Now he said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions. So he called the manager in and asked, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be my manager.’
“Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’
“So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one.
“‘A hundred measures of olive oil,’ he said.
“‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write fifty.’
“Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’
“‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said.
“‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write eighty.’
“The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings. Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with what is genuine? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (CSB)
In today’s passage we see Jesus tell the story of a dishonest manager, or steward/administrator (which is what the Greek word translated here as “manger” literally means). So a rich man would often employ a manger to handle all the business affairs of his estate. And the charge that the manager described here had squandered the rich man’s possessions, which indicated either neglectful management or criminal misconduct, must have been true. After all the manager offered no defense when he was questioned about his misdeeds. The landowner then demanded a careful accounting of HIS assets, possibly so the next manager would have accurate data from the outset. This manger, realizing that he was being fired had to find a way to support himself. Since he was not in condition to do physical labor and he was too proud to beg, he focused on a way to make his former clients willing to offer him hospitality.
There are four possible explanations that have been offered for this manager’s tactics in lowering the debts that described here:
- He dropped the price enough to ingratiate himself with the debtors.
- He removed the interest charges on the debt.
- He removed his commission on the transactions.
- He reduced the debt back to what it should have been in the first place, after having overcharged them in previously in a bid to hide his mismanagement.
All four of these tactics are possible, but keep in mind that this manager was required to present a full accounting to the landowner. Therefore, his tactics here must have been legitimate.
Because the Greek word in verse that is translated “master” is “kurios,” which means “lord,” some have thought that it was God who “praised the unrighteous manager.” However, it is much more likely that the story ends in the middle of verse 8. Thus it was the landowner rather than God who offered praise, and he did so only because the manager “acted shrewdly” in response to his errors. In the last half of verse 8 and all of verse 9, Jesus shares an implication of the story: the “children of this age,” who are unbelievers, typically deal shrewdly with each other and win friends by this means, whereas the “children of light,” who are believers, often fail to use their financial resources to win people to faith, who then become friends forever. Thus Jesus encouraged his followers, both then and now, to use their money shrewdly, but innocently, in order to advance God’s kingdom.
The second and final lesson that this story teaches is the need to be faithful before the Lord. Spiritually, every believer is a steward of the gifts God has them. And if you are faithful with small amounts of money, the Lord may trust you much more, including things of priceless eternal value. If you cannot be trusted with only a little, you would also be a poor steward if more were entrusted to you.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Joshua 9:3-10:43, Luke 16:19-17:10, Psalm 83:1-18 and Proverbs 13:4