People get uneasy in the pews when preachers talk about money, and many preachers get uneasy in the pulpit when it is time to talk finances. Jesus had no such reluctance. He spoke openly, unapologetically, trenchantly, and not infrequently on the subject! More often than not, he concentrated on showing how the pursuit and possession of money could have a negative effect on a person’s life. But he did not always regard money negatively—while it can become a spiritual trap and liability, it can also be a useful tool and asset. To illustrate the point, he told a story that raised both eyebrows and hackles—the eyebrows of the modern reader, the hackles of his contemporary listeners.
The story recounts the shady dealings of a rich man’s manager. When the manager realized that his embezzlement was about to be discovered, he went about making some deals that would make things easier for him when he found himself out of work. The deals were fundamentally dishonest, and when his boss found out about them and the original embezzlement, he shook his head admiringly and admitted that his manager was nothing if not smart when it came to handling finances to his own advantage. This response, rather than outrage, suggests there is reason to believe the rich man was no paragon of virtue either!
This story raises eyebrows because, while Jesus never endorses the dishonesty of the manager, he does use him as a positive role model for disciples with regard to shrewd money management. He appears to be mourning the fact that his disciples are not smart enough in handling their money. They don’t see the positive benefits of proper financial management. The shady manager knew how to use money to make friends. Jesus wants his disciples to use money to make friendships that last for eternity.
But how? Money invested in introducing a tribal group to the gospel, leading them to eternal salvation, will make for a lot of eternal friendships, and money invested in the lives of orphans that leads to their temporal and eternal well-being is money well spent.
It’s a matter of serving God with your money or serving yourself with it—and you serving your money! You manage your money or your money manages you. Sure, you can invest in Wall Street, but make sure you invest in the streets of gold, too. You’ll be surprised by the friends you meet up there that you never knew down here!
For Further Study: Luke 16:1-18