What did I learn about Jesus?
- His teaching—even with things like money and marriage—are matters of eternity.
- Jesus sees the motivation of our hearts (verse 15).
What did I learn about disciple-making?
- Managing God’s resources involves being shrewd and faithful.
- We don’t appear to have a second chance after this life to decide about Jesus. We need to share the message about him now! (verses 25-31)
Extended thoughts and observations from Pastor Mark:
This is a tough chapter. Both major parables are problematic. I’ll ask a few questions about the first one and leave other, eager-beavers, to take on Lazarus (not the Lazarus of John 11, probably, and the only parable of Jesus in which he names one of the characters. This makes some wonder if it really was a parable or if was based on someone’s life or even THE Lazarus who came back from the dead. But enough of that.)
In the parable of the shrewd manager, Jesus SEEMS to be complimenting a man for cheating his boss. Other attempts to explain the manager’s decision to deeply discount debts owed to his master don’t really seem to hold together. He knows he is going to get fired and he quickly slashes debts so that, when he loses his job, the debtors will now owe HIM for his generosity… but generosity at the expense of the master.
And YET when the master figures out what he has done, he commends him for his shrewdness. Some thoughts:
- The manager never gets his job back, apparently. Whatever appreciation for his shrewdness, he still doesn’t trust him, and he still loses his job.
- It is important to look at Jesus’ own interpretation to understand what the parable means. Jesus praises two qualities:
First, he praises the shrewd foresight of the manager who was able to look ahead to his own interests and take action, however questionable, to insure his welfare. Notice, Jesus doesn’t say that what the manager did was RIGHT. Just shrewd. In fact, his whole point seems to be that the “sons of the world” are better at preparing for their own “future” than are the “sons of light” whose treasure is worth far more than the “unrighteous wealth” of this world. “Shrewd” may not seem like a very “Christian” quality but having the ability to look ahead and parlay your resources and relationships for eternal gain… Jesus seems to commend this.
Second, conversely, Jesus seems to condemn the dishonesty of the manager when he speaks of faithfulness in verses 10-12. God blesses faithfulness. If you are faithful with little, you will be faithful with much and vice versa. The manager was NOT faithful; he was dishonest and, ultimately, it lost him his livelihood.
So… it’s a puzzling confluence of ideas. On the one hand, Jesus urges his followers to be faithful in all that they do… but the faithfulness should include being shrewd in the way we assess our circumstances and invest ourselves and our resources in the work of the kingdom.
Faithful… but shrewd. Strange? Do you all see anything different here?