The Shrewd Use of Possessions

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Reading the Word

Luke 16:1–9 (ESV)

1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This is a parable that lends itself to some debate. A manager is discovered mismanaging his master’s possessions. When this happens, the manager quickly goes to his master’s debtors and forgives portions of their debt. He does this to get into the good graces of others so he will have a better chance of employment when he loses his current position. When the master found out about this, he commended the manager for his shrewdness.

The parable poses difficulty because it is strange to us why the master would commend the manager for what he did. After all, he cost the master profit. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, this is a parable and the details do not have to reflect what we would expect in real life. The story is meant to teach a specific lesson and the details point to that lesson. Also, the master does not commend the manager for his actions, but for his shrewdness. The manager acted in such a way to look out for his future. The master recognized this forward-looking behavior and acknowledged it.

Jesus finished the parable by telling his disciples that they too needed to be shrewd in how they used “unrighteous wealth”. Possessions have a way of being used for our own self interests and pulling us away from the most important things in life. Instead, we should be always looking to the future in our use of wealth and possessions, knowing that one day we will give an account before the Lord in how we have used these things for the glory of God and his kingdom. How can we use our possessions shrewdly for the Lord?

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