The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries than the people of light. – Luke 16:8 NET
I spent 29 years of my life in the advertising business as a creative director. It was my job to come up with ads and marketing campaigns to help my clients successively sell their products and services to their customer base. To do so required more than creativity, it demanded that I know both the product and the potential purchaser of that product. I had to get into the head of the consumer and understand how they think. I had to learn their likes and dislikes. I had to understand what motivated them. I was spending my client's money in an attempt to garner customers for their products. This was all about wise stewardship. But it was sometimes easy to see my job as just a place where I got to be creative and produce clever radio or TV commercials, or produce eye-catching magazine ads that displayed my creative skills. In other words, I could easily get wrapped up in producing ads that made me look good and not my customer. In fact, I produced more than my fair share of ads over the years that won me creative accolades but didn't produce much in the way of revenue for my clients.
In the first part of chapter 16 Luke records the parable of the shrewd manager. It is a difficult parable that Jesus doesn't bother to explain for us. But the basic idea seems to be that of stewardship. You've got a manager who loses his job because he squandered his master's possessions. We don't know exactly what he did, but he was dishonest and it cost him his job. So it seems that he was told to clear up all his accounts before his final day on the payroll. There is debate as to what exactly happens next, but the best bet is that this manager went to all of his master's debtors and gave them a chance to clear up their debt by paying a reduced settlement. Many commentators believe he was able to lower their debt by eliminating what would have been his own commission. He is praised by the very man who had just fired him for his wise actions. He satisfied his former boss and his customers. Jesus also praises this man's actions by recognizing that he knew exactly how to handle those with whom he worked and lived. He was a product of this age and he understood how to make the most of his interactions with others of this age.
So what's the point of this parable? It seems that Jesus is saying that the people of this world actually think about how they use their resources. Whether they belong to them or someone else. Even if they misuse them, they still give it some thought. This man wisely used his position to come up with a workable, long-term solution to his problem and that of his master. He gained favor with his customers and a praise from his former boss. Jesus seems to be saying that we, as believers, must live in this world with a sense of responsibility for what we have been entrusted. We need to have an other-oriented mentality. Rather than obsess about us, we need to think about others – especially the lost. It may require that we sacrifice short-term rewards for long-term benefits. This man was going to lose his commissions, but he was gaining long-term favor with every one of those people he had helped. When he was out looking for work, he was going to have a great network of people who were favorable disposed to him. Jesus says that when we live in this world with a sensitivity to those around us and wisely steward the resources God has given us, we win over the lost. We make friends of those who have typically been burned by the self-centered, self-seeking mentality of this world. We can use money and possessions in such a way that we gain favor with men. We show them that our possessions do not possess us. The manager in the story knew how to use money to influence others. As Christians, we need to learn how to use the resources of this world, entrusted to us by God, in such a way that the lost see that there is something different about us. We are to live as those who worship one master, and it isn't money!
Father, I want to be wise with what You have given me. Yet, I know that I have often misused Your resources and been unfaithful. I have not had an other-mentality, but a me-focus. I have used what you have given me to reward myself rather than to reach the lost. Give me a wisdom that sees and understands how the people of this world think. Let me show them, using the resources of this world, that I serve You as my master and nothing else. Money is not my god, You are. Amen.