The third parable Jesus gave about wealth is the parable of the shrewd manager. This parable is also referred to as the parable of the dishonest manager and it is found in Luke 16:1-13. It reads;
16 Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. 2 So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’
3 “The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. 4 Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’
5 “So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ 6 The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’
7 “‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’
8 “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. 9 Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.
Before we go into this, it is important for us to define the word shrewd. You will know why this is important in a bit. Google defines shrewd as;
Shrewd: Having or showing sharp powers of judgement; astute.
Astute: Having or showing an ability to accurately assess situations or people and turn this to one’s advantage.
After reading the above, you might be thinking “What? This does not even make sense!”.
It didn’t make sense to me at first but now it does and i do help this post helps you understand. There are certain passages in the bible that are easy to understand. But in order for us to understand others, we need to consider the culture and tradition of the time the scripture was written. This falls into the category of the latter. In those days, the Jewish culture was such that employers didn’t pay wages the way we do today. When someone was hired to get payments from clients, the employee could only make money based on the commission made from that transaction. Let me explain better with an example.
Obehi hires James as a debt collector. Ayo (a customer) owes Obehi £30 and Obehi needs that money back. James writes a cheque of £50 to Ayo (which includes his £20 commission). So Ayo pays £50 to James. James gives £30 to Obehi and keeps £20 (his commission) to himself. This was how business was done then. It explains why the tax collectors were hated because they charged more than the actual tax was because they had to make their commission.
I suggest you read the above example again if you don’t understand because it will help you understand this parable.
What the manager did in verses 5-7 was that he called his employer’s customers and he subtracted his commission from what was actually owed; thereby making the bill lesser than it was originally. By doing this, his employer got everything he owed and the customers paid less and saw that as a favour done by the manager. This was why his employer praised him for being so shrewd.
As this parable is about wealth, what are the lessons to learn?
Have a standard: The employer had a standard and that didn’t shift despite the shrewdness shown by his manager. There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed in our lives. Our core values are to be upheld and we need to ensure that we don’t water down or allow others to water down our values. Don’t allow people’s skills, personalities or talent make you bring down your standard.
Give praise where it is due: Despite the differences the employer had with the manager, he was still able to see the strength in the employee he fired and he acknowledged it and called it out. Everyone have a strong point and we need to learn how to give praises where it is due.
Know your strengths: The manager acknowledged that he didn’t have the physical strength to dig ditches and he was too proud to beg. In a world where people want to do all and be all, it is important we learn how to channel our energy to things we are strong at. I have never been good at craft and i do not enjoy doing them. I don’t like painting walls etc and i gladly hire someone to do these tasks for me. This allows me the time to do things i enjoy doing.
Apply wisdom: The fired manager applied wisdom by reducing the debt of the customers; thereby winning their hearts. Notice he didn’t go about telling the customers how bad his boss was. He didn’t even mention that he was getting fired in order to gain sympathy from them.
The principle of lose today in order to win tomorrow: What he lost by reducing the amount the customers had to pay, is nothing compared to what he was going to gain in future when those customers who have now become his friends start doing business with him.
In conclusion, the bible gives us the secret to all things. The principles in the parable can be used in our day to day lives. Also, the way we use our resources can be a form of evangelism. We need to remember to use our God given resources to help those around us.
Did this help you understand this parable? I will love to read your thoughts in the comment section.