THE INTEGRITY TEST
Lord, You own all that we have.
Read LUKE 16:1–18
The Parable of the Shrewd Manager
16 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 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.’
3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “‘Nine hundred gallons[a] of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels[b] of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
8 “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. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
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?
13 “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.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 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.
16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
a Luke 16:6 Or about 3,000 liters
b Luke 16:7 Or about 30 tons
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Money and success don’t change people; they merely amplify what is already there.” (Will Smith, b. 1968)
This is a curious parable. The manager, realizing that his employment is ending imminently, devises a cunning plan – he creates some devious accounting practices in an attempt to ingratiate himself with those who might help him out when fired. The master appears to commend this apparent dishonesty. Scholars have interpreted this story in all sorts of complicated and convoluted ways, including the possibility that the servant is actually righting the wrongs of his master.
It’s important to remember, though, that parables are not usually overcomplicated. Perhaps Jesus is asking a simple question – how can you wisely invest the wealth and resources that are under your control right now? How can you imaginatively use them for something permanent and positive, which makes a real difference in people’s lives? The story highlights the importance of trustworthiness and honesty, as Jesus emphasizes in verses 10–12. The point is that as we are faithful with little, God will entrust us with much more; when we are faithful with worldly riches, we will be entrusted with “true riches” (11).
Money has a way of testing our integrity and showing our true character. While the story encourages us to make wise use of the financial opportunities we have, wisdom in this case is about helping others, especially spiritually and unselfishly, in a way that brings an eternal benefit from our earthly investments. Perhaps this could be exemplified by throwing a party for neighbors and making new friends through generosity and celebration. In light of the larger con-text of chapter 15, this would certainly be an appropriate investment.
Our use of money is a good indicator of the lordship of Christ in our lives. How is your steward-ship of God’s resources honoring to Him and to others? How can you invest your God-given wealth in ways that will bless others and foster faith and obedience?
Lord, give us the wisdom to maximize our spiritual investing down here so as to maximize our spiritual benefit on the other side.