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Luke 16:1-14

Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

“‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.

“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’

“Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’

“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.

“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’

“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.

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4 Answers 4

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The first impression that the reader may get from the parable is that Jesus is indirectly saying yes to shrewd behaviour involving misappropriation of someone else's property in ones own defence. But then Jesus goes on to say in Lk 16:8 : .

For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.

< See the punch on ' their own kind '. In a way, Jesus is putting both the rich man and the manager in the same category of shrewd wordly people . But the takeaway of the story is in Verse 9 : use your mundane wealth to gain heavenly investment.

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  • +1 I think you nailed it, Kadalikatt. Jesus also reveals that the wealth of this world is not "true riches," but how a person behaves with worldly possessions can disqualify them from being trusted with true riches.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 28 at 15:29
  • Thanks for the appreciation, Dieter. Commented Apr 29 at 2:21
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The difficulty with understanding the parable is that the shrewd manager gave big discounts to the customers, without asking the master, yet, the master praised him for his act; thus, it looks like he is wasting more money of the master and shouldn't be praised. The key to understand this is that the fraud manager gave all those discounts from his own account that he had squandered from the master's business, or that he simply gave up his own commission to the customers. He acted shrewdly in using his worldly, unrighteous money to make beneficial friends. It teaches if you have worldly material, use it to make beneficial friends for good purpose, and don't save up money like treasure in the world (Matt 6:19).

NABRE Bible note says:

The master commends the dishonest steward who has forgone his own usurious commission on the business transaction by having the debtors write new notes that reflected only the real amount owed the master (i.e., minus the steward’s profit). The dishonest steward acts in this way in order to ingratiate himself with the debtors because he knows he is being dismissed from his position (Lk 16:3). The parable, then, teaches the prudent use of one’s material goods in light of an imminent crisis.

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  • The NABRE Bible note shrewdly suggests that the discount came from the manager's commission. The purpose of this idea is to try to justify the master's praise of the manager's corrupt actions by inventing a commission. The problem with this idea is that Jesus didn't provide any indication of a commission in his parable, leaving the challenge of why the master praised the manager for his self-serving action. The manager certainly wasn't being prudent with his master's money, and it has bothered many commentators and expositors.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 28 at 15:12
  • Michael 16, please note that the Manager shows undue haste in getting the first debtor tamper the records. He says "sit down quickly and..." He knew he was doing something wrong and would be caught red handed if the master returned unexpectedly. If the discount was given from his own account, he would not make haste. Commented May 1 at 13:25
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The central lesson of this parable is in Luke 16:13, where Jesus states, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

This statement directly confronts the Pharisees, who considered themselves devout servants of God, while prone to love money, as noted in Luke 16:14. In Luke 16:8, Jesus distinguishes between the "People of the light" and the "People of the world". The former, the Pharisees, who claim to be God's chosen, while the latter, sinners, are deemed by the Pharisees as the outcasts. However, Jesus clarifies in Luke 16:15 that the Pharisees' self-righteousness blinds them to their own sinful nature.

So why does Jesus commend the shrewd manager, who belongs to the "people of the world"?

It is crucial to recognize that the worldly wealth is worthless in heaven. Thus the actions of the shrewd manager, though cunning, exhibit a greater wisdom than the Pharisees. By using the worldly wealth to help the needy, he displays a degree of discernment lacking in those who keep wealth for themselves. If the shrewd manager were to repent, akin to Zacchaeus the tax collector in Luke 19, he would become the "lost one" whom Jesus seeks.

Jesus doesn't endorse the shrewd manager's actions as right, but rather acknowledge that giving away worldly wealth is wiser than selfishly holding onto it. In Luke 16:10-12, Jesus emphasizes trustworthy and honesty. His message specifically targets the Pharisees, who were entrusted with God's wealth yet clung to the worldly wealth. Thus Jesus delivers this profound statement: "You cannot serve both God and money."

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The manager was shrewd before he was caught, but he was doing his boss wrong. Later, he was shrewd when more then that money was on the line; his pride, livelihood and health was as well. Instead of turning around his ways, he continued to be wicked, costing his boss more. This is an example of what to do but replace evil by doing good, that your Father might reward you.

Verses 10-12 explain the parable pretty well:

"If you’re faithful in small-scale matters, you’ll be faithful with far bigger responsibilities. If you’re crooked in small responsibilities, you’ll be no different in bigger things. If you can’t even handle a small thing like money, who’s going to entrust you with spiritual riches that really matter? If you don’t manage well someone else’s assets that are entrusted to you, who’s going to give over to you important spiritual and personal relationships to manage? (VOICE)"

Thus, He is saying that in every area of your life be righteous, because when it comes to the bigger things, such as your eternal fate, you will be ready to handle them.

Even the little things matter.

"Finally, fill your minds with beauty and truth." (Philippians 4:8)

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  • Yes. So, why didn't the master further condemn the corrupt manager rather than praise him? That's a bit of a shocker isn't it?
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 28 at 15:15
  • @Dieter Indeed. Commented Apr 29 at 16:09
  • I think the answer from Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan below is the best one I've seen concerning this parable.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 29 at 16:48
  • I would agree, for sure. He did good with finding 16:8 Commented Apr 29 at 17:24

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