Friday, March 4, 2011
THE PARABLE OF A SHREWD MANAGER
Inside me, I was mixed. On one hand, I was happy at my grand birthday party thrown in for me by my colleagues but on the other hand, I was sad at the thought of leaving them soon. I helped them all get hefty bonuses and none of them knew how it came about. Apparently, they were stunned by my gesture more than the fat cheque they received and some almost worshipped me for that. I was hoping they would do something more for me than just organising a birthday party. How I wished they knew what transpired between the boss and me.
All the marketing staff knew all about my relationship with the Boss and how I used to boast of having large amount of bonuses from him. Envious of my success, they often showed their displeasure with me. That was egoism at the heights for me. 'Better than the rest' was my motto. When they found out I used unscrupulous means to fish for business and bonus, they hated me even more. Everyone knew what I did but I didn’t care a bit! I was taught to soar no matter what. I figured that a football squad must score to win even if they had to play rough.
Then the crushing blow came! My Boss told me to say my last wish in the company. All along he knew I was playing tricks in doing business and he kept his eyes closed. This was because I brought in loads of money to the company. “I cannot cover for you anymore as too many people knew of your dealings here,” he said softly to me. It was not my style to beg but that day I was desperate for the job back. Yes, I did earn loads of money but much of it went out to girls, wine and travel. In fact, I had yet to settle the loans for my house and cars.
He stood adamant however much I pleaded and reasoned. He kept on saying, “Say your last wish as your parting gift.” I had to be quick because he gave me two minutes to say my last piece or forever hold my peace. The first thing that came to mind or rather, the only thing that came to mind was the money. Perhaps one last big fat bonus! That’s when the Boss came in and gave me a shock of my life. “Oh, I forgot to tell you that your wish must not be for your own. You have been selfish enough. Two more minutes,” he uttered and left without mincing his words. I protested loudly and then went blank.
The Parable of the Shrewd Manager is only found in Luke 16:1-9. Jesus tells this parable to the disciples whom he knows one day will assume leadership in the Church and they need prudence in dealing with money.
First of all, this manager in the story is both greedy and selfish. His master finds out and subsequently fires him, asking him to give his last account. In the last day of his work, he goes around changing some amounts of the debtors since whatever he does is still legally binding. Perhaps there is a plot between the debtors and him, agreements that will help the dishonest manager gain friends. That is exactly what he has in mind, to at least get help from new happy debtor friends (these debtors are rich business people considering large amounts of commodities they needed – vv 6-7) when he leaves his job the next day.
The master commends this shrewd fellow as he could also be a shrewd fellow himself, albeit, a bigger one. As far as Jesus is concerned, he will never condone dishonesty. But the key principle he wants to share with his disciples is using the power in hand for a purpose. Shrewd here in the ancient Greek literally means prudence. Therefore they need to use discretion when comes to having position of influence or usage of material wealth. The shrewd manager uses his position for his own selfish gain when he is at his job and when he is about to be fired. Remember, Jesus shares to them that the manager is fired for his greed (v1). He has squandered the master’s wealth. He strongly implies to his disciples to be ‘shrewd’ for God’s purposes or to put on their thinking cap when they have the influence (v8b). The key idea here is prudence when dealing with worldly wealth – do you use it to gain eternal friends (evangelism) or do you use it for own pleasure?
There are two main questions concerning money in a Christian’s hand..1. Where did you get your money?; 2. How did you use your money?
The disciples in the early church did practice the teaching in this parable where many followers of Jesus gave what they possessed for the poor!
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:45).
Christians sometimes are not too keen in talking about rewards in heaven. That is why many righteous people of God will be surprised when Jesus sees them and rewards them for doing things to him. Yes, to him and not only for him (Matthew 25:34-40)!
Money is a test of faith and faithfulness of a believer in Christ! Yes, there are rewards in heaven await those who work for His kingdom! God is no debtor to anyone!
NOTE: The above parable ends the series - The Parables of the Radical Gospels. There are some parables I did not put into this blog because of their self-explanatory messages.