Parable of the Dishonest Manager
In Luke 16:1-8, Jesus tells us about a rich man who employed a man to manage his money and accounts. The manager was dishonest and was charged with wasting his master’s possessions. When the charges were brought to the master, he ordered the manger to turn in “the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager” (2). The manager, fearful of what will happen when he is fired, began to negotiate with the debtors “so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses” (4). When the master heard what the manager had done, he “commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness” (8).
This parable is considered one of the more difficult parables to understand because it appears that Jesus is commending dishonesty. It may appear that way on first reading, but let me assure you that Jesus is not commending sinful behavior. Rather, Jesus is providing an example of worldly shrewdness in order to encourage Christians to eternal shrewdness. If you are not familiar with the word “shrewd”, it means to wisely use your powers of judgment to make a situation come out favorable. Jesus says that the “sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (8). This is an indictment upon His followers for failing to be as shrewd in eternal matters as the non-believers are with worldly matters. In the parable, the primary issue at stake is money and possessions.
In order for believers to be shrewder with the things of this world, consider three principles concerning money and possessions: 1) It is not your money, 2) You are a manager of God’s money, and 3) You are accountable for how you manage.
It is not your money
We usually refer to our money as “our money”, but from a biblical perspective we do not actually own the money in our pocket, purse, bank account or mattress. You may ask, “Well, if it isn’t mine whose is it?” God is the rightful owner of all your money and possessions. You may object by saying that you worked hard for the money and possessions you have, you earned it, and who am I to say that it isn’t yours? You actually sound like Charlie Anderson in the movie Shenandoah when he prayed:
Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat, Amen.
You worked for it, you bought it, but the Bible responds by asking, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor 4:7). Who sent the rain to Mr. Anderson’s farm? Who created the seeds that were sown? Who provided the “life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25)? God did and God has provided your money and possessions to you.
You manage God’s money
The money and possessions you have are God’s gift to you. You did not earn them and you don’t deserve them, they are given by grace. But, just because you do not own them doesn’t mean that you are not responsible for them. The Bible says that the money in our pockets and purses does not belong to us, but has been entrusted to us by God to manage.
You are accountable for God’s money
The implications are profound. It is the owner who may do whatsoever He pleases with his property. If He entrusts it to a manager, then the manager must give an account of his master’s possessions. Here is an important point for us to remember: God will hold everyone (Christians & non-Christians) accountable for how they managed His money.
How then shall we properly manage God’s money? God instructs us to manage His money in a way that pleases Him. That means we use it to further God’s agenda not our own. But does this mean I can’t have any fun? Depends on whether or not your idea of fun is different than God’s. I used to think that when I became a Christian I would stop laughing and wouldn’t have any more fun. To my delight I found that my sense of humor remained, but what I found humorous changed. I found that I still have fun, but what I find to be fun changed for the better.
Summary and Practical Application
Your money and your possessions belong to God and are entrusted to you to manage for His kingdom and His glory. We are all held accountable for how we manage what belongs to God. If you have been a dishonest and poor manager of God’s property, I do not want condemnation to come in at this moment to make you despair for your past failings. I do, however, want conviction to come that will produce repentance and faith. The Bible says that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Cor 7:10). I also want you to see the hope offered in the passage. The rich man commended the dishonest manager’s shrewdness in avoiding punishment and God the Father will lovingly bestow grace to all who recognize their sinfulness and turn to God in faith.
If you are not a Christian, turn to Jesus and be saved. Start using your money and possessions for His glory and not your own lusts. If you are a Christian but you are convicted that you are being dishonest with God’s money and possessions, today is the day to repent of past failings and demonstrate your faith in God in the area of your finances. If you are not a “cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7) of your tithes and offerings then you are a dishonest manager and you are accountable to God. Begin today to honor God with your money and possessions. Prioritize your spending for eternity and not worldly things. I have not met a single Christian who committed to this and was disappointed. Yes, it may mean that you have less money to spend on the treasures of this world, but wouldn’t you rather spend it on treasures in heaven anyway? May God bless us all. Amen.