In Ephesians 4:28, Paul tells the thief to stop stealing and work. Why? “That they may have something to share with those in need.” God blesses us financially so that we can be a blessing to others. This is colourfully illustrated in this parable of the shrewd manager.
Many people find this a difficult parable because Jesus seems to commend a man even though he acts dishonestly. A rich man has entrusted his manager with all his wealth. However, the master is told that the manager has been squandering his property (it is the same word previously used to describe the squandering of the prodigal son). The master sacks him. The manager now needs to find other people to provide for him. There are some men who are in great debt to his master. The manager does them an enormous favour and reduces their debts. He hopes that they will be so grateful that when he is fired, “people will welcome me into their houses” (v. 4).
It seems the manager has been dishonest. Indeed, Jesus calls him “unrighteous” (v. 8 NASB). Of course, Jesus is not condoning his method of making friends, but He is commending his shrewdness in understanding the importance and purpose of money in this age. This man understands that in our world, money can buy things like security, friendship, and a future.
Jesus draws a lesson for His followers from this manager. We know that owning “worldly wealth” (v. 9) is a part of living in this world, but we also know that it will pass away with this world. Therefore, while we have it, we are to use it to make friends. But here is the significant difference: we make friends for eternity.
In his letter, James rebukes the wealthy believer who offers no help to a poor brother in ragged clothes (James 2:15–16). For both Jesus and James, how we help our needy brothers and sisters has eternal consequences. In our church, there may be a single mother who can’t pay the rent, a sick brother who can’t afford a doctor, or an unemployed father who can’t feed his family. If God has given us the financial resources, then we need to bless such people, and so make friends for eternity.
What do most people think is the purpose of having money? How is the Christian perspective radically different?
What does Jesus mean by this picture of “making friends for eternity”? Can you think of anyone in need right now that you could bless in this way?