Jesus is the Son of Man
The Dishonest Manager
All right! Please turn with me, if you will, to Luke chapter 16. WE are preceding through Luke’s Gospel and spending time right now looking at a lot of the teachings of Jesus, as he is teaching via parables to the Disciples, the scribes and Pharisees and to all around him that would listen.
And recently, we have been looking at a lot of the stories, the miracles, the parables of Jesus that are very well known. And as I’ve shared, the problem is that so many of those stories that are so well know, the problem is that we gloss over them because we assume that we know all there is to know about them.
In those instances, I try to spend some time a have us dig deeper than we would normally go. We work to find out what we have forgotten. We look at what we have missed. We double check contexts, and we look at what Jesus main point was when sharing it. As one theologian said, “The Bible can never mean what it never meant.”
This week we come across the opposite problem. Today we see a story that I have seen glossed over for pretty much the opposite reasons. This is a story that I have not spent a lot of time studying, not like I should have, until this week. This is a story that I don’t see or hear referenced much, if at all. This is a story that I don’t recall hearing any sermons or classes taught on. But it is important, and we know that because Jesus spoke it and it was included in the Bible.
But because its not a story that gets dwelt on too much, its extra important to look at Luke’s Gospel and see the context. We look at what Jesus has been teaching lately and the themes that have been popping up.
First, God knows all and is in control of all. He decides who gets saved and who he calls to himself. Salvation is all by God’s grace, no merit or work from us involved. Discipleship takes work and it costs something. And it’s all about God’s glory and the Kingdom of Heaven. These are some of the themes we have seen recently.
We just finished, the last two weeks, looking at the three parables in Luke chapter 15. The lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son, which could also be named the lost brothers. Those parables were very specifically told to the scribes and pharisees.
His ultimate point was twofold, first, joy and partying every time a soul repents and becomes a child of God. And second, that you cannot do it yourself. IT doesn’t matter how hard you try; the sheep couldn’t go back and find the Shepard, the coin couldn’t find the woman looking for it and both brothers were ultimately trying to work to earn their fathers love. Our actions do not contribute to our justification.
With that context in place, lets go ahead and read this morning’s passage, Luke chapter 16, verses 1 through 13. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation.
Luke records, starting in chapter 16, verse 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[a] 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[b] 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[c] 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,[d] 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.”
Thus says the Word of God
So, this parable, this story, we see contrasted with the last few, was spoken very specifically to the Disciples. This quite possibly could have included the tax collectors that we see getting close to Jesus in Luke 15:1. And we will see next week that the Pharisees were also present and heard what Jesus said here.
Now, the actual story he tells his disciples is not very deep. There’s not a hidden meaning, though there is a confusing part to it. Jesus just tells the story and it’s a straightforward telling of the account.
A rich man has a dishonest manager in charge of his estate and affairs. When he hears about the managers dishonesty, he brings him to him and essentially fires him. Now, this manager had time to finish up a few things before his dismissal becomes known.
He starts thinking, what am I going to do now? We have all been there. No matter your beliefs or whether or not it was deserved, life throws a curve ball at you, in this case unexpectedly losing a job, and we wonder, what am I going to do now?
And this guy limits his options moving forward. He is too proud to beg, and he is too white collar, not skilled or strong enough to do the hard work of blue-collar labor. He, at least in his mind, was only qualified to be a manager and now that everyone will find out he was dishonest, its not likely anyone would hire him.
Now, nobody could accuse this manager of being a stupid man. Foolish, sure, dishonest, absolutely, but not stupid. He comes up with an idea. Ill curry favor with those whom I interact with now, those who owe my master money.
SO, he goes to some of the people who owe his boss, or ex-boss money and he essentially cuts their debts, to a partial amount, he forgives parts of the debts. He was very generous to them, though not so much to his master then. He was trying to get in good with those who owed so that one of them might be inclined to hire him when it comes out that he needs a job.
Now comes the confusing part. Jesus says that the master commended the dishonest manager’s shrewdness. I was curious and looked up the word commend, in the original Greek and it means exactly what it sounds like, what many of you have it as in your translations, The master praised his shrewdness.
TO me that’s where this gets confusing and for many of us, this is what can make the story uncomfortable and make us want to just kind of gloss over it. But its right here, Jesus words, so I don’t think we can just gloss over and ignore it.
So, what does it mean that he commends his shrewdness? Well, we know he can’t be praising his dishonesty. He just fired him for that. My initial thought was that the master saw what the manager had done, and he just looked and went WOW. What he did was that brazen, that bold, that cunning that the master just kind of had to hand it to him, that attempt was something all right…
But I think what Jesus is showing us here is that shrewdness, thinking ahead and being smart and tactical and logical about it, is often only a tactic used by the enemy and the worldly. But we are to use that same shrewdness, being smart, tactical and logical to work for the eternal good.
Jesus says the Sons if the world, meaning not children of God, not believers, look how clever and cunning they can be when looking out for their own interests. But we are children of God. We are called to be honest but shrewd managers of Gods estate and affairs. We are called to be good stewards of his possessions.
