Ask Chuck: Are You Shrewd with Money?

Dear Chuck,

The Parable of the Dishonest Manager looks like Jesus commends lying. Am I right about this? Curious what you think.

Curious Reader

 

Dear Curious Reader,

Almost two-thirds of Jesus’ parables mention money or possessions and our beliefs and use of them. He talked a lot about money—more than He did about heaven and hell combined. Few are more piercing and often misunderstood than The Parable of the Dishonest Manager in Luke 16.

People frequently conclude that the manager is commended for being dishonest. But that is not so! He was commended for being shrewd. “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world  are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” (Luke 16:8 ESV)

Good Managers Do Not Waste Money  

The word shrewd conjures up, in my mind, the villainous robber baron Henry F. Potter, who tried his best to gain control of the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan Bank in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. The antagonist is perfectly portrayed by Lionel Barrymore as a self-centered, greedy, and conniving rich man who is eager for power and control.

But the term “shrewd” is not limited to those with evil intentions. The definition is:

  • Having or showing astute or sharp judgment in practical matters
  • Marked by clever discerning awareness; hardheaded acumen
  • Artful resource management

The manager’s behavior, when called into account, indicates that he was guilty of wasting someone else’s possessions. This is the reason he was being fired. It introduces an interesting, sobering idea of one kind of sin: wasting someone else’s money. The Pharisees had to be examining their own stewardship of money as they heard the story unfold.

Culture portrays rich people who are foolish with money. Think about celebrities with rock-star lifestyles, the indulgence of lottery winners, or those lighting cigars with $100 bills. The reality is that people who have earned money and worked hard for it detest waste.

The dishonest manager faced the possibility of unemployment. He would have to beg for a living (which he refused to do), dig ditches (which he was not capable of doing), or come up with a scheme to get what he wanted (a free ride). So he went about reducing or forgiving debtors so that he could make friends who would supply his needs in the future—when everything he had would be gone. (By the way, forgiving our debtors, those who wrong us, is a fantastic way to make friends.)

 

Are You Shrewd with Money?

Let’s amplify Luke 16:8–9: worldly people are more astute, clever, artfully resourceful, and sharp in their discernment when it comes to the use of money among themselves than Christians are. Christ used the context of this shrewd manager, who is dishonest because he is not walking in the light, for two purposes:

  1. To convict the Pharisees of their dishonest, wasteful, cleverly disguised selfishness. It is as if He said, “I have to hand it to you; you know how to put it over on each other. You are good at deception and trickery. You could play the starring role of Mr. Henry Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life. You think you are smarter than your Master.”

“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9 ESV)

  1. To give a direct purpose statement for our use of money. In verse 9, Jesus is telling us: Be shrewd not for temporal gain but for eternal rewards. Rethink how you use the money that has been entrusted to you. You are my steward in this story. Don’t waste it all on yourselves!

What Does Shrewd Stewardship Look Like?

In the film It’s a Wonderful Life, we see two worldviews portrayed brilliantly by Frank Capra in his depiction of the human condition of a shrewd antagonist vs. a shrewd hero. Henry Potter wants money, power, and control. George Bailey put others before himself. He sacrificed his honeymoon, dreams, and ambitions to save the hard-earned money of the everyday folks of Bedford Falls. He was cheered for his character and integrity as a steward of the Bailey Building and Loan.

So, in the coming days, take a few hours to watch It’s a Wonderful Life again. It is considered one of the top 100 most influential movies of all time. Incredibly, the entire plot is about money and the struggle between selfishness and generosity. It is the story of two very shrewd people! Analyze the way you handle what God provides. Are you more like George Bailey or Henry Potter? Would you be defined as shrewd? Why or why not? What do you need to change in your life to repurpose your use of money?

The Crown God is Faithful devotional provides inspiring and practical biblical wisdom. You can sign up to receive the devotionals daily to help transform not only your finances but also every area of your life.

 

This article was originally published on The Christian Post on November 25, 2022.