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?
LUKE 16:1-13 NIV…
Faith and waiting upon God do not preclude common sense. Common sense and expediency is part of prudent stewardship, and a kingdom principle! Remember the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)? It is a sad commentary on human nature that nothing will so arouse bitter and hostile feeling and resentment in the human breast as the loss of money. Humans die and kill for money. The twenty-fifth parable by Jesus is about a wasteful steward who gets to know he is about to be fired. He is loath to work and ashamed to beg and tactfully hatches a plan, reducing by 50% a bill owed to his master, gaining friendship of an oil merchant. He reduces the bill by another 20%, gaining the friendship of a wheat merchant. His master commends him for acting shrewdly. Bible translators and expositors continue grappling with this parable of a steward who defrauded his master, and his master who condoned his sinful ways. Jesus had spoken the parable of the lost son and things (Luke 15) specifically to the indignant scribes and Pharisees, but also to the listening crowd of publicans and sinners and without a break, “also unto the disciples,” addressing Himself to those close to Him in the hearing of the rest, in what my Kenyan folk would describe as “kuwachocha au kuwachanua.”
A superficial understanding of this parabolic illustration can leave misguided interpretation. But make no mistake! The parable IS NOT, a commendation of incompetence, corruption, shrewdness or dishonesty. Neither is the steward esteemed highly for our admiration, except in so far as his active concern for the safety of his own skin is contrasted favourably with the half-heartedness of “blind” and “deaf” Christian followers in their concern for their eternal salvation and in pursuit of the wealth of this world, at the expense of prudent use of their inherent gifts [“dead works”] on earth. Note the opening context: “And he said ALSO unto the disciples …” God has not invested His breath, time, gifts and preparation in us for use in heaven but rather, here on earth. We have to “open” our eyes in context of Luke 16:8. Jesus advocates a holy “worldliness,” in the sense of honest, prudent [shrewd] management of the world’s affairs and resources with which we are entrusted, including our own, as the best guarantee that we shall also be faithful servants in the things of the spirit (Luke 16:9-12). The Lord makes it abundantly plain we must know where to draw the line, and that “mammon,” [material possessions] must never take preeminence (Luke 16:13-15).
That was the sin committed in the parable that follows of the rich man and Lazarus. Our stewardship is not confined to being saved and speaking in tongues or preoccupation with going to heaven alone. While that is inevitable, it is about renewing our mind, body and spirit to live productively on earth according to God’s Masterplan in order to fulfill purpose in the context of Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 2:10. The reason we have an upsurge in “purpose coaching” and “market place evangelism” is obviously an indication of an ineffectual Church fellowship that has ignored utilising gifts productively to foster spiritual and temporal needs, but not necessarily the decline in her growth or expansion.
Generally, Christians lack depth of understanding on kingdom principles of the faith we profess compared to the children of the world. Isn’t it intriguing that African Christian nations depend almost 100% on non-Christian states and INGOs for technology, money, supplies and essential services in bilateral or development aid? Evidence abounds on the degree of physical and spiritual poverty and lack of creativity [shrewdness] among Christians. Why are the Christian nations the most adversely affected by poverty and mediocrity; blatant theft and corrupt systems? We have the answers! The choice of locking/unlocking talents, using/misusing our gifts to fulfill our purpose on earth lies with us. It is sheer fantasy to treat this story as if it were a literal description of life beyond death in heaven and hell, or as if in the after life the rich are inevitably condemned to suffer, and the poor are automatically compensated for their hardships on earth. The parable is in fact a warning to us on the tragedy of blind salvation and poor stewardship that does not produce any beneficial works to the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God, applying ordained gifts.
God has deposited abundant gifts in us and the next parable that complements the above Scripture is a warning, couched in the conventional imagery of the times, that a rich man who makes money his ‘god’ and cares nothing for the needs of those less fortunate than himself, will feel the judgement of God in the life to come.
The sons of light are not bounded by material things. They walk in the light yet have absence of acumen in the highest things. A classic illustration of sheep feeding on dry grass as goats climb trees and hedges to imbibe on green, leafy shrubs. Let us make use of our money and resources prudently and to make friends who will greet us on the other side of the line that divides between this life and the eternal ages. Then again, it is not what we have that is most important but how we use what we have for the good and benefit of the Kingdom of God. In verse 14 we read, “And the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they scoffed [derided] at him“. “The eyes of the fool are in the ends of the earth“, instead of attending to immediate, temporal things of concern near them. They see nothing beyond the ends of the earth, bound in materialism, acting as though the earth were all and the generation everything and this age the only thing that matters. But sons of light see beyond the earth and they walk in the light. Light is now shining upon believers, for light has come, and the One Who said, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in the darkness.” (John 8:12). They see near, but also see more. They put upon today, the measurements of eternity, upon the dust the values of Deity, upon the age the measurement of undying ages and upon the generation, the generation of the age of eternal ages.
The Lord also rebukes the disciples (including you and me) because of their absence of acumen in the highest things. To proponents and opponents of tithing, giving and offering in our Christian fellowships alike, to what extent does our not giving or giving affect and/or influence the Kingdom of God on earth?