"[Jesus] also said to the disciples, 'There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, "What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager." And 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, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses." So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, "How much do you owe my master?" He said, "A hundred measures of oil." He said to him, "Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty." Then he said to another, "And how much do you owe?" He said, "A hundred measures of wheat." He said to him, "Take your bill, and write eighty." The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 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.'" - Luke 16:1-9
This is one of the strangest parables Jesus ever told. Is he wanting the disciples to engage in graft or embezzlement? What exactly is he teaching here?
Jesus must be using a "how much more" argument, which was a common argumentative technique used by Jews of Jesus' day. If a dishonest manager knows how to be shrewd with worldly wealth, how much more should an honest disciple know how to be shrewd with worldly wealth, given the fact his eyes are on eternity. In other words, disciples of Jesus need to have some common sense street smarts.
The Greek work for "shrewdness" is φρονίμως, which can also be translated "prudence," "wisdom," "sensibleness," or "thoughtfulness."
As disciples of Jesus, we are to make prudent, wise, sensible decisions in light of the fact that we are living for eternity. This means giving more money for world missions, spending more time ourselves in evangelism, and basically orienting our entire life to eternity. Based on Christian theology and doctrine, this is the prudent, wise, and sensible thing to do. Randy Alcorn's book Money, Possessions and Eternity is really good on this subject. We are to live for the line of eternity, not the dot of time.
Father, help us to be shrewd, wise, prudent, and sensible, given our belief system centred on Messiah Jesus and his kingdom. Help us to live selflessly for eternity and not selfishly for time. You will reward those who spend their money, time, and effort on what truly matters. Help us to be faithful stewards of the time and resources you have given us. In Jesus' name, amen.
- Jeff Coleman