The shrewd manager in Luke 16 discounted the debts in order to win favor with the debtors. What hermeneutic principle should be used to determine if this was an evil act, or just good business?
The context of the passage shows that the manager's actions are both dishonest and shrewd. The literal meaning of the text is the primary meaning.
The parable calls the manager both shrewd and dishonest:
Certainly, reducing the debt owed to the manager's master was dishonest. (It's not dishonest because discounting of debt is and/or was wrong, but because discounting debt on behalf of another for personal gain is a white-collar crime.) However, even the manager can see that it was shrewd. From the manager's point of view, it was good business since he had nothing to lose—not his job and not the property that is owed. But the commendation is only for the shrewdness of the decision.
The main thrust of the parable is actually the contrast between "unrighteous wealth" and "true riches". Perhaps the most famous rewording of the parable is:
Using Drash in Sensus Plenior:
Linked portions of scripture:
How they are linked:
Jacob took the inheritance and ran away. Upon his return he forfeits all by placing all his belongings ahead of him as gifts to dissipate Esau's anger before Jacob arrives. He is welcomed back.
The prodigal takes the inheritance before his father is dead. He spreads it all around until there is nothing. He is welcomed back and given more as a son.
The manager takes what belongs to his master, spreads it around, then is apparently commended for doing so by Jesus.
Interpretation by various voices of sensus plenior:
In the voice of the judge which asks for a moral determination:
All things that we have, no matter what the source, ultimately belong to God, and are not to enslave us in this world, but to be profligately spread around so that we return to the Father empty handed, as Christ gave all and was fully spent on the cross.
As such the merchant is not a human merchant who is being cheated, but represents God who owns all things. The shrewd merchant was freeing himself from the entrapment of the world system.
In the voice of the prophet which speaks of the life of Christ:
The Eternal Son of God left his high estate and emptied himself in the kenosis. He took his inheritance and "squandered it" dying alone on the cross. He was accepted back by the Father in resurrection.