Luke 16,1-15 - Parable of the Shrewd Manager
PARABLE OF THE SHREWD MANAGER
Today's message is about the parable of the deceitful
manager, I want to read from Luke 16:1-15
1 Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose
manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 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.' 3 "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 -- 4 I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job
here, people will welcome me into their houses.' 5 "So he
called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the
first, `How much do you owe my master?' 6 "`Eight hundred
gallons of olive oil,' he replied. "The manager told
him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four
hundred.' 7 "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.'
8 "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. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain
friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will
be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 10 "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. 11 So if you have not been
trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust
you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been
trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give
you property of your own? 13 "No servant can serve two
masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other,
or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and Money." 14 The Pharisees,
who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at
Jesus. 15 He said to them, "You are the ones who justify
yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.
What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's
"Much debate has taken place over the meaning of today's
parable. Every one of the resources I consulted made a
comment about the difficulty of this text. For the first
four centuries, the early church made few references to
it, probably because they found the parable as perplexing
as we do today.
The immediate question we ask is, Why? Why is this such
an infamous parable, that theologians and preachers
across the centuries don't seem to know what to do with
it? Why is it that Christians across the board don't like
to hear about the dishonesty of a manager who has been
found out by his master? Why is it that we don't want to
hear about self-denial in this age in order to store up
Let us look at the parable, and see what Jesus is saying
to us today.
We are not told, how the steward wasted his masters money
- only that he did. He was consequently fired from his
job and the owner demanded a final account. So he sat
down and thought about his options. He did not have a
strong back, so he ruled out physical labour. And he was
also too proud to go panhandling. So, he secured his
future by making friends with his master's debtors by
cutting their debts.
We would have expected the owner to punish his manager
for this dishonest action. In fact it seemed as if he was
adding insult to injury. But surprisingly, the master
commended the steward for such a shrewd action.
Let us keep in mind here that it is the owner in the
parable, and not Jesus, who applauds the shrewd business
manoeuvre of the manager. The manager acted with prompt
foresight in order to be prepared for what was to come.
The dishonest manager was in essence sucking up to his
business buddies in the hope that they would help him
retire in comfort.
But, the apparent approval of the owner only makes sense
if we look at the parable in the light of the commercial
practices of the day. Jews were forbidden to take
interest from fellow-Jews when they lent them money or
rented out their land. Exodus 22:25 says, "If you lend
money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not
be like a moneylender; charge him no interest."
Many Jews, including the religious leaders, found their
ways around this law by arguing that it only related to
money lent to a poor person. It was not meant to forbid
innocent transactions that were mutually beneficial and
where the profit was shared by all. If a man had even a
little of a given commodity he was not destitute, and
lending to him with the intention of charging interests
was not considered exploitation.
As almost everyone had a little oil and a little wheat,
the way was open for a widespread legal, and often moral,
loophole. Whatever was borrowed was given a value in oil
or wheat and the interest added on. The bond was made out
for the repayment of the total. The transaction was in
actuality a rip-off, but the bond gave no indication of
Are you following me? Here is an example: The original
amount of olive oil borrowed in our story may well have
been 400 Gallons. Add on the interest and we have a total
of 800 Gallons. This final amount was all that was
reflected on the bond. And the reason was, that no one
may be found in violation of the moneylending law from
If we understand the meaning of this parable, in this
light, what the shrewd manager did, in essence, was
merely to subtract the added-on interest, so that the
owner would still get back his initial amount, but
without the outrageous interest earnings.
By this action the owner was placed in a very precarious
position. It would be extremely difficult to obtain his
legal rights and in the process he would convict himself
of acting impiously. Morally speaking, he was in
violation of the law of Moses, which protected someone in
The shrewd manager knew about this pious power play and
threatened to blow the whistle on his owner. Therefore,
the owner put a big grin on his face and said to his
manager, "Well done! (I'll get you for this)". This way
the owner secured an undeserved reputation for piety.
Suddenly, we are no longer dealing with an obviously
crooked manager, whose business dealings are threatening
the very existence of his masters company. But rather, we
are dealing with the impure motives of the owner's heart.
Jesus was condemning the self-righteousness and the
hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes, because they
loved money (vs.14), and they were likely involved in
At the same time, Jesus challenges his true disciples to
be just as keen about securing their eternal future by
being diligent and wise stewards of the possessions which
God has entrusted to us.
Our lives are filled with the same kind of moral
ambiguities and conflicting values. The conflict of
priorities in our lives is something that we do battle
with every day of our lives. Our Christian values hit the
values of this world head on. And we must make choices
every day between values of temporal and eternal benefits
and consequences. As much as we would like to, we cannot
have the best of both worlds. We cannot be servants of
God and our selfish desires at the same time.
Jesus challenges us to examine our motives, our values
and priorities. Where do you and I place our values?
Sometimes, I'm totally floored by the tug-off war between
earthly and spiritual values that Christian families are
faced with. And what floors me is not so much the fact
that we live in that tension - as disciples of Jesus
Christ we have to expect that - but rather the huge
amount of decisions of temporal worth that we as
The effect of a promise of instant gratification has an
incredible impact on our lives. For example, with the
exception of a handful of people who understand the value
of storing up eternal riches, all of us would rather
spend our Sundays at the beach, or at the golf-course, or
at Sunday Brunch line-ups at the local restaurant, than
in fellowship and mutual accountability with other
And we fail to realize that our children and youth are
becoming indoctrinated by the same set of values that
their parents exhibit. It is unbelievable how busy their
schedules are, and it starts already before Kindergarten.
