Parable of the dishonest manager (18 Sep 2016)
Jesus seems to give strange advice!
Hard to pick the hero in the parable:
- Not the manager: dishonest and at least inefficient
- Not the Pharisees: lovers of money and an abomination in the sight of God
- Not the Master: employs the wrong people, did not keep an eye on his affairs, got ripped off.
In some parables one of the characters represents God: not this one!
What happened in the parable?
- Manager/steward appointed to run the master’s business and care for his affairs but who wasted/squandered and perhaps stole his master’s possessions.
- Charges were made to the boss that the manager was wasting his possessions.
- The boss called him in and gave him notice of dismissal.
- The manager decided to set himself up for when he was out of work – he wanted to avoid being a beggar and was afraid of good honest work,
- He does favours for people, lining them up to owe him favours in return when he needs it
- The master is impressed and commends the manager for being shrewd – but sacks him anyway.
- Jesus applies the lessons first to the disciples and then to the Pharisees.
In what way was the manager shrewd?
He sat down with each of his master’s debtors and cuts down their debts by 50% in one example, 20% in another.
He now has happy new friends who now owe him at least hospitality in return.
Where did the money come from to make the discounts?
- From the Master?
- Following the dishonesty he was charges with he then writes off even more of the bosses income when he is confronted – would the master commend him?
- The Manager himself?
- Perhaps he made up the difference from his commission he earned as he collected his master’s debts.
- Being the dishonest man he was perhaps he had been squirreling away grain, oil or money which was meant for the master and used that to buy off the debtors.
- Perhaps he had been stealing 20% or even 50% of his master’s income for some time and used these ill-gotten gains to set himself up in the future.
- Whichever – he made friends
What was Jesus’ lesson for the disciples?
- You cannot serve two masters; in particular you cannot serve God and Money at the same time.
- It’s not even a matter of putting God first and money second; it’s a matter of serving God and NOT money.
- The lesson is to serve God ONLY.
- But while we are not of this world we are in it: you can’t avoid money!
- Money and property in themselves are not evil – only the love of it, of setting wrong priorities about it.
- So don’t be naïve with the money you handle: learn from the worldly people how to use it wisely, even shrewdly – not meanly, dishonestly or carelessly:
- On the one hand you can show people good, honest dealings with them and money and so impress them with your faith, with your Christianity;
- When things are gone, money is gone and you enter the eternal dwellings hopefully your faithful use of money will win others to Jesus so that they will be there to welcome you!
- On the other hand you can make sure you don’t suffer the fate of the master in the parable and get ripped off!
- In eternal terms money is a very little thing – worthless – You can’t take it with you
- so be faithful with your use of it and of the other things with which God entrusts you.
- If you cannot handle such little things why would you be entrusted with the bigger things, the enormous, true riches that belong to you as a child of God, and heir and co-heir with Jesus?
The lesson for the Pharisees
While Jesus was telling this parable to his disciples the Pharisees were listening in. They could not cope with Jesus’ teaching.
They were mockers and ridiculed, scorned Jesus who pointed out to them the two errors they made:
- They were “lovers of money” and were just as dishonest, bad stewards much like the one in the parable.
- They had failed to see that the kingdom of God had arrived.
- Up until John the Baptist the only way to get right with God, to find righteousness, was to keep the Law and the Prophets’ teachings – yet this was something they themselves could not manage and just put on a show to justify themselves before men.
- This falsehood did not impress God who regarded it as an abomination.
- The Law was now fulfilled in Jesus so that the only way to get right with God was by having faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
- But this is good news! When people hear and understand it they become keen to respond and come into the Kingdom of God.