Some people like outlines. I usually enjoy making them for preaching; but sometimes they get in the way. This Sunday was one of those times. And, while it may not have mattered much in the end, I didn’t want the outline to get in the way of the point. (For those of you wondering why, we usually make our outlines a few weeks ahead of the Sunday, so there may be some variance in the final product from time to time.)
Luke 16 and the dishonest manager is a parable that many of us don’t understand.
I, too, struggled to get why this parable was told the way it was and why Jesus said what he did. Luckily, it isn’t on me to figure it all out on my own. I asked a dear friend—one with decades of ministry and teaching people about Jesus—for his thoughts. Here they are. . .
As you know, the conclusion of the parable in verse 9 is not the real conclusion that Jesus was driving towards. It just gives direction to the real point that Jesus is going to make in verses 10-13. Jesus often does this with his parables.
By way of background, a large percentage (20%+) of Jesus’ teaching in Luke has to do with money/wealth. It’s a major theme of Luke’s account.
In this parable and it’s didactic conclusion, Jesus is essentially saying that money/wealth is not nearly as neutral as we try and make it AND it is not ours. It first of all belongs to this world and is therefore beset with the unrighteousness of this world. At the same time, it also ultimately belongs to someone else (the sovereign ruler/owner of all things). How we use the worldly thing that is not ours (as a steward) indicates/dictates what we will be entrusted with in the future (that is truly good = not of this world) and what will be ours forever (not burn up with this world).
The shrewd servant understands this better than believers do. He knew that what he was using was not his. It never was and never would/could be. He never fooled himself into believing otherwise. So when he got caught, he used what was not his to provide for himself in the future. We say, “That’s horrible!” Jesus says, “That’s what you should be doing.” We own nothing. He owns everything. The fact that it is hard to truly convince believers that this is true only proves how deceptive and evil money/wealth/possessions are. If everything we own has been given to us as stewards to invest in eternity for our Master, then that is what we should be doing — especially in the light of his promise to take care of everything else (read family, food, shelter,etc.) when we do so. It’s really a great deal. We invest what is not ours to get what will be ours. We invest what is inherently temporal (and therefore fallen) and get what is inherently eternal (and perfect) in return.
Since it is only people who are eternal, then we invest what is temporally flawed in the eternal (redeemed people). Like the unjust steward, we invest what is absolutely not our own in other people, and should they believe, they will be there as an eternal joy and reward for us — even though none of it was ever ours. I love it! Divine craziness. It’s the upside down kingdom. It’s grace upon grace. And on top of it all, when we gamble on eternity the way Jesus is teaching, we get the joy of becoming like him.
Jesus is not praising the swindling per se. He is praising this dudes ability to truly understand that it never was his (unlike most of us) and his choice to use it for his long-term (in application, eternal) good. Parables are not precise linear arguments. The point, however, is bombshell important.
Bombshell important. Use what isn’t yours (and inevitably will disappear) to invest in what matters to God (people) and gain eternal reward and joy. It’s a gamble (or seems like it). Do you believe it to be true? If so, you’ll never live the same way.
There is no better way to invest. I’ll write a few more posts this week on this, as it is something close to my heart.