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THE UNRIGHTEOUS MANAGER

While He was on earth Jesus was proclaiming the message of the kingdom of heaven.  He spoke that message to the crowds in parables.  Matthew recorded several of His parables in chapter 13, and he tells us that, “All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable.” (Matthew 13:34) 

Matthew says, “And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” (Matthew 13:10-11) 

Jesus only explained the spiritual meaning of His parables to His disciples.  He is explaining them to us if we are His disciples.  We are sometimes a little slow of hearing, however.  Some of His parables are hard for even His disciples to understand.  I can think of one parable in particular. 

One of the most confusing parables that Jesus gave was the parable of the unrighteous manager.  The spiritual message is in the scriptures but we need to keep listening in order to understand the meaning.  It took me about fifty years to begin to really understand it. 

Listen as Jesus speaks that parable.  He says, “Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.  And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’” (Luke 16:1-7)

Wow!  Talk about a crooked manager, this one was really bad.  He was a thief and a fraud.  He had somehow worked himself into a position of trust where the rich man allowed him to have control of his wealth.  Instead of looking after his master’s interests, however, he was squandering the master’s wealth on himself. 

When the master called him in and told him that his mismanagement had been discovered and he was being removed from his position as manager, he was afraid of what the future held for him.  He had never done any hard labor and he was too proud to beg. 

He was being removed from his position but he had to give his master an accounting of his management. He would need to go assemble all of the books and come back and show everything to the master. 

In keeping with his selfish nature He came up with a plan whereby he would use the master’s wealth for his own future interest.  Rather than continuing to squander it on himself, he reasoned that if he helped his master’s debtors by forgiving a large portion of their debt, those debtors would feel obligated to him and would take care of him after he was cast out. 

Now the real shocker in that parable!  Jesus tells us, “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.  And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Verses 8-9)

It is no wonder that few Christians can hear the spiritual message.  How can a low life thief who gave away his master’s wealth for his future benefit be praised as being more shrewd in relation to worldly people than Christians are? 

From my own prospective, my misunderstanding of this parable came from the fact that it was speaking of me and I did not want to see it.

The spiritual message is of my service in the kingdom.  For those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord, they have been appointed as managers in His kingdom. 

Just as in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), each servant has been entrusted with a portion of the Master’s wealth (Talents).  Some day we will be called to give an accounting for what we have done with the Master's possessions. 

When I obeyed the gospel, my old self was crucified with Jesus and I came forth in Him and He is living in me.  As Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Paul was speaking of his own Christian life but it applies to all who have obeyed the gospel and been baptized into Christ.  He lives is us and we are called to live for Him.  Everything we previously owned will become His.

We can see that in what Jesus once told a crowd about the cost of discipleship.  He told them, “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” (Luke 14:33) 

When I give myself to Christ, He gets everything, including all of my earthly possessions.  They will have become His possessions but I have become His manager, in charge of those things that once were mine. 

My house, my car, my bank account are now His and some day I will be called to give an accounting of my stewardship of those possessions. 

It was hard for me to see the message because it was about me.  I am His manager and the question is, “have I squandered my Master’s possessions on myself or am I trying to use them to further His kingdom?” 

Is there any benefit to my Master if I buy myself nice expensive cars and boats and big houses?  Anything purchased by me is still His but He has little use for a little sports car, rather than a roomy car that can be used to take a poor widow to the Doctor. 

In that parable, the master called that unrighteous manager in and told him that he was being removed from his management position.  If I am listening to the scriptures, He is telling me that my life on this earth is short and I am being removed from my manager position very soon. 

He says that I must get ready to give an accounting for what I have done in my job as manager.  It will happen when I stand in judgment.    

When I retired from work and we moved to Florida, one of the things that we considered when we looked for a home was that it should be near the church.  That was a good thing but we also wanted a home near a salt water canal.  We found a nice home on a canal with a big boat and boat lift and dock out back and we bought it. 

Was that not a perfect spot for retirement?  God’s managers don’t retire until we get called in to give an accounting for how we have done our job as manager or until we are too old to work. 

I may have taken a few Christian brethren out for a boat ride on occasion but most of my boat rides were for my self or family pleasure.  I very much enjoyed salt water fishing but there were better things for me to do. 

I doubt that Jesus would have bought that house and boat if He were handling that job Himself.  I believe that He would have spent much less on housing and cars and used more of His possessions to further His kingdom.

Remember, in that parable, the manager who wanted to secure his future, after he learned that he was being removed as manager, used his master’s money to benefit the master’s debtors so they would become his friends.  Jesus praised him for it. 

Jesus tells us to make friends for ourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness so that when it fails (After we have lost our job as manager) those friends will receive us into eternal dwellings. 

The Master’s debtors are those for whom the Master has paid their debt for sins.  Christians are the Master’s debtors. 

I have begun to hear my Master tell me that my service as manager is ending very soon (Even 25 years is soon).  The more I read the scriptures, the more it comes across. 

The message is that I need to be more shrewd in relation to God’s sons of light.  I need to take care of my Master’s debtors and be less concerned about living the good life while serving here.  I must do whatever is possible, including using the Master’s money to benefit Christians.  I should write them a check on the Master’s bank account when it is needed. 

If I do a good job of making friends with my Master’s debtors by using the wealth of unrighteousness, some day those debtors will receive me into their eternal dwellings in glory.  All of His faithful children will have mansions in glory and they will gladly receive those who have given them help along the way. 

After praising that unrighteous manager for acting shrewdly by helping the master’s debtors, Jesus says that, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.  Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?  And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12)

Jesus is speaking of the difference between true wealth and unrighteous wealth.  Unrighteous wealth is the wealth of this world.  We may have some control over it in this life but it is not ours; it belongs to God.  If we are faithful in using that unrighteous wealth, God will entrust us with true wealth.  That wealth will truly be ours.  We will receive it in that new world.  

Paul was speaking of the difference between unrighteous wealth and true wealth when he wrote to the Philippians.  He told them that their gifts to him (They had sent gifts to help support him in his ministry) were a sharing with him in the matter of giving and receiving.  They were faithful in their use of unrighteous wealth when they gave it to Paul. 

They had given the Master’s wealth to one of His debtors.  Remember, that should open doors to eternal dwellings for them.   

Paul may be speaking of that when he then tells them,Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” (Philippians 4:17)  Because they were faithful in the use of the unrighteous wealth of this world by giving it to a needy brother, they were adding true wealth to their account in heaven. 

If we add profit to our account when we help a needy brother in Christ, and it adds as we continue to give, we may wish we had done more adding when we get to those eternal dwellings. 

Paul did tell the Corinthians (Speaking of their giving on the first day of the week to help those poor saints in Jerusalem), “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

We may want to think about putting more effort into adding to our account of true wealth for retirement in that eternal land of rest and forego some of those big boats and cars and other things we don’t really need in this life. 


Johnny Rogers 5-6-16

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