Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 19, 2018
1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. 10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
— Luke 16:1-13, ESV
In the year I became a follower of Jesus Christ, the late Larry Burkett published his seminal book, “How To Manage Your Money.” It launched an entire realm of stewardship ministries in the evangelical church and proved to be most helpful to many Christians, including myself. It is important to view your money and material possessions as gifts from God and to learn how to manage them wisely and generously.
But do you know what can be more fun than managing your own money? It is managing someone else’s money! Capitalists like Bernie Madoff enjoyed it, until they caught him and put him in prison. Socialist governments, like the defunct Soviet Union, repressed Cuba, and bankrupt Venezuela, think it is great, until you run out of other people’s money to spend. Someone needs to teach a course, write a book, or just teach a good lesson on “How To Manage Someone Else’s Money.”
Actually, Jesus did. In what may be His most perplexing parable, the Lord tells a tale about a money manager gone bad. His original audience of tax collectors, Pharisees, and disciples found it very interesting. So should we, because all of us manage someone else’s money.
A Twisted Tale
On the surface, this parable seems to praise a dishonest manager for dishonestly mismanaging his dishonest boss’ assets in order to curry favor in the eyes of dishonest customers. Every actor on the stage is dishonest! The rich man was charging exorbitant interest on his commodities, in express violation of Jewish law. The manager was derelict in his duties and after getting caught, schemed with customers to cheat the boss and enrich himself. The customers themselves were complicit, switching the price tags to lower their bills. How could this be good?
It isn’t. Nowhere else and not here does Jesus ever praise dishonesty, deceit, nor ungodliness in any form or fashion. This is a parable, and the purpose of a parable is to present a plot that makes a point. The characters here are all bad, all dishonest, all lost and unrighteous people doing what lost and unrighteous people do, namely looking out for number one! But out of the cesspool of their selfishness, Jesus identifies a redeeming virtue, shrewdness.
Even the robber baron boss recognized it. The man mismanaging someone else’s money acted shrewdly to make a place for himself in this present world when his current job ran out. Of course, I doubt it ended well. He got caught, after all, and we can all be sure that one day our sin will find us out. He lost his job, the forged receipts were collected as evidence, and the customers wound up paying full price. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and everyone lived miserably ever after.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, go and do likewise!
A Turned Plot
God would not want us to be greedy. He does not sponsor fraud. But He recognizes shrewdness when He sees it, even among heathens and pagans. With the characters He created for this parable, He pulls out their unrighteous shrewdness and commends the righteous to be shrewd in more righteous ways.
The unrighteous manager was planning for the future, albeit unrighteously. He handled his present capital, which was actually someone else’s money, in such a way to provide for a prosperous future. Amidst a backdrop of ungodliness and underhanded dealing, this lone quality of living today with an eye towards tomorrow, was praised by the rich man and highlighted by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Forget about someone else’s money for a moment. Focus on the twists and turns of the parable. Preparing for the future in the present is shrewd, wise, commendable, even when the wrong kind of people do it in the wrong way. Now turn it over. God wants His people, the right people, to live for the future today, and all of the right ways. How?
The same word Luke uses for “shrewd” was used by Matthew when he recorded another parable of Jesus to close his version of The Sermon on the Mount (ref. Matthew 7:24). There it is usually translated “wise,” and refers to the man who built his house on the rock instead of sand, a man who definitely lived for tomorrow today.
Start with your very own soul. Repent and believe the gospel, look to Christ and trust in Him completely, today! In the future, this soul and resurrected body will have a reunion in Heaven that is just too wonderful for words. Live for tomorrow today!
Learn the word of God and faithfully obey His commandments. Faith is the opposite of sin, and faithfulness will keep you from sinning. Sure, once you come to Christ all of your sins, past and present and future, are forgiven. But unfaithfulness robs you of precious fellowship with Christ now and will cost you rewards later. Furthermore, a bad witness for Christ now may cost someone else their soul, later. Live for tomorrow today!
Be generous with your resources and give away as much as you can. The master in this parable gave the manager oil and wheat to manage. The Master in Heaven has given His children time, talents, and treasure to manage. Spend them, now, in ways that will benefit others and even yourself in the future. Live for tomorrow today!
By no means does this mean you cannot enjoy the moment. By all means, do so. But since it is better to give than to receive, our present moments will be richer when we give riches away. So give your time to the worship and work of God’s church, use your strengths an abilities to glorify God and do good for others, and keep the money you need to provide for yourself and family and find ways to give the rest away.
Remember the two famous quotes of the late, great missionary Jim Eliot. Live for the moment: “Wherever you are, be all there.” But, primarily for the future: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Thank you, Jim.
A Telling Point
If you are a Christian, you are forever managing someone else’s money. For, everything belongs to God, and every good and perfect gift you have, including your money and property, is a stewardship for your to manage. Manage it well.
Begin by being faithful in the little things. Make an honest living. Pay your bills and taxes. Give tithes and offerings to God’s church. Be generous to family, friends, and strangers when you can.
Be faithful in the big things. Nothing should be bigger in your life than the glory of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are you living for these things? Are you giving for these things?
Have one Master, not two. Jesus closed His teaching here with one of His most memorable quotes: “You cannot serve God and money.” But, you can serve God with your money, with all of your means, with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Look out for number one, and make sure your number one is the Lord Jesus Christ!