On Sunday we have one of the most unusual parables Jesus ever uttered. We could call it the parable of the Shrewd Manager. It’s a story about a manager who was squandering money that belonged to his employer. He used dishonest methods to give an accounting of money that belonged to his boss.
You see the manager was a cunning, conniving, dishonest person. One can’t help but smile at how shrewd he was. You can’t help but admit that what he did was a clever little idea if however terrible, morally apprehensible.
When he learned he was about to lose his job because he was dishonest and wasteful, he decided to cover his assets. He went to the best customers and gave them deep discounts on what they owed his boss. Why? Obviously, after he was kicked out as manager for mismanagement, he would go to one of those customers who owed him a favor and hopefully they would remember his action and give him a job. When it came time to be fired even his boss said, “I’ve got to hand it to you, as you have acted shrewdly.
That’s how business is done. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Let’s be clear, Jesus isn’t suggesting we use dishonest business practices, but He is suggesting we can learn something from the shrewd manager.
Millions of people live their lives as if this world was all there will ever be. They devote their entire lives to getting ahead in this world and accumulating all the things that will make them feel comfortable. “They are people of this world.”
On the other hand, there are those of us who have a personal relationship with God. We may be living in this world, but we know this world is not all there is. We live for another world. We work towards a different goal. We receive benefits that this world could never weigh and measure.
However, Jesus tells us that there is a valuable lesson to be learned by looking at how the “people of this world’ operate. The key is right there in 16:8 of Luke’s gospel. “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” But why is this a good thing?
Jesus encourages us to take a lesson from “the people of the world.” However, built within this challenge is another challenge to learn some of their ways. Unlike the dishonest manager, the challenge is to remain as innocent as a newborn baby.
You know, in his own awkward, backwards sort of way, the shrewd manager was able to do some amazing good. Look at what he was able to do with someone else’s money. Before his time was up, he was able to relieve the debt of a few of his master’s debtors. Imagine what a huge gift that was. Imagine if someone said to you, look at your credit card, how much do you owe? The average credit card debt in the Northeast is $8,000. Tell you what, sit down, make it $4,000 instead. The manger’s intensions were all wrong but look at the outcome.
How would you and I look if we were held accountable for our management. How would our management evaluation look if we looked at all God has given us and then asked the question, what have we done with it? Have we done all we can? Have we given all we could?
Look at what could be done if we followed the example of the manager honestly. God has given us many gifts and they are to be managed shrewdly. We have talents, we have the time he has given us and the money that He has seen fit to bless us with. Imagine…all the good we could do…if we only took the chance…and started acting like shrewd managers.