October 26, 2012

Give and You Shall Receive

Luke 16:1-9

“Use worldly wealth to gain friends … so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
—Luke 16:9


In his parables, Jesus often uses controversial ideas and characters to gain the crowd’s attention. In this story a corrupt financial manager becomes a sort of hero. The manager has wasted his master’s resources. And when he is about to lose his job, he reduces the amounts owed by his master’s debtors, to gain their goodwill. Then, strangely, the master commends the dishonest steward for his shrewd handling of his predicament. The word for “shrewd” here can also mean “wise.” The same word is used to describe the wise man who built his house on a rock (Matthew 7:24).

But how is this manager wise? Though he is disreputable, he finds a creative way to “save his own skin” by giving generously of his master’s wealth. In a quirky way this parable reinforces Jesus’ teaching “Give, and it will be given to you” (see Luke 6:38). The manager greatly reduces the debts of his clients, and his generous actions gain him lasting friends who will surely hire him or provide for him after he loses his job. Likewise, Jesus’ followers who use their wealth to benefit others for the sake of God’s kingdom “will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

We might think Jesus was mixed up. Economics teaches that we have to preserve wealth to get ahead. But giving makes us wise and pleases God, who holds all wealth in his hands.

Lord, your ways are higher than ours. Plant within us your spirit of generosity. Thank you for assuring us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Dean Deppe

Dean Deppe has been a pastor in inner-city, suburban, and rural ­churches. Currently he teaches New Testament theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. His courses include one on the parables of Jesus. He and his wife have four grown children.

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