“Jesus told his disciples: ‘There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.” Luke 16:1
Have you ever been justly or unjustly fired from a job? I have not experienced this first hand but I do know what it is like to have an accusation leveled against me – both my fault and not my fault. It is a difficult experience.
In the Gospel of Luke, the author records an account of a parable Jesus Christ shared with His disciples.
“Jesus told his disciples: ‘There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’”
In ancient Israel (and in other cultures) the very wealthy would entrust his possessions to a manager or steward – someone that would take care of his things. Apparently this owner heard from someone very reliable that his steward had been mismanaging his accounts. Then we get the manager’s reply.
“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’”
The manager goes into “brainstorming mode”. He begins to consider his situation matched against his skill level and realizes he is in big trouble! Then he has an idea…
“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. ‘The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ ‘Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. ‘He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’”
What was the manager’s idea? Apparently his wealthy employer gave him some time to gather up the books and put things in order before he left. He gives each of those who owe his master money a discount to close out their account. It was unauthorized but the employee was out of a job anyway.
Now listen to Jesus’ commentary on the story – “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
What is Jesus saying? He is not approving of the manager’s abhorrent behavior. However, He is commending his ingenuity in taking a difficult situation and turning it into something that benefits himself.
Why does Jesus tell this story? For His listeners then and for us today here is how I believe it may apply – Jesus wants us to leverage the resources (money and possessions) we have here to help people know and experience the love, grace and salvation found in God. Then, one day when we all depart this world, the people we helped will say “thank you” and welcome us to our eternal home in heaven.