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. 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.’ 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. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 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.’ 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. 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. “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. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 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)
The rich man in the parable refers to God, while the manager refers to us Christians. We should remember that we are all stewards, entrusted with God’s resources to manage them in his behalf.
Since we are stewards, the resources we manage belong to their real owner, which is God. Everything we possess is ultimately not ours because a time is coming when they will be taken away from our hands. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Deuteronomy 8:18, 1 Chronicles 29:12)
We have all been given a limited and finite time to be effective stewards for God. Like the manager in the parable, a time will come when our services will end, then it will be time to give an account before God on how we handled everything he’s given us. (Ecclesiastes 8:8, Isaiah 40:6-8, Psalm 39:4-7)
The manager in the parable was shrewd in thinking about his future. Jesus said the rich man commended him not because of his dishonesty but because of his shrewdness. Jesus lamented how the sons of the world are more shrewd than the sons of light. Will you be as wise in preparing for your future?
The manager gave away some of the debts of his master in order to buy favor for himself. Why was it so easy for him to give? Because what he was giving away was not his. This is the problem why many Christians couldn’t give. We think what we have is ours. When we look at our possessions as being owned by God and ourselves as just being stewards, it would be so much easier to give them away.
Jesus encouraged us to use “unrighteous wealth” to make friends for ourselves. Friends who will welcome us in heavenly dwellings. I interpret this as using our finances to spread the gospel and disciple people. What joy would it be to get to heaven and have people welcome you and thank you because you are one of the reasons why they are there.
Jesus hints that there are “true riches” and riches that will be “our own.” This implies that the riches we have now are not really true riches and they are not really ours. Which is true. We are stewards, and everything in this world will pass away. Jesus is not discouraging us from having wealth and treasure. He just wants us to be wise and shrewd, and go for the true treasure that will really be ours.
God has been gracious to us because he has given us a chance to have real treasure. He has provided a means of turning the temporary into something eternal. How? Be faithful with the temporary and you will have eternal rewards.
You can either love God or the wealth that God has placed in your hands to manage. We can not love both. Loving both is idolatry and adultery. Idolatry is loving something as much or more than we love God. Adultery is loving two things. Trying to love both God and money is like having two husbands or two wives. It simply cannot be.
This parable actually reminds us that how we handle God’s assets in our present daily life has tremendous bearing on eternal realities.
Martin Luther said: “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.”
Be shrewd pilgrim. Be faithful in handling what God has placed in your hand. You either lose them (because they are not yours anyway) or handle them well and exchange them for true treasures that will really be your own.