Shrewd? Did Jesus mean the dishonest guy who ripped off his employer was sharp? Not exactly. This is one of the most complex and confusing parables Jesus ever told. Many skip over this and go to the next section. Why would Jesus commend a hustling dishonest shrewd manager embezzling from his master? Jesus wants us to learn something from a crafty crook. He’s the shrewd manager.


The Shrewd Manager – Luke 16:1-9

By Delbert Young

The Shrewd Manager – Luke 16:1-9

Scriptures: Luke 16:1-8, Luke 16:8-9, Matthew 10:16, Matthew 6:19-21

How do you feel you manage the resources you have? Are you frugal, stingy, wasteful, or generous? How does your spreadsheet look? What’s your biggest deduction at tax time? Today, we have another chapter change without a location change. Jesus was telling a series of stories to a crowd of people including Pharisees who were muttering concerning his relationship with outcasts and sinners. He finished the story of the older brother and went straight to this story.

Luke 16:1-8 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ “The manager said to himself, ‘WHAT SHALL I DO NOW? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg — I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, PEOPLE WILL WELCOME ME INTO THEIR HO– USES.'” So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ “‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.” The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’ “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.” He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ “THE MASTER COMMENDED THE DISHONEST MANAGER BECA– USE HE HAD ACTED SHREWDLY.

What! Really! “Shrewdly?” Did Jesus mean the dishonest guy who ripped off his employer was sharp? Not exactly. This is one of the most complex and confusing parables Jesus ever told. Many skip over this and go to the next section. Why would Jesus commend a hustling dishonest manager embezzling from his master? Jesus wants us to learn something from a crafty crook.

First, it’s a story in parabolic form – parable – parabole {par-ab-ol-ay’} – a placing of one thing by the side of another, juxtaposition (the act of positioning close together), as of ships in battle. A parable is a story positioning itself alongside us. We’re unsuspecting and somewhat defenseless to a story attacking us. We, as it were, allow a story to fire its cannons into our lives not realizing we’ve been hit until the ship sails away. Jesus was amazing at this. Jesus told about 38 parabolic stories. Interestingly, 19 deal with money – half. Why? Money is extremely important in lives. If you live to be 85 statistics say you will spend about 50 years of your life thinking and dreaming about money.

We have a manager guilty of wasting his master’s possessions. This shrewd manager is the emphasis of this story. He was audited and found dishonest and wasteful. You and I are managers. We manage our lives. We manage our possessions. Are we wasting the life he’s given us? Are we wasting the possessions he’s given us? “Well, Delbert, he didn’t give me anything. I earned and worked for it.” Please don’t say this! If this is your attitude, you will likely learn how quickly all your earnings and work can disappear. You may hear, “You’re fired!” So, as you evaluate the life and possessions you’ve been given to manage, are you comfortable? If audited right now, how would your spreadsheet look? Have you been dishonest with your master? Are we wasting his possessions? There could be some dishonest shrewd manager in all of us – cannon ball!

This dishonest shrewd manager is found out. “You’re fired!” as Donald Trump would say. “Clean out your desk and give me the books!” He was not strong enough to dig and ashamed to beg. He’s a white collar upper management worker. He asked himself, “What shall I do now?” He had an epiphany. A light came on. “I know what I’ll do.” He came up with a shrewd plan to insure his future. While he could, and before the word got out of his termination, he acted shrewdly. He reduced what one debtor owed his master 50% and what another owed 20%. His intent was not to take the money for himself. He realized there was something far more valuable than money. This is the shrewd part and why Jesus commended him. He used his available resources to insure his future. For this, the shrewd manager was commended.

Luke 16:8-9 “The master COMMENDED the dishonest manager BECA– USE HE HAD ACTED SHREWDLY. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I TELL YOU, — USE WORLDLY WEALTH TO GAIN FRIENDS FOR YOURSELVES, SO THAT WHEN IT IS GONE, YOU WILL BE WELCOMED INTO ETERNAL DWELLINGS.

What a novel thought! First, I will be welcomed into “heaven” – eternal dwellings. But, the welcome committee will be friends Judy and I used our worldly wealth to make and help and there will be many. For nearly thirty years, every week, Judy and I’ve given a percentage of our income strictly to alms to help people. Of course, there were other opportunities along the way. Are you using any of your worldly wealth to insure your welcome into your eternal dwellings? We don’t think like this. That’s why he’s commended.

