Jesus continues with the parables, this time the Parable of the Unwise Manager. A rich guy received accusations that his asset manager was wasting (or dispersing) his assets. He calls the manager in and tells him he is fired and asks for an explanation. The man, realizing he was losing his job, came up with a plan; he would call in his master’s debtors and discount their balances for immediate payment. This would be good for the master because he would have those accounts paid up immediately. It would be good for the debtors because they would pay a discounted rate and have the debt off their backs, and it would be good for the manager because he will have made new friends, and he is about to be looking for a new job.
I’ve heard preachers call this “dishonest” dealing on the manager’s part, but I must disagree; it is a common business practice that turns bad debt into a win-win. What good is a note receivable to a business person if it isn’t collectable? We have come to call such uncollectables “toxic debt” in recent years, because it’s a loss that looks like a gain. What the manager did was to turn the “bad paper” into the equivalent of cash for the master for the benefit of all concerned, and I have often wondered if he had done so sooner if he might have kept his job. You should note that the master commended him for this… but he was still fired. Might he have been given another chance had he done this sooner?
Of course, none of this is really the point Jesus was making; He was talking about our hearts to people who were lovers of money.
In 16:8 ff. Jesus is actually saying that the manager’s move was a good one, but for all the wrong reasons. We should use worldly assets shrewdly for the kingdom, money and possessions to make friends so that we might share the light of Christ with them, as opposed to keeping all for ourselves.
You see, it’s a matter of the heart. God has entrusted us with certain things in this life. We are to handle these things for God’s benefit, rather than for our own, yet if we cannot be trusted to this, what will God think of us after all, He is the “master” in this parable.
The Pharisees sneered at this. Jesus pointed out that they might fool most people, but they can never fool God who sees all, including the condition of the heart. He continues in the next few verses with a warning: They will not be able to force their way into the Kingdom by manipulation of the law and indirectly at least, He comes to another area in which the condition of the heart is exposed: Divorce. The system of that day had so manipulated the law concerning divorce that great injustice was being done to many people.
To put it another way, the Pharisees and teachers of the law had enabled wealthy men to abuse their wives and to get away with it by dedicating their assts to the Temple. In an extreme case, a wealthy older man could divorce his wife of many years, get a younger model and dedicate his fortune to the Temple, making everything all neat and proper, and leave both women destitute upon his death, to the profit of the religious establishment.
Ah yes, that was the corruption He was talking about, and there’s another parable right after this one…