus picks up on that theme and encourages his followers to be shrewd. Shrewd means to act wisely or with insight. It was ingenious what he did. He was looking to protect his future, his welfare when it looked like he would be homeless and penniless.
2. The Application: be Good Stewards of God’s Resources (vs. 8b-13)
Here is Jesus’ application. The sons of this age are more shrewd that the sons of light. He then goes on to tell us how to be shrewd as Christ followers. He is telling us how to live in light of the age to come, heaven. How to set ourselves up for more pleasure in heaven.
Be generous toward the kingdom (v. 9)
Shrewd managers make investments in the kingdom to prepare for their future life in heaven. Use your money in ways that pursues Gods interests as his managers in His kingdom. Everything he has given us is to be used to further the kingdom. Use your resources to further his kingdom and by so doing you prepare for your eternity in heaven. If you gear your life and your resources for this life, it will fail you. It is not if; it is when. This is critical because mammon – everything we have here and not just money will let you down. If we live for this life; then we will have a rude awakening come day we stand before God and not welcomed into heavenly dwelling. How we spend our money is a barometer of our spiritual lives, if it is robust, anemic or existent at all. Positive example of this is Zacheus 19:1-10; negative example is Rich man and Lazarus in vs. 19-31.
Faithfulness is key (v. 10-12)
Faithfulness is not dependent upon how much you have, size income, but on what you do with what you have because it points to the condition of the heart. If you are not faithful with little then you will not be faithful in much. How you use your resources now demonstrates trustworthy character that God will reward with greater riches in the Kingdom. If you cannot be trusted in this life then you will not be trusted with true riches (12). None of it is ours, it belongs to God to use as he sees fit.
Can’t trust both (v. 13)
Here is the issue. If we see ourselves as managers of Gods’ resources and are faithful in using them for Gods purposes then we are serving God. If not we are serving money. Jesus is speaking to his disciples but verse 14 tells us that the Pharisees were listening in the background and they ridicule him because they are lovers of money. The Pharisees were very religious people; moralists as we have seen. Yet they loved money and did not love God. What that tells us is that one thing that keeps us from being good managers is the love of money. How do you serve God or serve money? You are not doing anything for money; you are not adding anything to money or to God. Serving here means what money is doing for you; it is what God is doing for you. It means positioning ourselves before money or God to receive their benefits. We serve God by trusting Him to provide for us; we serve money by trusting it to provide for us. You serve God by being generous with your time, your talents, our treasures, and trusting that he will provide for you, protect you, and meet your needs. You serve money by looking to it and using it to meet your needs, to protect you, to provide for you. If that is you or you are veering down that road, or tempted to turn down that road you will end up devoting yourself to money and yourself and hate God. That may seem harsh but that is what the text says. We are managers, stewards, of what God has given you and how you use them is tells the world whether you treasure God or not.