maybe you’ve heard something like this before: “i want to give, but i want to make sure i give wisely.” so what do we actually mean by that? what does it look like to live and give of our resources wisely? i’ve been exploring questions like this, especially brought to a head with the book that i read called toxic charity. yet, something didn’t quite sit right with the answers i was given.
then, in the GUTS training that im currently in the midst of, we studied this passage about the “shrewd manager” (Luke 16:1-13) that has always puzzled me. at first glance it seems that Jesus is essentially praising this really shady character who rips off his master through some underhanded dealings. the interpretations that i’ve had before were fuzzy ideas along the lines of Jesus is telling us not to be dishonest but to be shrewd like people of the world. now this is essentially true but what Jesus meant by being “shrewd” was still largely unclear to me. it seems most people that i’ve come across use shrewdness or wisdom with money/resources to mainly mean not to waste it or to find better ways to amass it. upon my study of this passage i actually found the opposite to be true! let me explain.
Jesus is not uplifting some value of dishonesty as Jesus is clear to call the manager (v.9) as well as wealth of this world (v.9, 10, & 11) “unrighteous” (that is the actual greek word used in every instance that is sometimes translated as “dishonest”). what then did the manager do that was so shrewd or praiseworthy? the heart of what the manager did was to use the resources at his disposal (which actually belonged to his rich master) not to save wealth for himself but to use it for relational leverage. in verse 9 Jesus elaborates an application of the manager’s wisdom in saying to “make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous wealth.” Jesus expresses that money/resources are not in end itself (and thus foolish to amass since it “fails”) but a means to exercise faithfulness. and who are these people in the story that the manager made “friends” with? it was people who did not have the means to pay the debts they owed…and if we look in the next parable Jesus tells in the same breath (v.19-31) the one in eternal dwellings is the one who scarcely has any material resources in this world. those who are “devoted” to wealth (in v. 13 the word means to “cling to” or “hold back”) end up losing out on the “true riches” (v.11) for eternity.
here in the philipines portion of GUTS training i made a friend named Jio. the mother of his child left him and he’s now living in a one room house with one bathroom with only a curtain as separation for himself, his daughter, his aging mother, and four other children belonging to his siblings. he does not have much to offer in terms of a dwelling. he hasn’t been going to church recently and so some of us decided to go over and invite him out to eat. he said he didn’t have money to come with us. so we offered to treat him and his daughter. it was a blessed time we had together to reconnect. it was a joy to give and i wish i gave more. i believe Jio will one day welcome me into eternal dwellings.