There are music lessons, soccer practices, volleyball
championships, swimming and ballet lessons, homework, and
the rest of the activities that help us to keep up with
our society. Some days we don't know what to do with our
schedules. By the end of the day we are totally exhausted
from the race, and we wonder what we have accomplished.
Sometimes I wonder... If Jesus spoke to us today... I
wonder if we would stand convicted for hypocrisy like the
rich man in the parable, and like the Pharisees and
Scribes!? I wounder if our actions would be as
transparent to Him, as those of the rich owner were?! I
wonder if Jesus would say, "You have loved your money,
your possessions, your prestige, your pious appearance
before people more than you have loved God." I wonder If
we would be in one category with the unfaithful steward?!
See, I warned you that this was a difficult passage. And
by now your layer of guilt is possibly just as thick as
mine. But the intention of Jesus is not to see us hiding
in a corner with our tail between our legs and sucking
our thumb for self-pity.
Jesus did not come to condemn and disable us for service.
Rather, He became our brother in order to free us from
that which holds us prisoner to the values and priorities
of this world. Jesus walks alongside you and me and
challenges us to set our priorities in order. He calls us
to be faithful in small things. He challenges us to see
ourselves in God's perspective: We are the stewards of
all that God our Creator and Master has entrusted into
our care. Therefore, He invites us to repent of our
selfish ways and to serve God and our fellow pilgrims in
our journey through life.
Jesus invites us to strive for success. He urges us to
buy RRSP's that will last beyond retirement, and that
will be paid out throughout eternity. He pleads with us
to give ourselves away. Our love, our compassion, and
yes, even the one that hurts the most - our wallets.
Friend, give away the gift of Jesus Christ. Give God all
that you have, and you will store up treasures where no
thieves can touch them. Christ has come to unmask our
hypocrisy, and to offer forgiveness where we have sinned.
He has come to offer freedom from guilt, and to empower
us to follow Him faithfully.
May God fill us with love and the desire to show
ourselves as trustworthy stewards of His grace. And may
God find us faithful when we are asked to give an account
of our lives. AMEN
Almaechtiger Gott, demuetig stehen wir vor deinem Thron,
und wir erkennen, dass du der Geber und Empfaenger
unseres Lebens bist. Herr, du hast in diesem Jahr klar
und deutlich zu uns gesprochen, indem dass du mehrere
deiner Kinder heimgerufen hast. In der letzten Woche war
es unsere Schwester Anna Wiebe, so wie auch Freunde und
Verwandte aus unseren Kreisen. Und so schauen wir empor
zu dir um Trost und Hoffnung. Wir beten fuer die
Hinterbliebenen: Witwen, Witwer, Kinder, Grosskinder und
Freunde. Fuelle du die Luecke, die entstanden ist mit
deiner Liebe und Naehe.
Wir beten um Heilung fuer unsere Kranken. Fuer Michael
Schween: schenke den Aerzten Erfolg bei der Operation.
Fuer Agathe Braun, fuer Robert Buller, fuer Jacob Bergen,
Fuer Peter Thiessen und fuer Cindy Peters. Wir beten fuer
unsere aelteren Geschwister im Bethania: Aganetha
Derksen, Aganetha Tomm, Sara Thiessen und Anna Derksen.
Lass deine Macht und Gnade im Leben dieser Geschwister
besonders sichtbar werden.
Wir beten fuer die Arbeiter im Werk dieser Gemeinde: alle
freiwillige Haende die Mitarbeiten, fuer unsere Diakone,
und fuer die Prediger. Schenke uns allen gemeinsam Freude
an der Arbeit. Segne unser Zeugnis, dass wir in deinem
Namen ausleben. Segne die Arbeit der Konferenz. Segne die
Missionare Edgar und Kathleen Lin in Taiwan. Segne auch
unser Gaben, die wir mit dankbaren Haenden fuer die
Der Name Jesu Christi sei gepriesen.
Lord Almighty, your Name be praised in all eternity! How
sweet the sound of your name when it comes from the lips
of children. It brings new hope in the midst of pain and
God, comfort our brothers and sisters who are grieving,
and there are so many of them. Grant them strength and
hope for a bright new day with you. We lift up before you
the Voth family and friends, we pray for families and
friends of the women who died in the car accident, we
pray for the Epp family, and the many others who have
experienced the loss of a loved one in this past year.
We pray for healing for those who are in the hospitals
and those recovering at home. May your healing grace fill
their lives in this time of need. We pray for Michael
Schween, Agathe Braun, Robert Buller, Jacob Bergen, Peter
Thiessen, and Cindy Petres.
We pray for the ministry that your sons and daughters do
unto others for the Love of Christ. We thank you Lord for
your grace and salvation, and for the loving response
that we give in your name. Thank you for the work of the
conference. Thank you also for missionaries Edgar and
Kathleen Lin in Taiwan. Bless the ministry of love and
mercy that we are able to do through our many gifts.
Continue in our midst with your blessing as we receive
your word and as we respond to you in praise.
We pray in the precious name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour
and Lord. AMEN