This reading is connected with Luke 15.
In Luke 15, Jesus is talking to the outsiders about the love of God.
In Luke 16, Jesus is talking to the insiders, the disciples, about people’s love of money.
16 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property.
Some translations refer to this man as a steward. A steward is a manager, especially a manager of money or property. This is a person who manages what does not belong to him.
My great grandfather was such a person. He managed the estate, property and home of a wealthy man in Massachusetts. His diaries detail the period from 1880 until 1923, and one of the interesting stories is that one day, while the owner was in Europe, the dog was missing. My great grandfather was furious to learn that my grandfather had kidnapped the dog in order to mate her with another dog. This was his plan for how to get a dog of his own. My great grandfather wrote in his diary about how terrified he was that he would lose his job because he had not taken proper care of the owners animal and had allowed her to be mated and to have a litter of pups. Fortunately it turned out all right – and in my home I have a professional portrait of that offspring dated 1899.
In the Bible, this particular steward's boss (the rich man) hears that his steward is cheating him (wasting his goods), and he calls him to account.
2 So he (the rich man) summoned him (the manager) and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’
Do you ever watch the NBC reality show, THE APPRENTICE? In it a group of competitors battle for high-level management jobs in one of Trump’s commercial enterprises. In each episode, all of the contestants will sit at the board table with Trump and each week he will evaluate everyone and he will look at one and say, “You’re fired.” In fact, in 2004, he even filed a trademark application for the catch phrase, “You’re fired.”
That’s the situation of the manager. That must be a frightening thing, to be fired. I have known parishioners who were fired and would not even tell their wives. Sometimes months would go by before the family would find out.
Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position 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 dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.
Now you would think that a wise person would start sending out his applications and resumes, but not this person. He prudently thinks about his options. He’s not employable. So he decides he’ll just go live in other people’s homes and live off of them. But who would take him in? He has no friends, so he has to make friends.
’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7 Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.
So, the steward makes friends with his master's debtors by settling their accounts for less than they actually owe. The steward, knowing he will be called to account, used his present position to prepare him for the next stage of his life.
How should the manager respond?
Not in the way we would expect.
What other translations do we have for the word “Shrewdly?”
KJV And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely:
Others: astutely, clever, discretely, or prudently.
This sounds like a negative word, but the Greek word here is the same used elsewhere in Luke and in the New Testament and is elsewhere translated “wisely” or “prudently.”
He is being commended, not because he was dishonest or unethical, but because he was using his brain.
As we look at the next several verses, think about what lessons Jesus teaches YOU in this parable.
So go to it – what lessons could you offer?
LESSON 1 – ACT SMART!
We need to act shrewdly – or wisely. The people of the world are smart – we need to be just as smart.In LUKE 16:8 the lesson is that the sons of this world are wiser in their generation than the sons of light. That means that, if only the Christian was as eager and ingenious in his attempt to attain goodness as the person of the world is in an attempt to attain money and comfort, then the Christian would be a better disciple in an attempt to show love and mercy to others and to serve God.
We should give as much attention to the things which concern our souls as we do to the things which concern our material business,
Over and over again a person will expend twenty times the amount of time and money and effort on pleasure, hobbies, a garden, or sport as on the church or charitable efforts.
LESSON 2 – USE MONEY WISELY
In Luke 16:9 the lesson is that material possessions should be used to cement the friendships wherein the real and permanent value of life lies. In William Barclay’s commentary on Luke, he suggests that this could be done in two ways.
(a) It could be done as it affects eternity. The Rabbis had a saying, "The rich help the poor in this world, but the poor help the rich in the world to come." It was a Jewish belief that charity given to poor people would stand to a man's credit in the world to come. A man's true wealth would consist not in what he kept, but in what he gave away.
(b) It could be done as it affects this world. A person can use wealth selfishly or generously. One can use wealth to make one’s own life easier, or to make it easier for one’s self AND for others. Many people are forever grateful to a rich person who gave or left money to establish scholarships which made a university education possible! Many people are grateful to the friend who was there in some time of need in the most practical way! Possessions are not in themselves a sin, but they are a great responsibility, and the person who uses them to help his friends has gone far to discharge that responsibility.
LESSON 3 – BE HONEST AND FAITHFUL IN EVEN THE SMALLEST THING
In Luke 16:10-11 the lesson is that a person’s way of fulfilling a small task is the best proof of being fit – or unfit – for the bigger task. That is clearly true of earthly things.
LESSON 4 – TIME TO MAKE A COMMITMENT
Luke 16:13 lays down the rule that no slave can serve two masters. It was this same passage in Matthew’s Gospel that changed my life.
I remember reading the New Testament for the first time, and as I was working through this text as found in Matthew I realized I had to make a commitment – either be a disciple – or not.
Matthew 6:24 - "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Money – job – sports – fill in the blank, you have to make a decision to follow God or follow something else.