3 September 2015

Luke 16:1-13

“And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 81


Let us face the fact, from the beginning, that there is something quite shocking about this story. A great deal of effort has been expended to explain why the actions of the manager were somehow acceptable in Jesus' world. But verse 8 makes it completely clear that the whole point of the parable is that the manager is dishonest. And dishonesty was just as much a problem in Jesus' world as it is today.

The manager's problem was greater than we might imagine. To be in the position to administer his master's wealth as he does, he was almost certainly either a slave or what the Romans called a 'freed-man', that is a former slave who was still trusted to manage his former owner's wealth. Even if he didn't have a reputation for dishonesty there was simply no way that he could find another, similar position. To lose his master's trust meant that he faced ruin and (as his musings in the parable make clear) had few options, all of which were undesirable. He would also have known that the agreements made by a freed man or slave were completely binding upon the master.

And his answer is to abuse his master's trust even further. So why does Jesus commend him? He is a good example, not because of his dishonesty, but because he is shrewd. He is farsighted enough to treat money as a tool to ensure that he will have friendships that will last (verse 9).

Note that in the next verse Jesus goes on to describe wealth itself as 'dishonest'. At least one strand of biblical teaching invites us to remember that wealth can have its own power over us, love of money can lead us away from God and we need to be reminded that there are more important things in life.

To Ponder

  • How do you respond to Jesus commendation of someone who was fundamentally dishonest?
  • In what ways can you use your material resources to build friendships or the kingdom of God today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.