Surprised again? Does Jesus' telling this parable not surprise us just a little bit? Why so?
Perhaps the title "The Dishonest Manager," inserted by the editors of some study bibles—based justifiably upon the phrase rendered "the dishonest manager" in v. 8—predisposes us to hear the parable only in one narrow way. But how might our understanding be expanded upon learning that this phrase can also be rendered as "the manager of unrighteousness?"
Disciples of Jesus live in two worlds simultaneously: the here-and-now world—the undeniable one staring us squarely in the face daily, the one requiring "street smarts"—and the already-but-not-yet world—the one existing through the promises of God. By pointing to the master's commendation of the "manager of unrighteousness" because he acted shrewdly or prudently—because he exhibited resourcefulness in dealing with the here-and-now world—Jesus exhorts us who are children of light, ones who have been grasped by God's promises, to interact with this generation vigorously, energetically, and resourcefully in the light of God's promises.
Triune God, we long for the day when the already is reality; strengthen us on our pilgrimage as we engage the not-yet world. Amen.
Luke 16:1-13 (NRSV)
1 He also said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.
2 And he called him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.'
3 And the steward said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.
4 I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.'
5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'
6 He said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.'
7 Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' He said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.'
8 The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations.
10 "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.
11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches?
12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?
13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."