Honoring God With Our Money: The Shrewd Manager

As I developed this Bible study, the parable of the Shrewd Manager didn’t seem to agree with my sense of reasoning, yet I felt strongly that it should be included.

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager  (Luke 16: 1- 9)
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.”

What do you think Jesus was trying to illustrate with this parable?  In our class, someone read a commentary that suggested that the manager had been cheating the customer and that he actually changed the bills back to what was truly owed to the master.  There certainly is reason to believe that as we know from the story of Zaccheus that tax collector frequently charged people more tax than was owed and kept the difference for themselves.  So, it may be the manager was undoing his wrongs and was, thus, commended by his master.

I found the final statement to be the most surprising, ” I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  I am quite certain that Jesus is not advocating “buying” our way into Heaven, but I’m not sure what He is saying to us in the passage.

I do like the translate from the message.  The final portion from that version reads, “The master praised the crooked manager! And why?  Because he knew how to look after himself.  Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens.  They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits.  I want you to be smart in the same way–but for what is right–using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”

What does this parable say to you?  Does it inspire you to better money management?  Does it inspire you to live in a more Christlike manner?


Jesus followed this parable with the verses I chose for this week’s life application:

“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.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealthy, who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” (Luke 16: 10 – 12)

God expects to manage the assets He has given us to the best of our abilities.  He also expects us to manage well any assets others entrust to us.  If we manage well what He give us, He can entrust us with more.  And as we have seen  in earlier lessons, He gives to us abundantly so that we in turn can bless others.

Author: Susan Elizabeth Ball

Author of the Christian Bible study, 'Honoring God with Your Money,' and three Christian novels, 'Restorations;' 'Reconciliations;' and "Letters to Mother from College." Small business consultant, former pizza restaurant owner, wife, mother, grandmother of 8.

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