Many people have wrestled with the meaning of this parable, but the important point to remember is that it is a parable. That is, as most parables (though not all), it has one main point which the story is used to illustrate. It is not an allegory, where character and event in the narrative is intended to symbolize some other deeper meaning. As a parable the story works by “throwing alongside” the spiritual lesson a dramatic comparison to illustrate the point.
So, here, Jesus asks us to imagine a “dishonest manager.” This man has been—perhaps unfairly, the story does not quite make it clear—dismissed for “wasting” the possessions of his master. He is accused of cooking the books, misusing the boss’s resources, and he is unceremonially fired.
Before he leaves, however, he is given the time to come up with a plan. Basically, he calls in all the people who owed his master money and encourages them to radically reduce the amount they owe, which reduced amount is then recorded in the accounts. This, of course, wins him the friends of other people for whom he could work after he has left the employment of the master.
The sting in the tail of this story, though, is that this dishonest manager is commended! Why? For his “shrewdness.” He was canny, wise: “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (16:8).
The point then is made, “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings” (16:9). In other words, use money here just as wisely (even shrewdly) as a “dishonest manager,” BUT NOW for spiritual gain!
How could you utilize your monetary possession to ensure investment in heaven’s priorities and the kingdom of God? It is often said that the one thing that lasts for eternity is people. How could you invest financially in the evangelization of people, the discipleship of people, the church of God’s people? Be shrewd about it! John Wesley famously used to say: “Make as much as you can, save as much as you can, invest as much as you can.”
To receive God Centered Bible devotionals directly in your inbox, sign up here.