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A Wise Or Foolish Manger?

Luke 16:1-13

Whether you own your own business or you work for someone else, we are all accountable to someone in some way.  The boss can fire me if I don’t do a good job.  My business can go bankrupt if I don’t do a good job.  The government may send me to jail if I try to avoid paying my taxes, etc…  The parable that we are looking at today is about an unjust steward.  Another way of saying that would be an unrighteous manager.  Normally Jesus tells a parable of something good that we are supposed to be like, or something bad that we are not supposed to be like.  Today’s parable causes many to scratch their head because it uses a bad thing to illustrate something good we are to do (or at least it seems that way).

The Day Of Accounting Is Looming

In this parable, the manager is given notice to gather his books and prepare to give an accounting to the master.  Thus this sets up a strange period of time in which a person is still the acting manager, but his time is limited because he is losing his position.  The picture here is meant to highlight our position within God’s world.  He is the Creator and we are the managers of His things within the life that He has given us.  All things that we own are not our possessions outright.   Rush Limbaugh, a syndicated, conservative, talk-radio host refers to having “talent on loan from God.”  Although this comes across rather arrogant, the truth is that all of us have talent on loan from God.  Nothing we have was made purely by ourselves, our bodies included.  We use God’s stuff to make more stuff for ourselves.  In this sense we are managing His stuff.

The next part of the parable is that an accusation has been made against the manager.  The term accusation here is from the same root word as the devil or diabolical.  It means to cast at another and implies an accusation.  Now the accusation can be a false one out of ignorance, or true one out of a desire to ruin or destroy.  So we see this same pattern in the book of Job.  The devil casts his accusations against us.  However, in the story of Abel we can see that our own sins can cry out to God with accusations against us.  Yet, at an even deeper level, Paul talks about how our own conscience can accuse us in the secret place of our mind.  Thus we are in the same place as the man in this story.  An accusation from several sources has come to God and He has established a day of accounting for us.  We will lose this life and give an accounting for how we lived it because of our sin.  This is dealt with in Genesis 3 in the Garden of Eden.  God laid the decree that all men will die and surrender the life that they have been given.  In Hebrews 9:27 it says, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”  We are all in the situation that we have not been perfectly righteous in how we have managed the things that God has given us.  The key here is what are you going to do when you come to understand your situation?

We Need To Respond Wisely

In verses 3 through 8 we see the response of this unrighteous manager.  Now responding wisely to a bad situation is easier said than done.  We don’t always have a good example or good training to follow in those moments.    Now Jesus makes a strange statement, “the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”  When we think this through we will see the wisdom of what Jesus says.  Now the sons of this world are those who are not followers of God.  Within the context of their generation, they are much smarter than the followers of God (this is a general statement that allows exceptions).  The sons of this world don’t believe in a God or any accountability to Him.  They only believe in what they are smart enough to get for themselves on their own.  Because they believe this, they operate very shrewdly and cunningly within this world.   They are not wise in regard to their lack of understanding towards God.  But they are wise in that they act upon what they believe.  Now the sons of God say they believe in a God to whom they will be accountable and yet their actions and decision do not look as if they really believe that.  Jesus does not commend the man for being an unrighteous manager, but for recognizing the truth of his situation and working with what he had to improve it.  Many believers are wise enough to recognize the truth of God’s existence, but not wise enough to use their life now to prepare for the day of accounting.  This is not wise.

We need to think through our situation in light of the future.  Biblical thinking is a skill that we all need to work on.  We are all in the same situation as the man in this story.  Yes, I am a believer, and I have asked Jesus to cover my sins.  But, I am still going to have to give an account for what I did with God’s things in the life He has given me.  Also, we only have so much time to affect our situation.  We don’t have a specific deadline, and yet we know we don’t have forever.  Each day is a day that I can wake up and thank God for another opportunity to affect my future.

