Lessons from an unscrupulous manager

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We love the parables of Jesus. From the Good Samaritan to the Parable of the Talents, these stories are fertile ground for preachers, authors and songwriters. I’ve heard numerous sermons over the years on the parable of The Sower or the parable of the Prodigal Son, as well as even more songs that use their themes and imagery. However, I’m especially fascinated by the parables that are more often overlooked.

In Luke 16, we have one such story.

The story begins with a manager who has mismanaged his rich client’s finances and is in the process of being fired. Thinking quickly on his feet, the man goes to all his master’s debtors and cuts their debts significantly. They’re all grateful and when the dishonest manager’s actions are realised by his master, he can’t help but be impressed with his quick thinking. Even though he’s the biggest loser in this scenario, the shrewd actions of his dishonest manager can’t help but impress him. 

When this story is mentioned, usually we skip to verse 10: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” To be honest (pun intended), I find this aphorism somewhat at odds with the story that’s just been told. The dishonest manager seems to have actually benefited from this exchange, not been punished! Perhaps the parable of the Talents would have been a better story to pair with this spiritual teaching. 

I actually find verse 9 to be more interesting. “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” This advice almost seems as though it came from Dale Carnegie himself; certainy, it would make more sense to read it in How to Win Friends and Influence People than the Bible. 

However, Jesus is saying something interesting here. He acknowledges the cleverness with which people of this world deal with wealth and assets, noting that by comparison, His followers often don’t measure up. But then, Jesus challenges us to learn something from the unscrupulous: to spend our talent, time and resources—those things that are temporary—to gain that which is eternal. It seems like a pretty good deal, right? If I had the option to trade in something that will fade away for something that will last forever, I’d be foolish not to do it. 

And yet, this is so often what we do. Even followers of Jesus like you and I sometimes allow ourselves to misplace our trust from the things eternal to the things that are fleeting. Here Jesus is urging you and I: “Be wise, clever and shrewd, but keep perspective.”

One of the greatest honours I have is to serve the ministry of Signs of the Times. It’s a small magazine, but one that has eternal significance. When we send it to all corners of the Pacific each month, we never know who will pick it up and read it. We don’t know how they will be impacted, nor how the Holy Spirit will use the magazine to plant a seed of faith in their heart. It’s both terrifying—because I can’t control the outcome and exhilarating—because I know that God will use it in ways I can’t even imagine. 

So, here’s my challenge to you: use your talent, time and resources to purchase what is eternal. Don’t settle for second best! Serve your local church. Give to a cause you believe in. Open your home to someone. Cook someone a meal. And, while you’re at it, consider supporting a ministry like Signs of the Times. When we all get to heaven, you’ll be glad you did.

Jesse Herford is the associate editor, Signs of the Times

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