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.
“There’s sucker born every minute.” - P.T. Barnum
This is one of those more difficult parables. When I say, “more difficult,” I mean it might be one of the two most difficult. I did something this morning that I had decided when I started writing these that I wouldn’t do. That is, consult commentaries or the like before writing. But, this parable is just so odd that I had to do a little more work.
One of the writers that I read this morning referred to this parable as “embarrassing.” This is because it was a bad look for the “master” in the parable. He was being taken advantage of by his steward and everyone could see it.
What strikes me about this parable is the little statement, “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.”
This is a conversation that my father-in-law, Dennis, and I have had a number of times. Christians, it seems, are suckers for anything that makes us feel like we have found some smoking gun that proves we are right. The smallest little detail in an archaeological dig we blow up into a huge story and make grand claims beyond which it can support.
Or, look at how we clamor for any celebrity that claims to have become a Christian. All of a sudden they are given the pulpit to preach and teach the people of God.
We are so desperate to find legitimacy in the eyes of the world that we become suckers for anything that is thrown our way.
This parable is primarily about money and wealth. Jesus wants his disciples to use wealth as opposed to being used by wealth. He doesn’t want their minds and hearts divided. He wants them to take wealth and leverage it for the kingdom of God so that it doesn’t draw their hearts from God. He wants them to use it shrewdly and not be taken advantage of. I think this principle must extend into other areas of life.
Amy and I are both the children of car salesman. As a result, we have pretty developed BS meters. This has helped us to be shrewd. It also aids us in knowing when to trust and when not to trust. There’s something good about being aware of people who are lying to you.
The lack of shrewdness of the Christian sub-culture can probably be most seen in the realm of politics. There are buzz words that we listen for and if a politician says them, well then, that’s it, he or she is a believer of the highest order. As a result, the Christian bloc will support them without question and overlook all sorts of other things.
We are not shrewd.
In effect, Jesus is saying, “This is world is the wild west. You guys need to take off the blinders and understand what you’re walking into. Be shrewd! Don’t get used by the world.”
In the West where Christianity is the majority religion I look around and see many of my brothers and sisters being used.
My friends, let’s be shrewd and wise. Let’s not be suckers.