Summary: A perspective on the parable Luke 16: 1-13; The parable of the shrewd manager. The story builds up to a bunch-line. What is the punch-line in this parable? It is the focal point for discussion and the opportunity for Jesus to bring healing into your life.
A Perspective on: The Parable of the Shrewd Manager
What is a parable?
A parable is a story with the intent of informing the listener something about life. The parables that Jesus spoke compared earthly life to the Kingdom of God and the way to salvation. Many stories throughout the Bible have a ‘punch-line’ in order to: surprise, amaze, shock, awaken, laugh, cry, or as a focal point for discussion and teaching. The parable of the Shrewd Manager has a progressive build-up of the story arriving at a timely punch-line.
Did you hear the punch line in the parable?
Verse 8a is the punch line where Jesus says, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly”.
There you have it. To paraphrase the parable: the manager has been caught fiddling the books and is about to lose his job. To make things worse, he accelerates giving away his masters wealth before he goes. Then the master praises the outgoing manager for swindling him of even more money. “What’s going on?” you might ask. The master’s response was back the front, upside down, opposite to what one would expect. Such a person would normally be thrown into jail. Jesus wants us to see a comparison of how we live our life and how God would like us to live our life.
Let us have a closer look at the parable as it demands, and have a closer look first at the rich man. The rich man, like all of us whether rich or poor is a sinner by nature. The root cause of most of our heart aches, grievances, and alienation from God and others is our self-centred nature. It is a corruption of the original DNA that was first made perfect at the hands of our Creator.
Our self-centred nature has a tendency to draw all things to one self with the intention of creating wealth and power. We live in a society that is made of other self-centred people and I am indeed counted amongst them. We all share in a common culture that believes that wealth is good, greed is good, pleasure is good, and accumulating material wealth is good. It all has one direction and that is towards self.
Many people think nothing of it that a CEO of a large company gets paid millions of dollars a year, many multiples of someone on the minimum wage. They think that is great and wonderful that such a thing can happen. Others gamble and play lotto in the hope of becoming wealthy. Throughout history, a measure of wealth has been the size of a person’s garden. Others live in slums, refugee camps, or in the new wall to wall housing estates that lie on the fringes of many cities. I myself have a garden with the mandatory fence around it.
Our work culture has developed from our self-centred nature. We understand that the employer, boss, or the rich man has a desire to accumulate wealth and we are there to enhance the process in every way. We are there to manage wealth creation for the rich man. In our culture, we respect that as we also desire it for our self. We are so entrenched in our self-centred culture that we find it very hard to move wealth away from us in the other direction. This is most evident as many people dislike paying taxes; avoid giving to charities, and only place small change on the collection plate. It is a hard thing to do to share one’s wealth and blessing and move it in the other direction.
More than likely, it will probably cost you something when you open your hand to someone who is in need. It may cost you time, money, or both. For Jesus, it cost him his life so that many may have eternal life. The four letter word ‘cost’ is well entrenched in our language and culture which reinforces the idea of personal ownership and discourages parting with wealth.
In brief, the following are some of the hazards of wealth accumulation: larger fences are required to keep the needy out, greater home security; it raises emotions of jealousy, fear, anger, and hatred; it can lead to loss of friends, civil unrest, and eventually war. Therefore a manager of wealth needs to be very shrewd in order to survive and be happy.
The problem of the rich man in the parable was that he had forgotten who he was and his place in life. In like manner, the rich man’s manager had also forgotten who he was and his place in life towards his employer. The rich man had succumbed to his own self-centred nature and had forgotten God who had created him and created him for a purpose. Likewise, God has created each one of us and created us for a purpose.