The Shrewd Manager

Hi there from the Stepping Stones team! We just wanted to share a little of what we learned together in our Bible study this last Sabbath. Let’s dive right in to the “Parable of the Shrewd Manager” from Luke 16:1-13.

Our story begins with an asset manager (or steward) who is accused fraud. When his boss learns of the charges, he threatens to fire the steward and demands an account of all his past financial transactions. At this predicament, the steward laments, “‘Oh, no! Now what am I going to do? I’m going to lose my job here, and I’m too weak to dig ditches and too proud to beg. I have an idea. This plan will mean that I have a lot of hospitable friends when I get fired’” (Luke 16:3-4, The Voice). So the steward goes around visiting his master’s tenants slashing their debts left and right in the hopes of making some obliging friends along the way. Now, what’s surprising with Jesus’ story is that when the master figures out what the steward is doing, rather than immediately firing him, the master actually praises the steward for his “shrewdness”! Wha…? Is Jesus commending dishonest behavior here? First of all, we have to remember that, as manager of his master’s assets, the steward retained legitimate authority to reduce the debts of his boss’s tenants. In Jesus’ cultural context, a steward typically had free-reign to conduct business transactions as he deemed appropriate (so long as his boss’ profit margins were in the black at the end of the day). Furthermore, many scholars believe that, by cutting the tenant’s debts, the steward was forgoing his own personal commission in the transaction.

But either way, that really isn’t the point Jesus was trying to make with this parable. Jesus is certainly not holding up the “shrewd” steward as a shining example of moral excellence. Instead Jesus tells us to take note: “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” In other words, I believe Jesus is telling us to look at the drive, dedication, and passion with which those of the world pursue their pleasure-loving, money-making schemes versus how we pursue the Kingdom of God! As one article stated, “if we were only as shrewd in our dealings with the Kingdom of God as we are with making ends meet, imagine the spiritual possibilities.

In the end, Jesus’ message to us as stewards of God’s kingdom is very simple: “Learn some lessons from this crooked but clever asset manager. Realize that the purpose of money is to strengthen friendships, to provide opportunities for being generous and kind. Eventually money will be useless to you—but if you use it generously to serve others, you will be welcomed joyfully into your eternal destination” (Luke 16:9, The Voice). In closing, I just wanted to share a few life-application questions I dug up from hillschurch.blogspot.com which we can all think about over the next week:

  • How are we exercising our stewardship? Are we using our worldly wealth (the wealth that comes from God for He supplies all our needs) to bless others? Or are we squandering it or merely storing it up for our own use? This wealth will not make any difference in heaven (we can’t take it with us and we can’t spend it there anyways). It only bears eternal fruit if we use it wisely here while on earth.
  • Are we faithfully sharing the abundance of spiritual wealth with those around us – with our family, our neighbours, our co-workers, our household?
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