Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 13 2013 - Luke 16:1-18 – Worldly wealth

The parable Jesus told concerning a manager who squandered his master's money presents the interpreter with a series of difficult issues. Why would the master commend his servant for giving away the master’s money?

There are two main interpretations of the steward's action. The traditional interpretation is that the manager acted corruptly at every point in the story. Having wasted his master's goods while acting as steward, he finally proceeded to falsify the accounts of his master's debtors by reducing the amounts owed in order to obtain their goodwill. A second interpretation suggests that, in accordance with the master’s command and custom, the steward had included in the original accounts the interest due on the deferred payments. But God's law forbade the charging of interest – a point we have often forgotten! What the steward did was to reduce the debtor's accounts by the amount of the interest due. In this way he pleased the debtors, acted legally himself and put his master in a good light. Not only could the master not condemn his servant, he had to acknowledge that he had done what is right. More than that, the steward had gained friends for himself in the process.

Whatever the interpretation of the parable, we have to acknowledge that it's easy to be generous with someone else's possessions. The manager in the parable wrote off part of the debt that was owed to his master to win friends for himself. He had no resources of his own but, in effect, gave away the resources of his master. Jesus says that we should do the same; "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings" (Luke 16:9).

We should recognise that we have nothing of our own; all that we have has been entrusted to us by our heavenly Father. This recognition will help us to be generous with all that has been entrusted to our care. It’s given to us not that we might accumulate more for ourselves but that we might be generous to others. Be open-handed rather than tight-fisted. Such generosity is a reflection of the character of our God displayed in the Lord Jesus:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

In this passage, in which Paul encourages the Christians in Corinth to be generous in their giving, Paul goes on to quote from Psalm 112:9:

They have scattered abroad their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever. (2 Corinthians 9:9)

Those whose character has been reshaped to reflect that of the living God will be owned by him as his children and will "be welcomed into eternal dwellings."

It’s interesting to note that Luke follows this parable with a comment that the Pharisees were lovers of money and scoffed at the things Jesus said (Luke 16:14). Legalism destroys generosity for it breeds a spirit of self-sufficiency rather than dependency.

Be open-handed today. After all, you're not giving away what is your own; it all belongs to God and is to be used as he would wish.

Father God, forgive me when I think that what I possess is what I have earned and that it is mine and mine alone. Transform my understanding that I may see that I am a steward of all that you have placed in my hands. May my single-minded love for you keep me from the love of money. Help me to be open-handed and generous. As you have richly blessed me in the Lord Jesus, may I bring blessing to those around me.

Peter Misselbrook