Love for money is the root cause of all kinds of evil. In the ancient days, man exchanged goods and services in return for his own needs. In due course of time, man invented money to replace the barter system. Thereafter, money became a medium of transaction to purchase commodities. God did not create money but man invented it to spend on the commodities he wanted. Jesus too brings forth this truth by taking a coin and asking “whose likeness and inscription is this?” On the contrary, man began to treat money itself as a commodity and hoards, speculates or invests it. Man developed an attitude to avail everything he needed without spending money by manipulating the authority given to him.
The Shrewd Manager of a rich man used his authority to waste his master’s goods. As a result, he was on the verge of losing his job. He never bothered about others but once he knew that he was going to lose his job, he wanted to gain favour in the eyes of others. He realized that once he would lose his job, he could neither labour nor beg so he wanted someone to receive him. He went about this by cooking the books and reducing the liabilities owed by the borrowers to his master. As a result, people paid back the new reduced loan amount and the rich man received partial goods.
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. – Luke 16:8
Either the rich man was extremely happy and appreciated his manager for his good job as he did not know about his manager’s brilliant book adjustment skill or he knew how shrewdly the manager gained friends for himself at the expense of his own wealth. An appreciation for dishonesty always disturbs God’s people who walk in the truth. Even the Psalmist questioned God for this alleged injustice –
“Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.
And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.” -Psalms 73: 7-14
Jesus too is ranking the people of this world higher than His children. What is He trying to convey through His statement? Is He scolding His children for not being shrewd? Or is He encouraging them to act like the people of this world and make friends?
I heard some preachers encouraging believers to earn money by whatever means (even unrighteous ways) to cater to the needs of their Church and its projects. Those preachers are still lingering on worldly things and are misdirecting their ‘flocks’ too.
Jesus is telling this parable to warn us about our earthly life. Do we realize that when this life ends, neither our wealth nor our deeds are going to help us enter into eternity? Are we longing for someone to receive us into our Lord’s Kingdom? If Jesus is telling us that we should earn friends by means of unrighteous wealth so that someone may receive us in heaven, then who else do we think is going to receive us in eternity other than Jesus? Does Jesus need this unrighteous wealth from us to pay for our entry fee?
“Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” – Proverbs 16:8
Jesus is neither asking us to earn in an unrighteous way nor does he demand anything from us as an entry fee.
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” – Psalm 50: 12-15
Jesus is promising us a place in heaven and He is our only friend who is eligible to invite us into His Kingdom.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” – John 14:2-3
Our friend Jesus, is calling us to earn his friendship by means of unrighteous wealth in order to receive us when we lose this earthly life.
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” – John15: 15
To earn earthly friends we have to acquire unrighteous wealth but to earn Jesus we have to forego unrighteous wealth. Zacchaeus, the unrighteous tax collector did this when he met Jesus by giving away his worldly wealth.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” – Romans 12: 1
Jesus tells us to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). We are created in His image. Moreover, Jesus Christ has bought us with His precious blood.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 11: 1-2
The Rich Man and Lazarus
Jesus gives an example of a Rich man and a beggar named Lazarus, who used to beg at his gate every day. Both died and while Lazarus went to heaven the rich man was languishing in hell. From hell, the rich man called out to Abraham asking for pity as he was being tormented in the fire. When he was denied all assistance, the rich man realized that his family were still alive and wanted to save them from this plight. He wanted Lazarus to go to them as he thought that ‘people will surely listen to someone who came back from the dead.’
Jesus used this parable as a warning to his audience and also as a sign for his followers. Even after Jesus conquered the grave and rose on the third day, the Pharisees tried their best to cover up the resurrection story (Matthew 28:11-15). They had made up their minds about Jesus and any number of miracles or supernatural events would not convince them.
We always choose what we want to believe. People have been denying Jesus’ resurrection since day one. Even the teachings of Jesus is misinterpreted by different denominations to suit their rhetoric. Some famous one-liners by Jesus are taken literally like ‘Go baptize everyone in my name’ and some are interpreted as figuratively like ‘Go give your wealth to the poor and follow me’. Let us look to Jesus and understand the true meaning of his words and repent, rather than letting our hearts be calloused like that of the Pharisees who tried to cover up God’s greatest gift.