The Parables of Christ – Unrighteous Manager

The Unrighteous (Unjust) Manager (Lk 16:1-15) 

The parable of “The Unrighteous (Unjust) Manager” is considered by many to be difficult… 

a. It has caused much perplexity

b. It has made some wonder if Jesus was commending the unjust manager for his dishonesty

– But the main point of the parable should be clear enough when we consider it carefully

Luke 16:1

16:1* ¶ Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.

2* “And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’

3* “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.

4* ‘I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’

5* “And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

6* “And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’

7* “Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He *said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

8* “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.

9* “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.

10* “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.

11* “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?

12* “And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

13* “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

14* Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.

15* And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

I. THE PARABLE ITSELF is about……

1) – A WASTEFUL Manager – Lk 16:1-2

1. A rich man hears that his manager was wasting his goods

2. The manager is told to give an account of his managership and then be relieved

2) – A SHREWD Manager – Lk 16:3-8a

1. The manager reasons within himself concerning his dilemma:

a. “What can I do?”

b. “I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg”

2. He determines to so act as to ensure that others will receive him into their homes

a. He calls for his master’s debtors

b. He has them change their bills to reflect smaller   debts

1) This cheats his master even more

2) But ingratiates him to his master’s debtors by lowering their debts

c. It may be the manager simply removed what interest had incurred with the debts

1) Though usury was forbidden by the Law (Ex 22:25; Deu 23:19), this prohibition was often circumvented

2) It was common at that time for a rich man to have his manager do it, and then deny knowledge of it if came to light (i.e., “plausible deniability”)

3) If it was only interest being removed, what the manager did not only pleased the debtors, but the master couldn’t publicly object

The unrightous manager is commended by his master for his shrewdness 

a. Not that the master approved of the action per se

b. But he could not deny that the manager was shrewd enough to know how to use what he had to his best advantage

[The purpose of the parable is not to commend the manager for his “dishonesty” (note:  he is called the “unrighteous” manager, though that appellation might refer to his conduct prior to being found out for his wastefulness), but for his “shrewdness”.   He used what was at his disposal to plan for the future! That is the point Jesus is making, as we go on to see...]

Now let’s apply THE PARABLE first notice:

JESUS’ COMMENT CONCERNING SHREWDNESS 

Lk 16:8b

“for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.”

2. The word “shrewd” means…

a. To be characterized by keen awareness, sharp intelligence, and often a sense of the practical

b. Disposed to artful and cunning practices; tricky — The first definition reveals that being shrewd does not always mean evil

Jesus’ observation is that: 

a. People of the world are generally very resourceful with things of this world

b. Such is not always the case with the people of God (i.e. “street smart”)

Now let’s see JESUS’ APPLICATION OF THE PARABLE – Lk 16:9

Lk 16:9

9* “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.

1. This verse is difficult, but let’s begin with explanations for some of the terms:

a. “wealth of unrighteousness” 

1) The word “wealth” is  the Aramaic word for “riches”

2) It may be called “unrighteous” because it is often used for evil purposes, or because it is uncertain, undependable – cf. 1 Ti 6:17

b. “when it fails” 

1) When your riches fail

2) Or when you fail due to lack of riches

c. “they will receive you”

1) “they” refer to the “friends” made through the use of wealth

d. “into eternal dwellings” – i.e., heaven itself

1) Either that God and Jesus will receive you into heaven

2) Or those souls you may have helped will welcome you into heaven

Let me give you a couple of ideas here from two different bible commentators: “The only friends who can receive us into heaven are the Father and the Son. 

These are, then, the friends we must secure. 

During life our means must be so used as to please God and to lay up eternal treasure. If we use it as a trust of the Lord we will secure such a friend. Instead of hoarding we must make heavenly friends.” (B. W. Johnson)

“Worldly possession are the Christian’s managership. If he has been wasting them in self-indulgence, he must take warning from the parable and so employ them in deeds of usefulness and mercy that, when the managership is taken from him, he may have obtained for himself a refuge for the future.

