Luke 16:8 has always been an intriguing verse, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” The dishonest manager in this story is on the verge of being fired. He has been self-seeking, manipulative and ultimately destructive to his master’s business. The man is caught and he is desperate. His self-assessment reveals his anxiety, “I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg . . .” (v. 3) In response, he makes deals with everyone who owes his master to establish favor with them for the future.
It was disturbing the first time I read that a dishonest man was commended. It struck against everything that is right and decent. So, what is the real point? I believe the man was complimented because he asked the question, “What is the most strategic way I can respond to this situation?” This man was not commended for being righteous becasue what he is doing is wrong. He is, however, commended for being shrewd. Jesus is telling this story because He wants us to be both. He is working to develop a healthy value system in us but He also wants us to be wise in how we apply truth to the circumstances of life.
Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that this is a frequent diversion for men. Most people I know put effort into life. It is questionable whether they are putting in the right effort. If your car needs oil and you spend a lot of time washing and waxing the vehicle, we will all admire the effort but it will not address the need. This sounds simple but it is all too common. Consider:
- Salvation can only be found in a personal relationship with Christ but men have stubbornly held to the belief that I have to be “good enough” to earn eternal life on my own merits.
- A wife who is listened to regularly finds it much easier to trust her husband but the average husband is impatient in conversation, preferring rather to fix the first thing she says.
- A husband who is respected will enthusiastically believe his marriage can work but the average wife consistently makes demands for him to change appearing to never be satisfied.
- The human body responds best to a balanced diet and regular exercise but the average person eats poorly and exercises sporadically.
- Spiritual growth is fostered by habitual Bible study and prayer but the average person finds it difficult to develop a regular routine of these spiritual disciplines.
- We know that people mature best when they know it is safe to explore new options and possibilities and yet we get the most angry with the people we love the most, thus stifling their motivation to try new things.
It is not that we are lazy or uninterested. The average person is busy and appears to be well-intentioned. We don’t need to work harder, we just need to work smarter.