I wanted to write about the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. To me, it is the most confusing of all Jesus’ parables. So I figured I would write about it and find some brilliant insight that would make people say, “I’ve never thought about it that way! Thank you!”
So I read, and re-read, and listened to podcasts, and looked at study Bible notes, and read commentaries, and none of it helped me make sense of this parable, I prayed Tara-Leigh’s five prayers in earnest, especially the third one (“God, help me see something new about you I’ve never seen before”) and the fourth one (“God, correct any lies I believe about you or anything I don’t understand”).
And after all that, I’m still left with Jesus telling a story about a dishonest middle manager who gets commended by his rich boss for cheating him out of money that was owed him, simply because the middle manager wanted to make sure he had friends who would take care of him after he lost his job.
What’s the point? It’s hard to discern from the text what Jesus intends the takeaway to be. Is it verse 9?:
“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
Luke 16:9 ESV
Or is it verse 12? Or verse 13?
“And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 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 money.””
Luke 16:12-13 ESV
I still don’t know. I still don’t understand. And I am frustrated.
I remember a seminary professor saying that a skeptic feels he must understand in order to believe, while a child of God believes in order that he might understand. But what happens when you believe, and you still don’t understand?
As I was praying through this today, God reminded me of a conversation I had with the family pastor on our staff the other day. We were talking about the verse in Romans 10:9 where Paul says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Cody was making the point that we tend to make salvation knowledge based. We want to make sure a new convert can articulate the gospel, and has a clear understanding of sin and redemption, grace and atonement.
And while all that matters, that’s not what Romans 10:9 says. There is a difference between demonstrating that you have a right understanding and confessing that Jesus is Lord. Lordship, after all, is about obedience. When a knight swore fealty and allegiance to his king, the king didn’t quiz the knight on the history of the monarchy or the divine right of kings. The knight simply said, “I don’t have to understand. You don’t have to explain yourself to me. I am your man. Here is my sword, I am yours to command.”
I thank God that in His grace for me, He does indeed explain Himself to me in so many ways. He answers my prayer for wisdom (James 1:5). He gives me the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:11).
But He is not required to answer all my questions. And at the end of the day, I should be less concerned with what I don’t understand in the Bible than with what I do understand, but don’t obey.
I am thankful, then, for the Parable of the Dishonest Manager. Not because I understand it, but because I don’t have to. Jesus, you are my Lord. I am Yours to command.