The second aspect to responding wisely is to make a plan to use what we have now in order to affect our future situation.  The man in this story takes advantage of the fact that he is still the manager.  He can use the authority that he still has to help those who buy from his master.  He plans to produce goodwill in their hearts towards him in hopes that they will help him later.  Now how can we use the things of our life within the time that we have left in order to please God?  This is the real question that Jesus expects us to think about.  What is your plan?  If it is to enjoy all the gifts God has given you for yourself, then you are in for a rude awakening when you stand before Him.

The third aspect to acting wisely is to diligently execute that plan throughout the time that you have left.  A plan is no good if we don’t start doing it and if we aren’t faithful to complete it.  It has been said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  We could say that in this case diligence is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  You have to start doing it and continue doing it.  Believers should pray, read the Word, and interact with one another with loving diligence because we know that these things are very real.  So Analyze your situation, Make a plan, and then do it.

The Instructions Of Our Lord

In verse 9-13 Jesus gives us some action items to work on.  So let’s look at them.  He first tells us to use our earthly possession to build eternal relationships.  Vs. 9 says, “make friends for yourselves.”  He is not just talking about friends for this life, but friends who will continue to be so in the life to come.  Eternal friends are those who are not just connected to our life, but also connected to our God.  Jesus says that if we were wise then we would use our earthly possessions to help others both in natural things and in spiritual things. 

Now we need to deal with the phrase “unrighteous mammon.”  Mammon is a term that means wealth and involves both possessions and money.  It is called unrighteous not because it is ill-gotten, but because of how it influences our heart and life.  Power has a corrupting influence on sinful hearts and don’t doubt that money and possessions are power.  In light of this directive of Jesus, we might ask the question, “How many people will rejoice when I enter heaven?”  We cannot fathom the age to come and how our relationships now might be important now.  However, I think the point of Jesus is not quite as pointed as that.  He is more focused on us acting wisely now and using the wealth we have to make eternal friends.

The second instruction our Lord gives us is to be faithful in the lesser things of this world.  In verse 10 Jesus calls the riches of this world, “the lesser things.”  People like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet may have great power because of the amount of money and wealth they have.  But no matter how much you have, it is still the lesser riches.  The true riches are those things that we receive from God that can never be taken away and destroyed.  The wealth of this world can be lost in a moment as the political and social tides storm their way over us.  But the brotherhood of believers is never lost even in the face of death.  Ours is a bond that cannot be taken by tyrants, criminals, nor devils.  The true riches starts with God’s love that we can share with Him and with one another.  Add to that the assurance we have of our salvation and future with God and His people.  On top of that we are promised a new glorified body that cannot be destroyed.  Such things cannot be taken away from us by this world.  Finally, in verse 12, Jesus promises that if we are faithful in the lesser things then we will be able to have “that which is our own.”  Simply put, Jesus looks ahead to the age to come and reveals that in that day God will give us things with which we can do anything we want.  But today we are in a relationship of managers and stewards.

The third instruction Jesus gives is to make sure your loyalties are with God and not your possessions.  Though we can think of selfish people as being their own master, in actuality they become a slave to their own flesh and its desires.  The truth is that those with great amounts of earthly possessions are often possessed by those very things.  When a person makes $12,000 a year they think to themselves, “If I only had $24,000.”  But when they make $24,000 they think, “If I only had $48,000.”  And the curse goes on.  It is never enough and we become more and more ruled by the fear of losing it.  This life is the proving ground of where our loyalties lie.  As much as God loves us, He will not bless rebels and fools at the Day of Judgment.  So how can I know if I am a slave to my possessions?  When I am always waiting until I have more to get serious about serving God with it, then I am a slave to it.  The widow put in her last coin because she was wise, not because she had money to spare.  She was not a slave to her money.  She mastered it because she was serving God with all her heart.  How am I using my money and possessions today to demonstrate that I serve God?  Don’t go away sad today.  Instead rejoice because you have received a great light that can deliver your soul from the corruption of the possessions of this world.

Wise or Foolish audio