The Parable of the Shrewd Servant – Luke 16:1-8

They there are three topics that people say you should never talk about. Religion. Well, the purpose of this website is to talk about religion and Biblical truths, so this is a good place for this topic.

Politics. At the time of this writing, the 2016 Presidential election days away. I encourage everyone to get out on November 8 and vote. Get involved in the political process . . . Important! . . . Ok . .

And the third is Money!

So today we’re going to talk a little about money. . . .Show Me The Money!

 

Parables Should Be Easy

I’m going to honest with you, this is a hard passage. There are many passages in Scripture that are hard because of their deep theology or attempt to explain God. But today we’re dealing with a parable, and it is a challenging one. One of the commentaries I read this week preparing for this post indicated that for the first four centuries, the early church made few references to this parable. It’s a challenge.

In order to help us understand this passage, we need some context. Without context, this passage is difficult to understand and the importance of the message is lost. So, let me give you some backstory or context to help frame our story today.

The Backstory

First, in Jesus’ day, people who were rich or wealthy would have plenty of servants working them. Many servants would be slaves of some kind. Some may have been bought at a local slave market, others may be indentured slaves due to outstanding debts. Some servants likely would be hired from the local community.

Much like our workforce today, these servants would start at lower level jobs, likely manual labor and then progress up the chain based on performance and other quality of work.

We have an example of this kind of service in Scripture. Remember the story of Joseph? He was sold into slavery by his brothers and when he made it to Egypt, he was sold to Potiphar.  While living in Potiphar’s house, we see Joseph move up the ranks, to eventually, he was the manager of everything in Potiphar’s house.

This was a normal practice in ancient civilization. Servants were given positions of authority in the home of the master based on how well they performed.

Now if they failed or were found to be doing something the master didn’t like, there were consequences. A servant could be demoted back to manual labor, they would be sent to work the fields. A servant could be put out, which would essentially put them on the street as homeless and no one would touch them or bring them into their home. There were many options a master had when it came to a poor performing servant.

Second, it was against the Law of Moses for a Jew to charge another Jew interest. The law was clear, but the people had built in loopholes. They argued that if you had a commodity of any kind, then you were not destitute and therefore could enter into a mutually beneficial arrangement.

So they would structure interest into the loan so as to be able to deny they were charging interest. If you needed a loan equal to 40 gallons of Olive Oil, then they would issue you a bond in the amount of 80 gallons of olive oil and only give you the 40 gallons. This way the bond simply shows the debt, but no interest. A loophole.

 

unjust shrewd manager luke 16

So with this context or background in mind, let’s look at the parable of Luke 16.

Luke 16:1-8 (NLT)

1 Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money.

I want to pause here for a moment. Last week we heard the parable of the Prodigal Son. And in that story we are told that the son took his money and went to a foreign and wasted it with riotous living.

The word used in chapter 15 to describe the way the Prodigal son wasted his money, is the same word used here, wasting his employer’s money.

The word, in the Greek, literally means to ‘separate.’ It was a word that was used to describe the way the wheat and the chaff would be separated. The wheat would be ground and then tossed into the air so the chaff could be blown away and the kernel of wheat would be collected.

It literally implies that he was throwing money away. . .making it rain. . . .frivolous. . . wasteful. . . money that does not belong to him.

2 So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’

3 “The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. 4 Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’

5 “So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ 6 The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’

7 “‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’

8 “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. 9 Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

This manager realized it was time make a move. He was either going to fields to dig or he was getting kicked to the streets to beg, neither were ideal for him.

So he decided the best solution for him, was to get in good graces with some of the master’s debtors. He figured, if he could help them make a better deal and save money, they would be more likely to let him come to the house as a servant.

So he began to eliminate the debt by cutting the ‘interest’. He cut the oil bill in half and took 20% off of the grain debt. This would essentially make their bonds equal to the debt they took without any interest.

The Employer finds himself in a rather precarious position. He can’t renegotiate the interest, because it was illegal for him to have applied the fee in the first place. Now he has an manager who could be a whistle blower causing him even more grief. . . .So the employee grins . . .offers a nod . . . and realized the dishonest manager has made some shrewd deals.

The World Get’s It, What About You?

Jesus encourages his disciples with this parable. The world has figured out how to leverage money and influence to benefit themselves. The children of the world are shrewd. They understand the power of money. They understand the way it can be used and leveraged to benefit their world. The world is able to use money to better their own personal world.

Jesus challenges the disciples to learn how to leverage the worldly possession they have to benefit OTHERS. That’s right . . . Others. How can they use the limited financial recourses they to make a difference in the lives of others?

This is the challenge of the parable. How to be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. How can we use our money to grow the kingdom?

How can we use our home to benefit others? How can we use our car to make others lives better? How can we use the possessions we have to see people come to know Jesus?

This is the reward and power of money and possessions. When our possessions go to some else and our money pays for our funeral, and we enter into glory for eternity, will we be welcomed by those friends who we influenced while on earth?

Are we using our money to benefit others or to make our lives more comfortable?

The Bible: Is it Just A Good Book?

The History channel has just completed its 10 hour mini-series, The Bible.  I have had mixed feelings about the series.  What I really thought was interesting is how it pushed a lot of people to read the Scriptures, some for the first time.

The Barna Group has just released the results of a survey indicating how Americans view the Bible.  The trend is downward.  How do you view the Bible?  And more importantly  how does it effect the way you live your life?

How America Views the Bible