Luke 16:9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to GAIN FRIENDS FOR YOURSELVES, so that WHEN IT IS GONE, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Jesus isn’t forecasting financial disaster, though it could happen. A day is inevitable when your worldly wealth will be gone – the day you die. No matter how much you have it will no longer matter. Have you done anything to manage your eternal dwellings?

Jesus emphasized using resources to “gain friends.” I’ll ask a question. Have you ever met a generous person who didn’t have many friends? My mother was one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. One day she bought a literal truck load of watermelons. As I recall, there were seventy-two watermelons. She knew she could not eat a truckload of watermelons. Why did she buy them? To give them away and did. She had daddy drive her all over the county giving people she knew watermelons. She’d bake all sorts of pies and cookies and drive around giving them away. She’d walk in the bank and everyone knew her name and waited for mom to come by their station and give them pastries. It didn’t matter if she knew you or not. What seemed important to mom was you knew her and you loved to see her coming. When mom died, we could have held multiple funeral services. You’d of thought a dignitary had passed away. Mom was no elected official, but was the most generous person I believe I’ve ever known. I know she had a big welcoming party into her eternal dwellings.

Jesus shows in this story the response of people/friends to those who have been generous to them. They take care of you in the future. People were always doing things for mom and I was even blessed by people because of her. I remember being pulled over by a State Patrol officer. He looked at my driver’s license and said, “Are you Rennie’s boy?” I said, “Yes sir.” He handed me back my license and said, “Slow down and tell your mother I said hello.” I’d be in a long line at the tag office. A clerk would recognize me as Rennie’s boy and call me to the front. Generosity was far reaching.

Where the NIV says shrewd the KJV says wiser.

(KJV) Luke 16:8-9 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done WISELYFOR THE CHILDREN OF THIS WORLD ARE IN THEIR GENERATION WISER THAN THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT.

The word translated shrewdly (NIV) and wisely (KJV) is phronimos {fron-im’-oce} – intelligent, wise, cleaver, mindful of one’s interests. Jesus said sinners are wiser than saints while alive in their time. Unrighteous people are more clever in thinking ahead and securing their future interests and end while alive –generation – than the children of light – enlightened – planning for our end while alive. Should it be this way? No. This is what the story is about. Think supernaturally. Think eternally.

The dishonest shrewd manager was commended for his shrewdness with (1) resources, (2) people, and (3) planning for his future. Successful people of this world are extremely concerned with these three areas. Successful people of the light should plan for this life, but realize there is something more important – eternal dwellings. Certainly you will plan for the first, but will you plan for the more important? How shrewd are we?

Jesus made an interesting statement to his disciples as he sent them out. He sends us out as well.

Matthew 10:16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as SHREWD AS SNAKES and as innocent as doves.

Isn’t this a strange statement? I never wanted to be compared to a snake, but in context it isn’t bad. We can be innocent but shrewd. Have you ever observed a snake? They will position themselves, coil, and wait for an opportunity. When the opportunity comes they’re ready and… Bang! Be ready for opportunities to use worldly wealth to make friends and help people. We are to be shrewd taking every opportunity, but innocent from sin.

Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But STORE UP FOR YOURSELVES treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

This is for our self. It’s for you. Your money will one day run out, but your treasures can go on. You can’t take your money with you, but your treasures can await you. When we shrewdly manage our resources we store up eternal things for ourselves. Jesus wants us to be shrewd wise managers not to increase our standard of living, but to increase our standard of giving.

How about investing into alms? Is your heart there? God worked alms into how we should give. Jesus said, “When you give alms,” not if (Mat 6:1-4). Do you? How about investing into missions when you have an opportunity? Is your heart there? How about when someone is sick and needs some assistance? Is your heart there? Or when someone is going through a tough time? Is your heart there for where your heart is…? Are you shrewd with your resources, with people, and with a plan for your eternal dwellings? How do you manage your resources?

Jesus gave us a novel picture of our being welcomed in heaven being directly connected with our shrewdly/wisely managing our resources. How are you doing?

Other Related Sermons:

Easter Blood Sacrifice – sermon video audio notes

The Resurrection Proofed – Easter sermon video audio notes

Easter Nonsense – sermon video audio notes