Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
This is a difficult parable for us – it would seem at first glance that Jesus is commending dishonesty. As indeed, the steward did behave dishonestly. This steward had been managing his master’s property poorly, and the master learned this, and called him to give an accounting. But before others could learn that he was being fired from his position, the steward went out and collected debts owed his master – but he did so in a way that would assure that he would have a home when he left there. He was kind to the people who were in debt to his master; he cut each person’s debt, some by 20%, some by 50%. In this he gained favor with people who, out of gratitude, would show him hospitality when he needed a home. Even his master commended him for his shrewdness.
Jesus does not actually commend the man’s dishonesty; he says this is how people in that day (and today?) behave, to take advantage of a situation for their own benefit. Note v.4, the steward says he has decided what to do so that he might be welcomed into the people’s homes; in v.9, Jesus says, make use of wealth to make friends, and to be welcomed into your eternal homes. There are uses to which one can put wealth that are beneficial – to being a part of the kingdom. The point is not to hoard or worship wealth, but to be wise (shrewd) enough to put it to good use.