Luke 16 is wonderful. Jesus is forcing us to consider things that we often don’t want to (finances). Jesus begins by telling the story of the shrewd manager. This parable can be very confusing, so let’s break it down a little.
Think of the master as the CEO of a business. The manager is similar to a chief financial officer. It is the manager’s job to handle all the financial affairs of the master. This could include property, resources, and money itself. The master in this story finds out that his manager is ripping him off, so he calls him in for a meeting. No one likes getting called into a boss’ meeting when they’re stealing.
The master makes a very reasonable request and asks for an accounting before he fires the manager. This would take some time, just as it would today. The more assets someone has, the longer it will take to put everything together in a nice report. Knowing that he has time, the manager uses this to his advantage. The manager reaches out to everyone who owes a debt to the master and reduces their debt. Not by a small amount either, by a large amount.
The manager is very strategic here. He knows he is going to be without a job soon. He can’t work in the labor force, and he has too much pride to beg. So he concocts a plan that will gain favor with the masters debtors. By reducing the debts, it looks like the manager is very generous. That generosity would bring favor with the debtors and would likely lead to a new job. The only person losing in this situation is the master.
And to everyone’s surprise, the master commends the manager.
What?! The master had a high level business associate lie to him, take money from him, lie to his business partners, reduce their debts (further damaging his profits), and the master is….impressed.
Thankfully, Jesus explains. (v9) “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”
Jesus is not approving of the actions of the manager. He is using this as a model for how we should be strategic and purposeful with our generosity. Jesus is teaching us that making wise decisions with our resources is important. This does not mean we are trying to earn or buy our way into heaven. No, we are to be generous to help those in need, or to help others find Christ.
And of course, just to put the nail in the coffin on the topic, Jesus says this (v10-12), “If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the large ones. But if you are dishonest in the little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And, if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the riches of heaven? And you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?”
How do we apply this? We can strive to be trustworthy in all situations. With our finances, with our actions, with our words, and with our thoughts. We can become masters at being faithful in the little things! Then when God deems it appropriate, he will add the greater responsibilities! And what a blessing that is.
You Cannot Serve Two Masters
Money, and the proper use of money, is one of the most common themes in the Bible. The Bible warns of placing your faith and trust in money as it can easily become a barrier to your relationship with God. It is worth doing a ‘gut check’ to see if money has hindered your spiritual growth. If you answer yes to most of these questions, you may need to spend some time in reflection about how money affects you.
- Do you think about and worry about money frequently?
- Do you cancel plans so that you could be making more money?
- Do you spend a great deal of time caring for your possessions?
- Is it hard for you to be generous with your time or finances?
- Are you content with God has given you?
Money can be very deceptive. On one hand, we can use it to bless many people who otherwise would not receive a blessing, and on the other hand, it can be a dangerous addiction. Let God be the Master of your life and allow Him to guide how all parts of your life, including your finances, can be used to glorify Him.
*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke