Friday, December 23, 2022
I love the parables of Jesus. But I’ve got to admit, this one about the shrewd manager threw me for a loop. Take a minute to read it.
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” (v.8)
Is Jesus commending this shrewd manager for cheating his master out of his money by canceling debt without his master’s permission? Can that possibly be true? The rich master found out that his money manager was misusing his money, so he fired him. The manager did not want to be homeless and live on the street begging, so he granted favors to the master’s debtors before his exit from his employment. The purpose of his deceit was to guarantee that he would have some “friends” from whom he could ask for future favors. Give so that you get. Sounds shrewd, right? Sounds like the master and Jesus seems to think so.
But, is his behavior ethical? His former boss commends his shrewdness, and it looks like Jesus is using him as an example that we should follow. Perhaps we need to take a closer look at this parable.
First, do not be confused about who the rich master is. In other parables, a master is considered to be God, but in this one, that is not true. God would not be commending us for being dishonest and a thief. So, what is the point? What is Jesus teaching?
“For the people of this world are shrewder in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” (v8) Jesus is comparing us, the people of the light, with people of this world. People of the world look out for themselves, and people of the light are not doing this. So, how do we as people of the light look out for ourselves without being dishonest? It actually is simple, but we often find it very difficult.
“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. (The shrewd manager’s game plan). But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14). (This should be our game plan!) Throughout His ministry Jesus told us to give to the needy, love your enemies, and do good without expecting anything in return. As a result, your reward will be great, and you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
By doing these things, we are being shrewd by laying up treasures in heaven. We are taking care of ourselves by taking care of others. However, our focus is not on this present world, like the shrewd manager, but on our future at the resurrection of the righteous. This requires us to walk in faith, believing that God will indeed remember that we have been seeking “first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus shares another parable in this chapter, The Rich Man and Lazarus. So how are these two parables connected? The Rich Man was not just rich, but very rich. He had the finest clothes and he ate huge meals each day. Just outside his gate lay Lazarus. It is not that the Rich Man did not know that Lazarus was there, literally begging for some scraps off the Rich Man’s plate. Nevertheless, the Rich Man ignored the cries of Lazarus. Then the expected happened. Both men die. Because the Rich Man claimed Abraham as his father, he expected a great reward when he died. Instead, he experienced great pain and torment. And there in the midst of his pain and agony he saw Lazarus enjoying the peaceful and happy company of Abraham. So, the Rich Man cried out to Abraham to have Lazarus come to him, dip his finger in water, and cool his burning tongue. How ironic! This same Rich Man refused to give Lazarus scraps off his overflowing table. The Rich Man wanted grace and mercy, without giving grace and mercy. The big takeaway is that the Rich Man was not shrewd enough to lay up for himself treasures in heaven. What do you think?
Questions for reflection:
- What is the difference between “give so that you get” and “give and you will get”?
- What is the difference between being repaid and being blessed?
- What is your motive for giving? Is storing up for yourself treasures in heaven a good motive for giving?
- What does God expect from you when confronted with others in need?