Sunday November 30, 2008 | Greg Boyd
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. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God's sight.
What does it mean to use material resources in a godly way? All of our money and “stuff” will pass away but the relationships we have with people have real eternal value. God wants us to use our resources to advance his Kingdom rather than our own.
When interpreting the parables, the central point is the only point. It is crucial to note that everything else in the parable is a prop for the sake of making the central point. Like a good joke, we need to look for the punch line in order to understand what the parables means. In this parable, the punch line is found in verse 9. There Jesus tells us that we are to “use worldly wealth to gain friends.” Jesus isn’t teaching us about how managers should operate. Not encouraging us to be dishonest. He’s teaching us about having clever foresight and acting accordingly.
The reference to “worldly wealth” is one that recognizes that all money is ultimately based on injustice. Greed and exploitation permeates the whole thing. But Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t touch it.” Instead he says, “Be shrewd with how you use it.” The way we should use it is like the manager. Have clever foresight into what’s coming, and act now on this basis. The manager saw his position and power was passing away and he was going to be out on the street. Before he lost it, he used it to make friends so he’d have a place to stay. So too, we’re to be shrewd. We know whatever unjust money we have will pass away; we know all our position and power will pass away. Jesus is basically saying, “Since you’re going to lose it all soon when you die, use your unjust money and whatever position and power you have to make friends who will welcome you into eternal dwellings.”
People of the world are shrewd in the way they acquire and spend money for themselves, as though this life was the whole story, but people of light know that unrighteous money and everything else is passing away in a moment, so we’re to be shrewd in acquiring and spending money in ways that make us a friend of the coming Kingdom. We are to remember that if we’re faithful in very little wealth we have now, he’ll entrust us with infinitely greater wealth later on. If we’re faithful in the false riches of the world, he’ll entrust us with the true riches of the Kingdom. If we’re faithful in managing God’s property now, he’ll give us our own property later on: we inherit the Kingdom which contains every blessing our heart could desire.
So the question this passage forces us to ask is: Are we being shrewd with this unjust money? Are we using our wealth, position and power which is passing away to make friends in heaven to welcome us when it does pass away?