Read: Luke 16:1-13
My friend, mentor, and wise sage, Greg Wiens, is consistently reading and learning from shrewd people in the world, something he encourages us to do as well. The parable of the shrewd manager invites us to learn from the world for the Kingdom’s cause. The story is intriguing. The conclusion is a test. The challenge is to read these words from Jesus and do something more than just nod our head. Please remember, past performance doesn’t have to dictate the future. Focus on the present condition and change what needs to be changed without looking back. Learn and grow. Age is not a factor, merely a data point.
The irony of this particular parable is that many people I know are being forced from one job to the next, or live with incredible frustration. Long before factory workers, mechanization, and defined work-week hours, Jesus speaks to our modern day with a completely worldly example of what it means to be shrewd.
Here’s a guy who’s about to lose his job as a manager. To ensure he has some hope of a future, he thinks to himself:
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. Luke 16:3-4
He went through his list of those who owed his boss money and wrote off huge portions of their debt. His boss was not completely in the dark. When he discovered the actions by his soon-to-be former employee, he couldn’t help but be impressed:
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. Luke 16:8
Jesus then goes on to explain that we should use worldly wealth to gain friends, true riches. Several years ago, the church we were part of was going through their annual stewardship campaign. The cool thing about this particular campaign was its focus on stewardship more than money. The emphasis left me with a solid grasp on the reality that I need to be a good steward of what I have AND use it for building the kingdom.
As a business, it’s obvious that the local church needs money to effectively serve the body of Christ in the community. We should be so good at managing money that we can openly ask for contributions without reservation. Come and take a look at my books anytime. Here’s what we pay our staff, here are the utility bills, and how we use money for the upkeep of the facility. These are necessary, but more importantly, here’s how we use money to serve the least, the lost, and the lonely–all of which have little to do with worldly wealth.
It’s not unusual to be challenged to justify costs and expenses. When I owned a private school many years ago, I was frequently challenged to explain the high price of tuition. For those who sincerely wanted to know, I showed them: 1) I had no salary, but four children at the school, and 2) the total salary of our paid staff as something like 80% of the total revenue, and even then, their salaries individually were not above their peers in education. Open and honest. This parable has always guided these principles.
To be completely transparent, I wish I could be better at generating income, but not because I’m concerned about personal wealth–God takes care of us completely. I would really like to learn how to generate income so I could be better at supporting ministries that are positively growing the kingdom of Christ here on earth. I’m terrible about asking for money.
Just in case we misunderstand the story, or the main point, Jesus leaves us with a clear decision:
You cannot serve both God and money. Luke 16:13
Lord, help us to learn from the world without being sucked into worldliness. We cannot do this alone, but with the constant reminder, with brothers and sisters in Christ speaking into our lives, and with the guidance of the Spirit we can and will. Help us to be shrewd for Your kingdom.