But how can those whom the Christian had befriended receive him into heaven? The key to the difficulty is found at Mt 25:35-40 where our Lord altogether identifies himself with his poor and unfortunate disciples, and returns on their behalf a heavenly recompense for any kindness which has been shown them on the earth.

Only in this secondary and subordinate sense can those whom the Christian has benefited receive him into heaven. Nor does the passage teach that there is any MERIT in almsgiving, since the thing given is already the property of another (Lk 16:12). Almsgiving is only a phase of the fidelity required of a manager, and the reward of a manager is not of merit but of grace.

See Lk 17:7-10 Mt 25:21.” (J. W. McGarvey)

3. The main point of the parable, in either case, is make proper use of material riches… 

a. Use them with a view to eternity!

b. Be aware of the danger of riches!

4. This is made clearer as we go on to consider…

The admonition JESUS gives TO FAITHFULNESS -

 Lk 16:10-12

10* “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.

11* “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?

If we haven’t been faithful in our handling of “unrighteous wealth” (material riches)… 

How can we expect to be entrusted with “true riches” (spiritual riches)? 

Remember the parable of “The Talents”? – cf. Mt 25:14-30

 

He then reminds us that what riches we have are not our own – Lk 16:12

a. If we aren’t faithful with that which belongs to another…

b. Then who will give us what is ours? — At the present we are simply managers; nothing we have is really ours, but God’s!

Then JESUS’ WARNING CONCERNING TWO MASTERS – Lk 16:13

Lk 16:13

13* “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

1. Perhaps another reason why Jesus refers to  material riches as “unrighteous wealth” is because it tends to draw people away from God!

2. While wealth desires to be our master, so does God

3. Since we cannot serve two masters, we can’t serve both God and wealth

– This implys we must control wealth (and not vice versa) through proper use

[In warning about the danger of wealth and the need to use it properly, a reaction comes not from the disciples, but the Pharisees who were listening in...]

The Pharisees did not like the implications of  Jesus’ teaching here:

1. The reason is because they were lovers of money

2. We should therefore expect all lovers of money to react in a similar way to what Jesus is teaching in this passage

3. Indeed, even some worldly Christians don’t take  Jesus seriously when it comes to material riches.

JESUS RESPONDS – Lk 16:15

1. They seek to justify themselves before men, but God knew their heart

a. They may have taken issue with Jesus, professing theological grounds

b. But the real reason: they were lovers of money! 

2. God and man do not always see things alike

a. There are things that man esteems highly (like money)

b. But such things may be an abomination to God  (e.g., money when improperly used)

CONCLUSION

1. The parable of “The Unrighteous Manager” is designed to stimulate our thinking about the proper use of material riches…

a. What is praised is not the dishonesty of the manager, but his shrewdness

b. Especially in his use of money to ingratiate himself to future benefactors

2. Jesus teaches us to be shrewd in our use of material riches…

a. Use them with a view to eternity, demonstrating that you can be faithful with true riches,  and with what will one day be truly your own!

b. By using wealth properly, it becomes our servant rather than our master

When Paul wrote to Timothy he said something very similar:  1 Tim. 6

1 Tim. 6:6-10

6* ¶ But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.

7* For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.

8* If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

9* But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

10* For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

You see – there is a dangerous side to material riches as Paul points out in this passage. (vss 9,10)

But when properly used, they can help store up for ourselves a good foundation for the time to come, and lay hold on eternal life! – 1 Ti 6:17-19

1 Tim 6:17-19

17* Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

18* Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,

19* storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

– Not that riches can earn or merit salvation, but improper use can certainly keep us from  it! (cf.

1 Ti 6:9-10)

Are you shrewd with the use of the riches presently entrusted to your managership?  Are you using them to make friends (e.g., pleasing God) who can receive you into everlasting habitations when your material riches are no more?  Remember the words of Jesus:

“Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? (Lk. 16:11)

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