In the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, in Luke 16, we see something different than most of Jesus’ other parables. In most of His parables, the protagonist is God. However, in the Shrewd Manager, all of the characters in the parable are people in the world. Let’s look at the first verse.

Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions”

Luke 16:1 (NIV)

This verse tells us Jesus is telling this parable to his disciples. The rich man in the parable is not God but a rich man in the world. The manager is another worldly person who has been squandering his boss’s stuff. The next verse sets up the actions for the parable.

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.’

Luke 16:2 (NIV)

I always thought the rich man told the manager here that he would fire him unless he settled his accounts. However, that’s not what’s happening. The manager will be fired, but his boss wants him to get the books in order and show them to him before he is tossed out on his ear.

The manager realizes that he can’t do manual labor and doesn’t want to beg, so when he loses his job, he will be out of luck. Therefore, the manager devices a scheme to ensure his future, so he calls in two debtors and cuts one of their debts in half and the other by twenty percent. These two debtors are indebted to him since he lowered their debts. This means they’ll “welcome [him] into their houses” (Luke 16:4 NIV). After this, how does the rich man respond? Let’s see.

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” (emphasis added).

Luke 16:8 (NIV)

This is one reason why it’s important to know who the master is. If it were God, then there’d be all sorts of questions about it. However, it’s the rich man. Yet, I still got tripped up about it. No matter how I looked at the first part of this verse, it didn’t make sense to me because the manager ripped off his boss. It doesn’t tell us that the debtors paid their debts like debt collection or something. They paid a lesser amount to settle the entire debt. That would make sense to me. No, it tells us the manager was commended because he acted shrewdly.

Both the master and the manager are worldly. We’re not told that the master liked what the manager did. Just that he thought it was pretty smart. The manager didn’t have any of his own money to work with, so he used his master’s goods to make way for himself. Even if that was wrong, the master thought it was clever. The next part of the verse, about the people of this world being more shrewd with their own kind than the children of the light (Believers), means that worldly people will do whatever they can to secure their futures in this world. They act this way because this world is all that they have. However, Christians might not be as shrewd with worldly things. Then, Jesus tells the disciples something that might seem odd.

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Luke 16:9 (NIV)

Earlier in Luke, Jesus told his disciples not to worry about money.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Luke 12:33 (NIV)

In Luke 16:9, Jesus still talks about money and not worrying about it. Perhaps Believers don’t make the best investments and aren’t as shrewd as non-believers in money matters. That doesn’t matter. Use the money you have now to help people. Do as He said in Luke 16:9. Then, you will be welcomed into heaven and dwell eternally there.

The shrewd manager only worked to secure his immediate future. Just as investments here on earth only benefit us on earth. However, as Christians, we should use our money to help people here because our hearts aren’t tied to money. They’re with God. In Luke 16:10-12, Jesus gives us further insight into handling worldly wealth.

10 “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. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

Luke 16:10-12 (NIV)

This parable is about stewardship. As Christians, we don’t own anything here on earth. Our money and everything we have has been given to us by God. Thus, verses 10-12 give us insight into the benefits of stewarding the things God has given us.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Luke 16:13 (NIV)

Money is an obvious choice for a false god because people think it will make them happy. Frankly, life can be a lot better with money than without it. Thus, the Pharisee’s response.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.

Luke 16:14 (NIV)

However, what Jesus says next reveals that it’s not just money he was talking about.

He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight (emphasis added).

Luke 16:15 (NIV)

This lets us know that there are other “masters” out there that we must be careful about serving. Health, happiness, marriage, etc. The list of things we can devote ourselves to other than God is quite long, so we must be on guard and make sure we’re serving God.

I don’t know why I always got hung up on the master commending the dishonest manager in verse 8. I guess I was overthinking it. Although it didn’t hinder my understanding of the parable, I’m thankful that I now understand what was going on there.