The Parable of the Dishonest Manager
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Investing Earthly Finances with an Eternal Focus
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: The Parable of the Dishonest Manager
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: The Steward's Response
I have to say, I'm really glad I got this passage today. I've never understood this parable properly. It never made sense to me. It seemed like Jesus was saying the dishonest manager did something good - which didn't make sense.
I was right - that wouldn't make sense, and that's not what Jesus was saying.
He was using a negative example to give us a positive lesson.
You can learn by both positive and negative examples. You can learn about how to build a solid marriage by watching people who have solid, happy marriages. But you can also learn about marriages but seeing what went wrong in the failed marriages around you. In fact, often lessons are learned the hard way, are they not?
So, here Jesus is teaching us a lesson using a negative example.
The story is pretty basic. There's a really rich man who's living far away from his business dealings, and he has a manager managing his accounts for him. He comes to find out that the manager is wasting his possessions. So he brings him in and fires him, and then asks for an accounting. That's generally not a wise thing to do - when you fire someone that's in charge of your money, you don't continue to give them access to your books! Anyway, this dishonest manager know that he's getting fired and he knows he's going to be in trouble when he looks for a new job - he's obviously not going to get a good reference. But he still holds authority over his master's accounts, so he calls in the debtors and makes them an excellent deal they can't refuse - he lowers their debt, and in so doing, he curries favour with them, which he will cash in when he officially becomes unemployed in short order. When the rich man finds out about what he's done, he recognizes it was very shrewd of him to come up with this plan. Evil, but shrewd.
So, what are the lessons Jesus is teaching here? There are several!
For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
The people of this world (nonbelievers) are shrewd when it comes to dealing with their own finances. Totally culturally relevant to us today. Plan for retirement, invest in your future. But they're solely focused on this temporal life. As believers, we should be shrewd (in a good way of course!) when it comes to planning for our future - our eternal future! Are we investing in eternity with the same planning and foresight as nonbelievers invest in their material future?
9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
This is similar. MacArthur and Driscoll have two different slants on this verse, and I think they're both right. (I couldn't get the Chandler sermon transcript to load on my computer for some reason, and I didn't have time to listen to it).
MacArthur says to invest your money in eternity by investing in ministries or missions that are going to result in you meeting friends you never even knew you had, because the money you gave enabled them to hear the gospel proclaimed and now they're in eternity with you because of your wise investment. Invest in eternal purposes, because when your money fails - and it will fail, because when you die, you can't take it with you - you're going to arrive in heaven and find out if it "purchased" you any friends in heaven.
Driscoll says that we should be generous with our money, which will, in turn, result in new friendships even here on earth. Being a generous giver will create friendships as well as opportunity to share the gospel with these new friends, as you explain the reason behind your generosity. Our money will fail - sometimes in this life, but for sure at the end of it. Our life is an opportunity to love others and serve God, and that includes how we use our money. Our money will fail us - so don't worship money, worship God with your money.
10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.
How much you give is not determined by how much you have, it's determined by your heart attitude. If you are not generous when you are poor, you will not be generous when you are rich. You won't. People think they will. But they won't. The way you spend your money right now, is the test of your character.
11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?
If we are irresponsible in the use of our money, do we really think God will reward us in heaven with true riches?
MacArthur: if you don't invest your wealth in the work of redemption you're impoverishing yourself in the future.
How we use our money has implications on our eternal reward. All believers will be in heaven, but we will not all be rewarded the same way.
12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?
We don't even own our money. God does. We are His stewards. The money we have been given is His, and we are to use it for His glory. And that's all our money. Not just the money we tithe or give. We need to use our money responsibly (taking care of our family is included in that, of course)
13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
You cannot be a slave to both God and money.
MacArthur: Either you're going to serve God, that means you're going to take your wealth and invest it in what honors God or you're going to serve money, and that means you're going to take it and use it for what you want here in this life. But you can't do both. You have to decide. Conflicting demands will produce conflicting emotions and attitudes....
Possession of wealth is a gift from God given to us as a stewardship to be employed, to demonstrate our character, our gospel concern for others, our desire to be good stewards and to receive an eternal reward and be pleasing to our Lord. Choosing to honor God with your money is to say earthly wealth is not my master. Choosing to honor God with your money is to say I want to take this stewardship and use what is His for His glory. So money is a test, a test of your attitude toward others, are you really pouring it into reaching people who can be friends for eternity? Are you really faithful? Faithful with what isn't even yours to use it to honor God? Are you truly a servant of the Lord obeying only Him?
We need to be careful who we compare ourselves with, when it comes to money. In other words, we need to stop comparing ourselves to the filthy rich, and rather compare ourselves to the dirt poor. We are the rich. And that perspective should cause us to be generous.
And that did not go over well with the Pharisees, just like it doesn't go over well now with those who love money more than God. I think this is something that, if we're honest, we all struggle with to some degree at different times in our lives. This is a great reminder that we need to have a right perspective on our money - on God's money.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 16:14-18