I was reading through Luke chapter 16 this morning and I remembered how much confusion I had when I first read through the parable of the Dishonest Manager.
A summary: The dishonest manager gets ratted out on his ripping off of his employer and becomes worried about what he’s going to do once he is fired. He’s too feeble to do manual labor and has too much PRIDE to beg so he decides, “I’ll rip off my boss some more!” So he calls his employer’s debtors to him and cuts their debts down by 20-50% so that they will feel indebted to him and will be generous to him once he’s out on the streets. The employer commends him for being shrewd in what he has done. Jesus comments, “the sons of this world are more shrewd in their dealings with their own generation than the sons of light,” and then concludes by explaining that the parable teaches us to “make friend for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
So, does Jesus want me to rip off my employers so that I have money to make friends with people? Isn’t that what Jesus is telling us here?
I think it’s no coincidence that the next words that come out of Jesus’ mouth (v.10-13) are telling us about how a person must be faithful even in the smallest things otherwise they will not be entrusted to greater things and also that a person must dedicate their lives to God entirely and not at all to money. We aren’t left with any room to decide that Jesus wants us to rip off our employers for money so that we can make friends. So then what do we make of it?
If we take our eyes off the obvious sin of corruption we are left seeing that the manager is doing what he can to prepare for the life he will have after he has been judged and punished (fired) by his employer. Jesus is drawing on this corrupt mans method of preparing for the future to teach us that we must be preparing for the future. However, our future isn’t one of poverty caused by unemployment – our future is eternal punishment in Hell. So just as this man worked to prevent the punishment of poverty from coming upon him then so too we should do what we can with what we have to prevent the punishment of Hell from coming upon us. In short: our focus needs to be our reconciliation to God. How fitting that the source of our reconciliation, Jesus, should be the one to tell us that we need to be focused on our eternal futures! In the case of this manager he used the things he had to make friends who’d take care of him. In our case we use all of our lives given to God to make friends with the Triune God (through Christ) so that He’ll welcome us in to Heavenly dwellings.