I’ve tried to dive into this passage multiple times already, and I just woke up from a 2-hour nap after Church so hopefully I’m ready this time. It’s another one of Jesus’ Parables! This one I would definitely encourage you to read, because I had a ridiculously hard time making any sense out of it. I’ll be quoting some of the verses below, but here’s the full passage.
The story is relatively simple to follow at first.
There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.
The master tells the manager that he’s not happy with this, and that he’s pretty much being fired. The manager takes things into his own hands:
So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’
It gets even more confusing as we near the end of the story.
The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
We first have to make the distinction between some of the words and what they mean. Unrighteous wealth is not wealth that has been acquired through wicked or evil ways, it simply means the riches of this world. Money, clothes, anything we own is considered unrighteous wealth because it is different to the riches of the Kingdom. This is made clear in Luke 16:11, where he contrasts it with “true riches”.
So what does it mean to make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth? The manager made use of his master’s wealth to make friends with his debtors, so that they would eventually take him in and be there for him. The manager didn’t want anything back from these other people, he just wanted people that could receive him! The passage states that once your unrighteous wealth fails, and it will, you will still be received into the eternal dwellings.
Remember the audience in this passage. Yes, he spoke to the disciples, but it is apparent that he was surrounded by Pharisees as well. They ridiculed him because they had confidence that their money would not fail them. The thought of using their money for the sole purpose of getting to know and befriend others was a joke to them.
They were not saved, and Jesus wanted them to use their worldly wealth so that, when it all eventually came crashing down, they would still be received into the eternal dwellings! He’s actually giving them a warning and telling them how they should use their money. Simply put;
You cannot serve God and money. – Luke 16:13
Why are the sons of this world more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light? My first reaction to this comment is simply that shifty people know how to deal with people like themselves. But the master commends the manager for his shrewdness. I have to believe that it’s a good trait. Maybe the sons of light wouldn’t have the tenacity to do something so blatently dishonest.
But this isn’t Jesus telling us to be dishonest! He’s commending the manager for his way of thinking that will allow him to seek a better life. It doesn’t explicitly say that his new life is going down the right path, but it suggests that his urge to be received shows something a bit … different than before.
Some of us are reluctant to receive because we’re used to being sons of light. We’re reluctant to receive because we don’t want to be a burden. It’s not the right attitude, and maybe the dishonest attitude isn’t the right one either, but it may actually be better for us if we’re too stubborn to ask for help.
Ultimately, what is this passagely trying to say?
Yes, it’s true you can’t serve both God and money. But where does that leave me? I want to be successful, I want a lot of material goods, and there’s no getting by without money. Where does that leave me as a Christian?
Money is a terrible basis to build any friendship, but Jesus tells us to use unrighteous wealth to our advantage, and not only does he tell us to make friends with it but he says that these very friends will be there to receive us. And if I can give to my brothers and sisters out of love, what should I let stop me from doing so? Invest your money in the eternal dwelling. Give graciously, not just for others’ sake, but yours as well.
[For] if then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? – Luke 16:11
This is definitely a passage where I finished reading, and decided to just take Luke 16:10-13 as a conclusion before moving on. I didn’t even get the chance to cover all the topics of this passage (I felt like I missed something about taking care of other people’s things), but I’m glad I took the opportunity to decipher a lot more than I originally had.
And damn, have to admit that Pharisees make parables so much easier to understand cause they’re always wrong :)))
Michael “Feeling the Force from Luke” Ru