Parable of the Dishonest (“Shrewd”) Manager
1-2 Jesus said to his disciples, “There was once a rich man who had a manager. He got reports that the manager had been taking advantage of his position by running up huge personal expenses. So he called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? You’re fired. And I want a complete audit of your books.’
3-4 “The manager said to himself, ‘What am I going to do? I’ve lost my job as manager. I’m not strong enough for a laboring job, and I’m too proud to beg. . . . Ah, I’ve got a plan. Here’s what I’ll do . . . then when I’m turned out into the street, people will take me into their houses.’
5 “Then he went at it. One after another, he called in the people who were in debt to his master. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “He replied, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’
“The manager said, ‘Here, take your bill, sit down here—quick now—write fifty.’
7 “To the next he said, ‘And you, what do you owe?’
“He answered, ‘A hundred sacks of wheat.’
“He said, ‘Take your bill, write in eighty.’
8-9 “Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.”
The definition of shrewd is complex in nature. In the Oxford Dictionary, the term shrewd is used to describe a person that is wise and clever in a particular way. Shrewd is derived from shrew, which means “an evil person or villain”. So depending on the context being shrewd could be praise or an insult.
In the parable, it can be seen from both perspectives. First, the manager was evil by doing ill and deceitful management of the Masters estate. Second, when called to report his actions he uses his cunningness to settle the owner’s debts and also gain praise in the midst of correcting his folly.
This makes us understand that at the core of the manager: his primary interest was his own survival by any means necessary. This parable echoes some of the previous teaching of Christ in Luke 11:10-13
11 What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Even the evil person knows how to do the right thing and also know how to do good. At the core of each individual the ability to do good is present. The core of a person can be exhibited in many forms, but it is reviled in times of survival. Now the questions to ask ourselves are: How can we be clever and not “shrewd” as managers of what God has given us? How can we allow the Spirit of God be our core? What type of managers are we of the riches and talents His has give us? Can we allow Him to be the owner and we the managers of this life He gives us? We are the managers of His wealth, His houses, His marriages and relationships, His children, His everything. Can we be accountable for all that He has entrusted us? What is our core?