Praise for a Dishonest Manager

The parable that I read yesterday was hard to understand.  Why does Jesus praise a man who seems so crooked?  In the story a man is called before his boss for swindling and has a week or two before he will be fired.  He uses this time to go to his boss’s clients and reduce what they owe.  Either he removes the cut that he has swindled in the past, or he just readjusts the clients’ accounts so that they will think more favourably of him.  The best guess that I ca make of this parable is that it points to the wisdom of doing things in the present that will bode well for the future.  Even corrupt people who are driven by self-interest seem to realise the importance of this.  So the lesson for us is whether we are making decisions today that will improve the future or make it harder for ourselves and those whom we love.

Luke 16:1-13

 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 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.’

   3 “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— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

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

   6 “‘Nine hundred gallons[a] of olive oil,’ he replied.

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

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

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

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

   8 “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. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

   10 “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. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

   13 “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.”

Questions

  1. What was the dishonest manager not prepared to do?
  2. How much does the manager reduce his clients’ debts by?
  3. For what exactly is the manager commended?
  4. How do you treat people today in ways that will affect your future?
  5. How might you apply truth and grace to the lives of others today so that your future life with God is more healthy?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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