What Christians Are To Be Shrewd About
In this chapter, Jesus uses parables to teach his disciples to use their money and possessions responsibly and for his glory. However, he begins with a parable which proves to be one of the most difficult to understand because, in it, Jesus seems to express approval of the underhanded deeds of a dishonest manager. This is not the case, and we are reminded again that the purpose of a parable is to drive home a specific spiritual truth; we are not to get caught up in the details as if we are to behave like the characters in the story.
In this parable, a wealthy man, upon hearing of his manager’s irresponsible stewardship of his property, demands an accounting from him. The manager knows that he is in trouble and decides upon a course of action so that after he is terminated, he will have friends who owe him favors. Taking each debtor of his master one by one, he finagles their accounts so that they owe his master less than they do. Upon learning of his manager’s fraudulence, the master actually commends his shrewdness, understanding the man’s motive, though he robbed him of his wealth. (You might say that the master was a good sport about it.) But Jesus’ words afterwards are very telling: “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” This is so true. The wicked generally know better how to work the system to their own advantage; the righteous, to their credit, are not knowledgeable about such things.
But then Jesus says something that initially throws us: “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” We must interpret this saying by what Jesus says afterwards, “You cannot serve two masters … You cannot serve God and money.” As the wicked are shrewd to use money for their own advancement, so the righteous must be just as shrewd to use “unrighteous wealth” (here used as another term for money) for the advancement of the Kingdom. To the believer, money is a little thing; he should be faithful in his management of it. Matters of the Kingdom are so much more important. But if we can’t be trusted with handling something of so little eternal value as money, how can God trust us with the “true riches” of the Kingdom? So use money properly to support yourself frugally while generously giving to the needy. May the wicked outdo us in worldly things; may we outdo them by seeking justice, kindness, and mercy (Micah 6:8).