Luke 16:1–13

Read the passage.

Based on the preceding and following contexts, it sounds like Jesus told this parable immediately after the one about the prodigal son. This one deals with a shift of topics from God’s seeking and forgiveness of sinners to the kind of relationship we should have with money, which makes sense considering how both brothers of the previous story were caught up in a love for money.

In this parable, a rich man has a steward or manager to run his estate, to take care of all the details so the master doesn’t have to. However, this manager is dishonest and not doing a good job of maintaining his master’s wealth. The master finds out and has enough evidence to fire him, so he orders the manager to turn over the books. During this process, the manager comes up with a plan to help him maintain his easy lifestyle. He meets each of his master’s debtors and unilaterally reduces the amount of their debt, with the unspoken understanding that they now owe him a favor.

It should be noted that these debtors are not small fry, considering how large these debts are. A hundred measures was about 875 gallons of the oil, or over 1,000 bushels of wheat. By defrauding his master of these resources, the manager could likely gain quite a lot from each of these debtors for some time to come. When the master discovers what has happened, he actually ends up commending the manager, in an acknowledegment that he has been outwitted. The altered records can’t be changed back or recovered, so there’s not any legal recourse he can take.

Jesus’s application for this parable is rather unexpected, at least at first. He says that unbelievers tend to be more shrewd with each other than believers are, which makes sense. But then he says to “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth”. (v. 9) What are we to make of that? We can be sure that Jesus isn’t telling us to go commit fraud or cheat people. Instead we are to invest in people, so that the wealth that we have may be used to help bring them to God’s kingdom. Then, when we are there together, they will invite us to their homes to celebrate.

Verses 10 through 13 explain more. People don’t suddenly become honest just by being given more to work with. Therfore, if you are faithful with money which cannot save you, you will also be faithful with eternal riches. You can’t be devoted to amassing wealth and also be devoted to God. So a person will either use money to serve the Lord, or use the Lord’s kingdom to serve their wallet.

Give us eternal perspectives, O Lord. Teach us what is truly important.

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