A parable is a story out of the natural world to teach something about the spiritual world, on the assumption that what is true in the one is true in the other.
Jesus told a parable about a rich man’s estate manager who was trusted to manage all his business affairs. The arrangement went well until someone reported to the rich man that his manager was being wasteful with resources entrusted to him.
He was not accused of pilfering or stealing large sums. He was simply accused of being careless and indulgent with resources he did not own but was employed to manage wisely.
With that, the rich man confronted his manager, ordering him to bring his financial records up to date in short order and then consider himself discharged of his duties.
The manager was shocked. He had expected the position was his for life. Suddenly it is snatched away on short notice. In panic he reviews his options: He knows he’s not strong enough to dig ditches, and it would be beneath his dignity to be found begging on a street corner.
Accordingly, he devises a clever solution. He will use the few fleeting days left in his job dishonestly to create situations that will provide for his needs when his employment abruptly ends.
So, he called in persons who had debts to his master. He asked the first how much he owed. The answer was 800 gallons of olive oil. Hurriedly he had the debtor rewrite the bill making it 400.
He instructed the next debtor to take his bill for 1000 bushels of wheat and rewrite it for 800. On and on his scheme went until all debtors had had their bills reduced.
This shrewd manager knew that the favors he had bestowed on them would evoke generosity when they found him dismissed and unemployed. He would thus be well cared for in his post-job life.
So, how did the wealthy owner respond when he learned of the manager’s shrewd dealings? While recognizing the fellow’s dishonesty, he nevertheless commended his shrewdness (probably with some reluctance) in providing for a comfortable future for himself when his employment ended.
By this plan, when the manager became unemployed he would not be destitute. Friends would be there to greet him and offer him support with thanksgiving.
We note again that a parable is a story out of the natural world to teach something about the spiritual world, on the assumption that what is true in the one is true in the other.
With that we come to Jesus’ application of the story:
First, he says, “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” (Luke 16:8).
This is a lament. Too few members of the Lord’s kingdom deal with the fact they are stewards of all materials in their care and the stewardship will come to an end all too soon.
That is, whatever they have of worldly wealth is a trust. God is the owner of all. Moreover, their season of trust will be brief at its longest. But — and here is the lament — they are not as shrewd in managing this wealth for heavenly results as the dishonest manager in Jesus’ parable for favors in this life.
The capstone of the parable is clear. Jesus exhorts: “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9).
One can’t miss the point: if we are faithful stewards of worldly wealth in this life and direct it to spiritual ends, we will be greeted in heaven by some who will profess that it was our faithful use of the resources entrusted to us in spiritual ways that accounted for their presence there to greet us.
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