Jean’s Gospel: Making Friends
“He also said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.” ’ ” (Luke 16:1-2)
There are two characters in the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. The first is a rich man (or master) who employed a manager to oversee his vast holdings and enter into business transactions on his behalf. He received a report that his manager was violating his trust.
The second is a manager who had a high position in his master’s household, which included the authority to enter into financial transactions for the account of his master. The manager was accused of “wasting his [master’s] possessions.”
At the end of the parable, Jesus refers to the manager (or perhaps both characters) as “sons of this world” (Luke 16:8). By that designation, Jesus designates them as non-Christians living under the rule of this world. Worldly life is conducted according to the Law, such as, if you do the crime, you do the time (or in this case “you’re fired”). Employment law generally classifies a manager as an “at will” employee. Therefore, the master was within his legal rights to dismiss the manager without proof of any wrong doing.
Ultimately, however, the master and the manager share a common destiny. Both of them will forfeit their positions and all of their wealth at their deaths. “As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.” (Eccl 5:15) Moreover, when the mirror of God’s Law is held before them at judgment, they both will be revealed as sinners, condemned to a sinner’s fate.
“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.” (John 8:35)
Christians (or “sons of light” as Jesus describes us in Luke 16: 8) do not have a master like the rich man. It is not, however, on account of our good management of our Father’s wealth. It is entirely on account of our Father’s mercy and grace that Jesus gave His life on the cross to blot out all the sins of our mismanagement and ransom us from the kingdom of the world, into His spiritual kingdom, in which we have the forgiveness of sins.
In Christ, our Father grants us: sonship, not employment; inheritance, not wages; heaven, not hell. These He gives us out of pure grace for the sake of Christ who gave His life for us.
“And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.’ ” (Luke 16:3-8)
The manager, who knows nothing of God’s grace, much less His judgment, thinks only about worldly comfort and his immediate future. And he is not above wasting (more?) of his master’s wealth to secure his future. The cleverness demonstrated by the manager was so impressive that, despite the dishonesty, the master actually commended the manager for his shrewdness in providing for his worldly comfort.
Jesus uses this parable to observe how the children of His kingdom are lazy and ungrateful in comparison to the children of the world. We have adoption into God’s family and are made heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ as a free gift. Yet, when it comes to managing the wealth that our Father entrusts to our care, whether it be the Gospel, our churches, or, individually, our bodies, relationships, talents or wealth, we are not shrewd or wise compared with the sons of the world.
An employee asks: “What must I do?” “What is my wage?” “Is my job secure?” A child of God, by contrast, might ask: “What is my Father doing?” “How can I participate in His household, which is my inheritance?” A child believes: “Nothing can separate me from His love.”
“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9)
Jesus urges His Christians to plan ahead and make some friends! He urges us to use our lives, talents and wealth shrewdly, not dishonestly, but as children of light, to participate in Christ’s friend-making ministry to the world. Unlike the children of this world, who cannot take their wealth with them when they die, God will work through our lives, talents, and wealth to create treasure in His eternal kingdom, which treasure Jesus here calls friends.
We probably will meet a lot of friends in heaven who today we are not even aware of, who became Christians following some small contribution on our part of time, kindness, money, teaching, prayer, etc. As our Father’s children, there is no score card, no quota, or wage. We already have everything in Christ. This frees us to be wise managers in God’s kingdom, by abiding in Christ and His Word, by wisely managing the worldly blessings entrusted to us, by being faithful in the various vocations into which God has placed each of us, and by being attentive to openings to share the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord with those around us.
Perhaps Jesus used the term “sons of light” to urge us to shine the light of the Gospel into a dark world. What this means as managers is that we can share the grace that God has given us in Christ and through temporal blessings with our neighbors so that Jesus may raise friends for us in His eternal kingdom.
There are many opportunities to participate in Christ’s friend-making ministry, including, for example:
- Supporting local churches;
- Supporting missionaries;
- Supporting seminaries and seminary students and Christian education;
- Supporting Christian charitable organizations which combine works of mercy with sharing the Gospel;
- Being active in a local church;
- Catechizing our children; and
- Inviting neighbors to church.
We probably could add several more opportunities which are worthy of mention. In any case, may Jesus grant us all a willing spirit of friendship, so that through us, the light of God’s love, grace and mercy might penetrate the lives of those around us who presently can see no further than their worldly circumstances. Father, in your good pleasure, make us your instruments through which we might gain many friends in Christ Jesus – the true and faithful friend of sinners. Amen.