Of Jesus’ forty-five marketplace parables, one stands alone as the most misunderstood and most controversial of all.
Many of my coaching clients and friends actually believe that Jesus praises a businessman’s sinful, dishonest behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Here is a fresh perspective on the parable of the shrewd manager and 5 lessons we can all apply in our marketplace.
What Does Shrewd Mean?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines shrewd as “acute in perception and sound in judgement, clever discerning awareness, having or showing an ability to understand things and to make good judgments.”
The Greek word for shrewd, phronimos, means thoughtful or discreet (implying a cautious character), wise, prudent.
So being shrewd in no way suggests a sin or dishonesty. In fact, it suggests quite the opposite.
What The Parable of the Shrewd Manager Really Teaches
“He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.” Luke 16:1-2
Jesus begins the parable by saying a house manager (employee) is accused of wasting his boss’ possessions. The manager is then given a warning about his impending judgment.
“Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.'” Luke 16:3-4
The manager knows that what actions he takes now will determine how well he is treated after he leaves his boss’ house and employment.
“So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So 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?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.” Luke 16:5-7
Here is the sticking point in this parable. At first glance, it appears that the manager is cheating his boss. He is not. Rather, he shrewdly reduces the debt to eliminate his commission!
“So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” Luke 16:8-9
Jesus commends the manager for his wise and prudent action. (Again, dishonesty was simply an accusation – not a fact!)
Jesus then warns his disciples that non-believers are more shrewd in their business dealings than believers – a hard truth even today.
5 Lessons Learned
- Jesus clearly states we are his stewards at work, and we are to wisely and prudently manage all his resources.
- Jesus expects a maximize return on his investment. (See Matthew 25:14-30)
- Jesus challenges us to stop being naive in the world’s ways of business.
- Jesus commends the manager for heeding his boss’ warning and wisely leverages his current resources for his future life.
- Jesus ultimately rewards shrewd (wise & prudent) managers!
The bottom line is simple: Jesus expects us to maximize our business shrewdness and minimize our business naiveté.
This is another reason I encourage every believer in business to watch “Shark Tank.”
Agree? Disagree? Comment below.