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I am using a very comprehensive book by Klyne Snodgrass as a resource for articles on the parables. Dr. Snodgrass presented 16 different interpretations of the parable of the Dishonest Manager in his book.
Obviously, this is one of the most difficult parables to understand. I appreciate Dr. Snodgrass’ insights on the parable and I am following them for the blog.
Imagine a gathering of people who have been following Jesus. It was to these people Jesus addressed the parable.
He said, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’
“Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.
“‘I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’
“So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
“He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’
“He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’
“Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’
“He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’
“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.
“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes” (Luke 16.1-9).
Q & A – Questions and Answers
A good way to grapple with this strange parable is to ask questions, provide answers, and come to a conclusion about what Jesus meant.
Q – Just how much did the manager owe the owner?
A – Quite a lot. The amount of oil was between 800-900 gallons and the wheat was equivalent to 7 1/2 years of labor.
Q – In verse 8 the “master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” Is God identified with the “master” in this parable? If so, is he OK with what the manager did?
A – God never makes dishonesty OK.
Jesus highlighted honest speech and behavior when he said, “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5.37).
Q – If God is not the “master” in this parable, what does the parable teach?
A – In the second part of verse 8 Jesus said, “For the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
The dishonest manager belonged to “this age.” His actions were characteristic of shrewd, wise, and quick-thinking businessmen in the dog-eat-dog world of commerce.
Jesus’ followers have left “this age,” and have become “children of the light.” Shouldn’t God’s children have excellent wisdom and quick-thinking with regard to their lives as God’s managers in his kingdom?
Q – Why then did Jesus say that the “children of this age” are more shrewd than the “children of light”?
A – The problem that the “children of light” face is that we live in two worlds. It is as if we have one eye on the kingdom of God and another eye on the world’s system.
It is sad to say that all too often the “children of light” are overcome by the attitudes and actions of the world’s system.
That is why John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world — the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2.15-16).
Q – How does verse 9 relate to the parable? “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.”
A – Wise “children of the light,” will use their wealth according to the principles of the kingdom of God to which they belong.
In the next verses Jesus expands his thoughts.
Verse 11 – If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?
In the language of Jesus’ day the word for “wealth” is mammon. Mammon is derived from the same root word as “amen,” and means “that in which one places trust.”
“Children of the light” trust God more than their bank account. They are able to use their money to benefit people and God’s purposes. The result is a warm welcome to heaven, when life on earth (and money) is no more.
Verse 13 – No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Wealth or mammon has the potential to be dishonest, because it can steal our allegiance away from God. We will either trust God or hold fast to our money.
A preacher once said, “Show me how you spend your money and I will tell you what your spiritual life is like.”
Q – How would you summarize the teaching of the parable?
A – Jesus advises his followers, the “children of the light,” to use their money with wisdom and quick-thinking to serve God’s kingdom. When this present age is over, God will receive them into heaven.
Jesus told his followers this parable to challenge them to action. “Doing” is a feature of the parable. “Doing in mentioned in verses 3, 4, 8, and 9.
As we consider what we are going to do with this parable, let’s ask ourselves some questions.
Q – Am I aware on a regular basis that I am one of the “children of the light”?
Q – Does being a member of God’s kingdom affect what I do with money and possessions?
Q – Do I use my possessions with wisdom and quick thinking in the service of God and his kingdom?
About This Blog
Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, Stories With Intent. His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.