To understand the parable, one must recognize the context in which it appears. That context is found in Luke 15:1-2, where the Pharisees complain about Jesus for associating with tax collectors and people who did not know God.
The Pharisees were wondering why Jesus was spending His time with people who didn’t know God rather than the religious leaders and why those people who did not know God were attracted to Jesus rather than to them.
Jesus then tells three parables which were intended to answer those two questions. The first is the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the second is Parable of the Lost Coin and the third is the Parable of the Lost Son. Each of these parables are at their core evangelistic. They demonstrate God’s love for the lost and the lengths to which He will go–and we should go–to see them repent and turn to Jesus. It is in this context Jesus tells the Parable of the Shrewd Manager.
Jesus explains that there was a rich man who had an employee who managed the rich man’s businesses, and the rich man learns the manager has squandered the rich man’s possessions. Maybe the manager has been stealing from his employer. Maybe he’s incompetent, or maybe he’s just lazy. We aren’t told because it doesn’t matter.What matters is the owner tells the manager he’s going to be fired. But before he’s shown the door,the manager is required to provide a report as to the status of the property he has managed for his employer.
The manager has a problem. He will have to explain to future potential employers why he was terminated. If he tells the truth no one would ever entrust them with their property. If a potential employer checks with the rich man for a reference the manager will have the same problem. When people hear why he was fired, no one will trust the manager with their property. At best, they might trust him with a shovel, to dig ditches, or he can become a beggar, and he doesnt wan’t to do either one of those.
The manager has to come up with something that will so connect him with people that they won’t care what the rich man, no matter how influential he might be, might say about the manager, something that will build so much trust between the manager and the people they would even be willing to invite the manager into their homes to stay with them if he needed a place to stay after he’s fired.
In next post, I’ll discuss what the employee did and why it is a model for workplace evangelism. GS