Every few minutes another small crowd gathered around them… motorcycles, two beautiful motorcycles. The owners were two men in their mid-70’s, and they loved their bikes. Each time a new crowd gathered around their pride and joy they got up from the outdoor table they were dining at and made their way out to greet their fellow motorcycle enthusiasts. They had all the facts, stats and figures, answered every question. They talked gas mileage, paint jobs, and manifolds. They talked about other bikes and the route they were taking on this Fall afternoon. They were in their element and they shared a common love with everyone who stopped to look. No one who stopped to stare was turned away. All were welcomed and allowed to share in the possessions that belonged to a very select few. But they didn’t stop there. I heard one of them share with his new found friends a place along a common motorcycle thoroughfare where they offered free “surf and turf” for the price of a cup of coffee. “You oughta check it out!” It dawned on me as I listened to these men, this is what Jesus wanted us to learn from His story of the “Shrewd Manager.”
It’s a story in scripture I’ve always been a bit puzzled by. It’s found in Luke, Chapter 16. The story goes that there is a rich man who finds out the manager of his estate has been squandering his possessions. He confronts him and asks him to give an account of what he’s been doing before he gets fired. The manager goes to those who are indebted to his master. He asks him what they owe. (Clearly, he hadn’t been doing his job… he asked the debtors what they owed?!) Knowing he was going to lose his job and trying to secure a future for himself, he cheats his master even further. As each debtor comes to him he reduces their debt hoping that when he’s looking for a job they’ll remember his generosity. Jesus ends the story by saying, “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd.” (verse 8a)
What? He had to admire the “dishonest rascal” for being shrewd? Hmmmmm, what exactly are we supposed to learn from this, God? To be dishonest? To admire this manager for his shrewdness? Thankfully, Jesus tells us the answer. He says, “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” (verse 9)
Jesus wasn’t advocating dishonesty or shrewdness. He does warn us that those who are not believers are more shrewd than “people of the light,” but I don’t think that He’s telling us to be more like them. I believe what He was advocating was relationship! In my mind, the ONLY redeeming quality of this manager is his use of resources to develop relationships. Even then, those relationships he’s developing are for HIS benefit (not theirs) which Jesus makes clear to correct in his lesson to us. Don’t make these relationships for yourself, but for them! So that when all earthly possessions are gone they, like you, will possess an eternal home.
The other piece of this lesson is what the shrewd manager offered these debtors. He offered them a discount to their debt. What I believe Jesus is encouraging us to do is to use our resources, our earthly wealth, to develop relationships with others so that we can give them news about their debt just as this manager did. But, instead of offering them a discount on their debt, we can tell them about God’s economy! God says, “If you have a relationship with Me your debt has been paid in full!!! My Son paid it all for you!”
Do you see the connection? The guys with the motorcycles clearly loved to ride. It is a part of who they are. But they used their possessions as a conduit to relationship! It wasn’t about them. And it wasn’t just about their bikes. It was about sharing the love for bikes they had with others. And that relationship led to them sharing about a great deal on surf and turf! Their possessions lead them to share what had greater value… what anyone could share whether they had a motorcycle or not. “You think this is great, let me tell you about this deal! It’s yours if you want it.” This is the lesson of the shrew manager! This is what we are to emulate.
Don’t miss what Jesus says next. “If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in the little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?” (verses 10-12) In each of those verses the lesser is compared to the greater. I always thought that meant the “lesser” was something that didn’t cost as much. I don’t believe that’s what Jesus is saying here. He’s saying if you don’t handle what has little value – earthly possessions – how can you be trusted with what has real value – the riches of heaven. It’s not just properly handling things of little value so that we can have things of greater value. It’s understanding WHAT has value… the SPIRITUAL is what has REAL value. If we are granted riches in this world, like fancy motorcycles, make sure you understand how to use that possession. Use it to develop relationships so that you can share with others the only possession you have that is of real value… your relationship with Jesus Christ!
Jesus ends this parable with a clear warning. You can’t love both God and money. We have to make this very clear distinction between the physical and the spiritual, between wealth and true riches. It doesn’t mean God doesn’t want us to have nice things or even to be wealthy. But He sure wants us to understand how to put those possessions in proper perspective. What possessions hold the most value to you? Are they physical or spiritual? How do we use the possessions He’s given us to make relationships in order to share Him with others? That should be our goal.
Lord, help us to clearly see that You and You alone are our most valuable possession. Help us to keep everything else in its proper perspective. And, may we use the earthly possessions you give us to share with others, that we might have relationship with them, that ultimately they may possess for themselves the true riches of heaven! Thank you, Father, for all the gifts you’ve given us, especially the free gift of your Son, Jesus.