And we don’t belong to ourselves. We are not to be looking out for our own interests, but for the interests of God. And what we steward is not our own but belongs to someone else. Warren Weirsbe writes, “The steward must remember that they (the goods or possessions) belong to his master, not to him personally, and that they must be used in a way that will please and profit the master.”
Jesus tells the disciples to use your goods and money for the good of God. One study note I read shows us that the sons of this world are more attentive to the here and now than believers are to eternity. And it shows, in that often, we look just like the sons of this world.
Jesus is showing us that shrewdness can be good, if we use it correctly. In Matthew 10, he tells the disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
We saw the manager try to use money to make himself friends here and now. Jesus says, use the goods and money of this world to make eternal friends. Now, again, we have to ask what he means by that. And we start out with what he doesn’t mean.
We know, especially after the parables in chapter 15, that we cannot use our money to gain influence with God, to make him our friend. We can in no way, shape or form buy our way into heaven. So that cant be what he means.
What a number of theologians and commentators have taken from this, and I agree, is that we should use our money, our goods, our possessions, whatever we have to work for and spread the gospel and the kingdom of God. When we give and support our local church, when we give and support local gospel-based ministries, when we give and support missionaries around the world, both foreign and domestic, then lives are changed, people are converted, souls are saved, and we will see them as friends in heaven for eternity.
Jesus next point is that money, goods, wealth, success, these things reveal character, not develop character. Its so easy to say, and I’ve said it in the past as well, “Once I get a raise or once I do this to get more income, then ill finally be able to give…” Jesus says, nope. He who is faithful with a little will be faithful with a lot, and he who is dishonest with a little will be dishonest with a lot.
It comes down to the mindset and the heart. Weirsbe again, he writes, “The thief says, “What’s yours is mine- I’ll take it!” The selfish man says, “What’s mine is mine- Ill keep it!” But the Christian must say, “What’s mine is a gift from God- Ill share it!” We are stewards and we must use our abilities to win the lost, encourage the saints, and meet the needs of hurting people.”
We also see that our trustworthiness and our faithfulness is a sing of the fruit that we bear. And the fruit we bear, while it does not determine it, is an outward sign of our spiritual life or our spiritual death. The LORD loves a cheerful giver. And its not only money, either. We are talking about money, about time, about our gifts, about our commitment, about our faithfulness. Are we faithful in our commitment to serving our master with his possessions?
If we are dishonest with one’s persons goods, why would another person think it can be any better. I think one easy to see example is with infidelity in marriage. It can be either husband or wife, but for sake of clarity, let’s say that the husband cheats on his wife and they divorce. The husband then marries the woman whom he cheated with. It’s not a guarantee of course, but by the statistics, there should be no surprise when the husband cheats again, this time on his new wife.
The dishonest manager was cheating his master. He gave unethical deals to those who owed the master money and then wanted one of them to hire him. If any of them did hire him, they should not be surprised when he cheats them out of their money.
If you are not a good steward, if you are not responsible with what God has given you here and now in this world, why would he expect you to be responsible, to be a good steward of “true riches,” the eternal, spiritual, heavenly gifts?
Lastly, Jesus says that we cannot serve two masters, God and Money. He doesn’t say we shouldn’t. He doesn’t say don’t. He says we can’t. But boy do we try…
We hear this often, that we cannot serve both masters, but what does it actually mean? Its easy to know what the big picture, the theoretical, the intellectual part of what it means. It means don’t make money an idol. Money isn’t everything and God is better than and more important than money. Easy, right?
But its not as easy to live, not in any practical sense. Because what this means is that either you will use your money to serve God, or you will use your god to serve and to make money.
Sometimes this is very subtle in how it plays out. We can very easily trick ourselves which of those two directions we are going. Its really easy to justify our blindness, our choices, our actions, and our sins. Its especially easy when we have people who are influential, whom we listen to telling us its ok.
Who we listen to and who we let influence us matters? 99% of the so-called preachers that we see on TV are selling some form of the Health and Wealth Gospel. They are serving money and using their god to do it. And they are selling it to you. SO many of the books out there telling us that God wants us to be rich (that’s an actual title, BTW) or that we should live our best lives now. That if we would just pray a little harder, believe a little more, sow a seed, that God will bless us and that He wants to do so, its just our lack of faith that’s holding God back.
Now when I say these things, it’s really easy to notice the error. But these guys don’t make it that easy. They have silver tongues, and they are talking to itching ears, and they make it sound oh so biblical…
And again, it’s not just finances, it’s not just money. Its influence, its status, its power, its knowledge, its health. It’s all of those things. We use it to serve God, or we use god to serve it by trying to gain more of it and using it for ourselves.
The question that Jesus brings to our minds here should be Who is Ultimate in our decisions Who is Ultimate in our actions, in our choices?
Are we God focused? Or are we self-focused? IS God Ultimate in our lives? Or is self Ultimate. Manifesting in Money, family, job, hobbies, everything and anything else besides God.
The answer to those questions is the ultimate showing of our fruit. We will show either the fruit if the spirit, or the fruit of the flesh. We will be sons o the world or children of God. The choice is ours to make but make it we must.