Just before this passage, Jesus had just told the people about the parable of the prodigal son and now he gives them another one.
Luke 16:1-13 (NIV)
1 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. ’
In this parable we find two characters, the rich man and his manager. The rich man heard that the manager as wasting his possessions and summoned him to come and explain. The rich man had already made up his mind that he was going to fire the manager because, the rich man said that he cannot be a manager any longer. The only thing left was for the soon to be ex manager, to give a final account of his management. This simply means the manager had to close the books, make sure everything balances and hand them over to the rich man.
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. ’
Realizing that the rich man had already made up his mind to fire him. The manager was worried about his future. What worried him specifically was that he was not strong enough to dig. This in my opinion refers to not strong enough for manual hard labour. On the other hand, he was too ashamed to beg. This might mean either to beg the rich man not to fire him or to become a beggar on the street. He deviced a plan that will ensure that when he does finally leave the job, the people will welcome him in 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 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 of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred. ’
This was the plan the manager had in mind. He was now going to call everyone who owed the rich man. He was then going to do them all a favour and give them discounts on their debt. The one who owed 900 gallons of oil, was given 50% discount and the other who owed 1000 bushels was given 20% discount. I do beleive there could have been more people that owed the rich man and if the were, he would have given them all discounts. The measure of olive oil (100 baths, about 850 gallons) represented the yield of nearly 150 trees and was worth about 1,000 denarii, no small sum. The measure of wheat (100 cors, about 1,000 bushels) represented the yield of about 100 acres and was worth about 2,500 denarii. The percentages of debt forgiven differ, but roughly the same amount of money is forgiven in each of the sample transactions (about 500 denarii). A denarius was a one day labour wage. So 1000 denarii was over three years worth of salary.
So, apart from wasting the rich man’s money, the manager was now completely being malicious. Not only was he a dishonest manager who wasted his masters possessions but now he was also being evil and malicious.
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.
Here is now a shock. So far we have seen how dishonest and malicious the soon to be ex manager was. Instead of reacting the way we would have expected, the rich man on finding out what the manager did, the rich man commended or praised him for being so shrewd or wise. Take note that the rich man is not praising him for dishonesty but he is praising him for being wise in the way he secured his future after being fired. The rich man realized that there was nothing he could do to reverse the discounts that the manager gave and he knew that because the manager had given those people discounts, the people would have to return the favour to him.
Another thing is that, because of the discounts, the rich man had also gained popularity for his generosity. If he now punishes the manager, everyone would know that he is actually not generous but it was just the manager who acted without his authority. So, by not punishing the manager, both the rich man and the manager were benefiting in the deal. So, clearly, the manager had just secured his future. He made lost of friends who will definitely welcome him in their homes.
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.
Jesus after telling them the parable, he then gives them a lesson from the parable and the lesson is that, they must use their worldly wealth to gain friends for themselves so that when the wealth is gone, they will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. By worldy wealth, Jesus refers to worldy riches that anyone of them might have. Eternal dwellings refer to heaven why, this is the only place where we will live eternally. Dwellings mean a booth, hut, tabernacle, tent or any covered or shaded place. Now, other translations, translate this verse as saying
Luke 16:9 (NLTse)
Here’s the lesson:Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.
The verse could mean both. It could mean that you will be welcomed in to heaven either by God or by the friends you gained by using your worldy wealth. It seems to fit the context to say that you will be welcomed by the friends that you have gained by using your worldy wealth. How can one use his worldy wealth to gain friends? This simply means that using your worldly wealth to take care of others, especially the poor. Just like the manager did take care of the people that owed the rich man, likewise, each one of them must use his worldy wealth to take care of the poor, in turn gaining friends who will welcome them in heaven.
Matthew 19:21 (NLTse)
Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Luke 12:33 (NLTse)
“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.
Jesus is simply saying, if the dishonest and evil man can use his masters possessions to secure himself friends who will welcome him in their homes, surely as a Christian you can also use you worldy wealth to secure yourself friends who will welcome you in heaven. If the evil person can be so wise, then surely you as a Christian must be even wiser.
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.
Jesus is saying here that if you are untrustworthy and dishonest with little, you will be untrustworthy and dishonest with much. Jesus is simply saying that it is about your character not how much you have. If you are untrustworthy and dishonest, it is not because of how much you have and infect it has nothing to do with that, it is simply because that is who you are. Don’t say if I had more, I would give to the poor. Even if you had more, you will still not give to the poor.
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?
Jesus then said that if you could not be trusted while on earth with worldly wealth that God has given you, how can you be trusted with heavenly riches. If you could not even be trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you 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.”
Matthew 6:20-21 (NLTse)
Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
This is a very simple choice. It is either you choose God over money or vice versa. Where your treasure is, your heart will also be. Pile up riches in heaven and your heart will also be heaven. So, if unbelievers can be so wise about securing their future, why are we as Christians so unwise when it comes to securing our future in heaven? Just to illustrate the point. In this unrighteousness world, we have retirement plans and savings. We have life policies and things like that. All these things are meant to ensure that our future is secure. All of us do this. When we get to 65 years of age then we start enjoying the benefits of all this plans we had in place in the past. What is disappointing is that you could die 2 weeks after you retire and all that saving was for nothing.
On the other hand, we as Christians, we do nothing to cater for our retirement in heaven which will be eternal. If you save for heavenly retirement, you know for a fact that you are going to enjoy the fruits of those savings for eternity. So, let us be as wise as the worldy people and start putting retirement plans for our heavenly retirement. Use the wealth that God has given you to help the poor and gain friends. This is the same poor people who will welcome you when you get to heaven.
It is important to note that Jesus is not preaching salvation by works but rather, your works confirm your faith.
May these words find a suitable heart in you and may God use these words as he wills in you. In Jesus name, amen.