He also said to the disciples: “There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions. So he called the manager in and asked, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be my manager.’

“Then the manager said to himself, ‘What should I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’

“So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one.

“‘A hundred measures of oil,’ he said.

“‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write 50.’

“Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’

“‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said.

“‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write 80.’

“The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted astutely. For the sons of this age are more astute than the sons of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous money so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings. Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16:1-12)

Jesus’ parable of the dishonest manager is disturbing because Jesus seems to be encouraging dishonesty. The hero of Jesus’ story is was a dishonest man. He squandered his employer’s property. Then he had his employer’s debtors alter their bills to their advantage.

But his employer praised him for his cunning. And Jesus encouraged his disciples to be just as cunning. So what’s going on here? Did Jesus encourage stealing and lying?

No, but the parable should still be taken at face value. Jesus was encouraging his disciples to be as shrewd in their work for the kingdom of God, as the people like the Pharisees were in working for the kingdom of the world. Work as hard for God as this crooked manager worked to protect himself. Go ahead and make money, but use it for God’s kingdom, not for your own selfish ends. Money is worthless, except as it is used in this world to make preparation for the next.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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