Note: The devotion for Feb. 9-11 is based on the Shrewd Manager; read it in its entirety today.
Lk. 16:1-9 (NIV): Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.  So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’  The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—  I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’  So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’  ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’  “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’  The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.  I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
Devotional Thoughts for Today
Lk. 16:14 (ESV): “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.”
This isn’t the type of illustration that pastors would dare to use from the pulpit. There are several glaring character defects in this manger which no one should emulate. First, he is irresponsible, which got him in trouble with his master who lost money due to the manager’s negligence. Second, he is a lazy freeloader. About to lose his job, he is sure about one thing: “I’m going to neither dig (i.e., work) nor beg” (i.e., swallow my pride). Third, he is a criminal. Changing the numbers around in the accounting ledger so that the debtors appear to owe far less is no different from a desperate student sneaking into the registrar’s office to alter his grade: a reduction of olive oil by 450 gallons would’ve cost the master as much as $5,400 today.
Nevertheless, Jesus has the victim of this ruse commend his “dishonest manager” on account that he “acted shrewdly.” I would be hard pressed to use this sort of example before a group of businessmen lest they think it is okay to do the same.
Why, then, does Jesus opt for this parable? Desperate times call for desperate measures, and this certainly was a desperate time. The Pharisees, leaders whom God placed in Israel to lead the people spiritually, were too busy fattening their wallets and increasing their own prominence. Jesus told this parable because of “the Pharisees who loved money” (16:14); they also “love[d] the most important seats in the synagogue” (11:44). Consequently, people became “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk. 6:34).
So to shake up the Pharisees, Jesus elevates the very person whom they would condemn, and justifiably so, because this dishonest manager does one thing better than them: preparing for the future. While the manager plans ahead to secure a better earthly future for himself, the Pharisees are doing nothing—like using their money to reach people for God (“use worldly wealth to gain friends”)—to secure a better heavenly future (“welcomed into eternal dwelling”) for themselves (e.g., God’s commendation, rewards).
So, are you using your money to secure a better future in heaven? It is never late; start today.
O God, keep my eyes open so that I never forget to see what this earthly life is for: to receive the blessings and talents You’ve reserved for me so that I can use them to reach more people for Jesus Christ. Thank You that You would even reward me for giving a cup of cold water to someone in need. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 45
Lunch Break Study
Read Jer. 35:2, 6-8, 12-4, 19 (NIV): Go to the Rekabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the Lord and give them wine to drink. . . .  But they replied, “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine.  Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.’  We have obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab commanded us. . . .”  Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying:  “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the Lord.  ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me. . . .’”  “Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab will never fail to have a descendant to serve me.’”
Prov. 6:6-9 (NIV): “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise !  It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,  yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.  How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?”
Question to Consider
- If there is something to be learned from a dishonest manager, then there certainly must be something we can learn from the Rekabite family?
- What are we to learn from ants?
- Can you think of anyone not necessarily admirable (group or even animal) from whom we can learn something positive?
- The Rekabites obeyed the words of their progenitor even though it restricted their desire (to drink wine) and freedom (live in a permanent housing). God is saying: Obey me even if it hurts at first; in the long run it will actually benefit you (the Rekabites were rewarded for their obedience).
- Learn from the ants these things: first, think about your future; second, anticipate needs; third, make appropriate preparations now for your future needs.
- From the Mormons we can learn giving (even if they are swayed by wrong theology). It is believed that they give 7.5 percent of their income; from the Jehovah’s Witnesses we can learn tireless sharing of faith door-to-door. They are relentless in proclaiming their misguided message.
Based on how you spent your money today, are you a good investor in the spiritual realm? Take a moment to reflect; ask God to help you not to love money but save and use it prudently. Pray.