Luke 16:1-17:10, Proverbs 24:23-34
As we celebrate the 4th of July, I want to briefly discuss one of Jesus’ most puzzling teachings. When Jesus tells the parable (Luke 16:1-8) of a soon to be fired financial steward who goes and decreases the debts owed to his soon to be former boss, one expects punishment for this manager. However, we are told the master praised this steward for his shrewdness. We need to be clear, it is obvious that that the manager was “dishonest” and thus he isn’t an example for this reason. The master praises him, rather, because he knew the importance of winning favor with others. Parables usually convey one point, and this is all about dealing with others in a way that reflects an understanding of Jesus’ kingdom message. So that helps us understand one difficulty. But when Jesus plainly states the central call of this passage to, “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” we are again perplexed. It is obvious that this story conveys how to win favor by acting shrewdly, but what does this have to do with being welcomed into eternal dwellings. Jesus is absolutely not teaching that “people of the light” receive salvation through shrewdness. To gain Jesus’ intent, we must remember that Jesus and the Jewish audience hearing HIm didn’t imagine a completely discontinuous future, where in the next life we lose all personality and connection with our current lives. Rather, we will be known by others who have eternal dwellings through faith, like ourselves. Though we will have new spiritual bodies (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-49), we will still be ourselves. So Jesus is calling His disciples to be considerate and wise in dealing with others, especially in the family of God and to keep a mind towards our future riches and welcome, instead of having narrow focus on the here and now.