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. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Here Jesus points out one area in which worldly men actually excel beyond the community of the redeemed. Their shrewdness in dealing with one another. They are practical, even artful in how they ingratiate people to themselves and by so doing, provide for their own future. Jesus says we should do the same.
This is a tricky saying. In the context of the parable as a whole it could appear that Jesus is commending dishonesty and stealing. But if you read carefully, what Jesus is actually commending is how the dishonest manager used the wealth at his disposal to provide for his future. Jesus challenges us to do the same. But what does He mean?
Jesus is confronting us with our love of money (see verse 13) and He is accusing us of being unwise both in how we deal with other believers and in how we provide for our future. In short, Jesus is telling us to give generously to the needs of other believers. When we do, it accomplishes several things. 1) It fights against the love of money taking root in our hearts (as any sacrificial giving does). 2) It strengthens the community of faith by drawing us nearer to one another in friendship. 3) It is a way in which we can lay up treasure for ourselves in Heaven. In verses ten through twelve, Jesus discusses how God will reward those who prove faithful with their money. But if I understand Jesus correctly in verses eight and nine, He is actually suggesting that if you use your worldly wealth to provide for believers here on earth, then they might invite you over to their Heavenly pad in eternity and thank you there. What a thought!
In case you aren't convinced yet, here's my argument: First, Jesus says that these friends we are supposed to make with our money will welcome us into eternal dwellings. Who could do that but believers? Second, notice that in verse eight Jesus explicitly compares how the people of this world deal with "their own kind" and how believers do. For the comparison to hold, Jesus must be talking about how believers deal with our own kind. Third, consider that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus follows hard on this parable's heels in the gospel of Luke. Much of the emphasis is the same. The rich man ought to have used his money to provide for Lazarus' needs on earth; but, as he did not, it reveals his true god to have been money and he was not welcomed into eternal dwellings but suffered in Hades.
So how can we live this out? Simple. Check your bank and credit card statements. We all spend money on the people and things we love. Are you providing for the needs of poor and suffering believers both near and far? Are you giving to ministries who help lead the lost to salvation? Life experience teaches us that we can't hang onto our money forever, but we can use it to provide for our future. Be generous with your Christian family, they're the only ones who have an eternity to pay you back!
For further reading:
- Luke 16- Read the whole chapter.