Summary: The parable of the Shrewd Manager is an unusual story where the crook is commended. But Jesus has some important things to say about money and how we spend it.
“YOU’RE RICHER THAN YOU THINK”
“You’re richer thank you think.” Or that’s what Scotia Bank would like you to think. This is a bit of a deceiving commercial, but duh, that’s advertising for you. If you come to Scotia Bank they will look at your investments and show you what the other institution is not doing for you and how you can make more money with them. Perhaps you need a loan – this is where the deception really kicks in – a loan from Scotia will get you what you really want.
It’s not altogether false what Scotia is telling us. I was watching with interest the rise and fall of the Canadian dollar this week. I’m no financial wizard but I understood the principle behind the rise of the dollar: our dollar gains on the Yankee greenback when we as Canadian consumers spend our money. If we fear a weak economy and high interest rates on loans we tend to save our money and further weaken our economy. If we feel secure in our national economy we freely spend and secure loans, buy cars, cottages, boats and what have you thereby driving up the value of our dollar. It really is quite fascinating.
How we spend our money is of great interest to our national health. How we Christians spend our money is of great interest to Jesus too.
In a bizarre parable where a crook is the character commended for his wisdom, Jesus tells us how he thinks money should be used. The story is told that a manager, a steward of another man’s money and property, is somehow cheating his employer. He is about to be fired so he decides to make some friends among his employer’s clients. With some curious authority, the crook cuts huge chunks out of the bills that these clients owe to his master. And he is commended for it…a very difficult thing to understand.
It is the example of this crook that Jesus holds up to teach us in verses 9-13 what he expects of us and our money. He makes four comments that I will introduce with questions.
1. How wisely do you spend money?
Jesus’ first comment on this parable answers the question “How wisely do you spend your money?” Reflecting upon the shrewd manager who made friends with his master’s money, Jesus said, “…use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (v. 9).
Gary told us last Sunday that it was good to save a little money and then added that we could help others with that stash. This leads nicely into what Jesus is commanding here.
Money is not moral or immoral, it is amoral. That means that it is not inherently evil. Money is a tool that can be used for good or evil. Just like guns don’t kill people, people kill people, money is only as useful or dangerous as the person spending it.
What Jesus says is ominously and prophetically true, someday your money will be gone. I have been to three countries now, Paraguay, Brazil and Turkey, where governments had to chop several zeroes off of their currency to make it useable. A million Brazilian Cruzados sounds impressive but was worthless. Imagine having a fat bank account that in a short period was suddenly worthless. It can happen because it happens all over the world. And only 80 years ago it happened here. Money does not retain its value forever.
So the question is: What are you doing with it now that will reap an eternal dividend? Jesus’ command is to spend it in such a way that it helps other people.
The Shrewd manager may have made Enron execs proud but Jesus highlights this: he thought of the future and prepared for it. He anticipated what was coming and got ready. That’s why Jesus commends him. What Jesus wants us to learn is that we Christians need to take seriously that this life is a preparation for a far greater life to come, and what we learn here is what prepares us for living there. If we took that seriously it would make a huge difference in how we spend our money here and now. If money is a tool then it is a tool we can use to bless others and make friends. This has eternal benefits.
2. What does your spending say about you?
Use money while it still has value. Don’t avoid it. Don’t pretend you don’t need it or want it. But do not save it up as though it were an end in itself. Use this temporary vehicle to accomplish a permanent good.
Jesus implies that this will make a great statement about your character. What does your spending say about you? Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (v. 10).