Jesus was keenly observant all through his life from childhood to ascension. He was in his Father’s world and he read from the book of nature continuously. No one could convey spiritual truth through the use of natural phenomena as skilfully as the Nazarene. He detected every correspondence in the various realms of truth and taught from them, for all truth was his Father’s.
The God-man, the Son of God incarnate, was capable of a surprisingly comprehensive survey of all reality seen and unseen. The physical world was open to his scrutiny. Human nature and behaviour were an open book. The mind of God was his habitual environment. No one wedded the strata of creation and the sensibilities of the divine nature more closely together than the Word who summed up the totality of all being, true and good, in all aspects of its universal expression. All knowledge and wisdom was his as divine, and from this store he derived what is was necessary for him to know as man in the season of his humiliation.
He became man like us but without sin and its consequences operating through him. Perhaps as man he retained primitive gifts and faculties, mental and instinctive, forfeited by us in the Fall and could exercise them in purity of performance. He discerned how people felt, thought, and the reasons for how they acted. He read human nature with absolute accuracy and particularly our bias to deviancy. His pure heart could perceive the horrors and harm wrought by our degraded nature.
He saw how false religion perverted the wholesome ways of God and abused and exploited others. He knew how the Jewish leaders could exercise their greed and avarice without technical breach of the Mosaic law. Accordingly he warned against the subtle wiles of dishonesty that work in the heart and the manner in which these things are rationalized.
We have a rapid ability to rationalize and excuse sin and gloss it over with prettier hue or colour. Jesus knows how the rich are charmed by their wealth and devise ingenious ways ever to increase it. But mammon is a hard master and a cruel god. Its rewards are often a sham and poor substitutes for the well-being and nourishment of the soul, and mammon is often extremely inhumane in its treatment of the less privileged and unfortunate. Jesus knows the prevailing dishonesty and cunning exploitation of his time. He relates the fascinating story of a manager of an estate who is called to account for his handling of financial affairs.
The property owner is displeased with his steward and is on the point of dismissing him. But he wants a reckoning first and an examination of the records in the presence of their keeper. We sense the manager’s alarm and panic. He is a trained professional. Manual work is too strenuous for him and he would be embarrassed for folk to detect his plight. He will not beg.
A swift solution occurs to him. His breaking of the law of Moses was in his charging of interest to his master’s debtors and he was probably creaming off some of the extra payment for his own profit and selfish purposes. He hastily contacted all his clients and customers and offered them a generous discount. The extra charges would be erased (in our day unidentified basic charges are the means customarily employed to augment the invoices we receive).
This popular gesture would naturally please the list of debtors and they would be very well disposed toward the scheming manager. Favours would obviously follow and his plight would not be so desperate.
His employer would not condone his dishonesty but he would have applauded his clever policy of action. The world we live in is habitually pragmatic, shrewd, and adept at going for and gaining wealth even if many transactions are made furtively under the table. Exploitation is rife and rules are bent or shaped for the excessively rich. Jesus operates from the perspective that all things are God’s and are to be obtained and used in an honest and charitable way.
He commends the fair use of all that the Lord bestows upon us. He is not opposed to private property and affluence so long as we are aware of its Bestower and carry out our stewardship well and in a moral and liberal fashion to entice others into the kingdom. The craft and graft in money matters are not to characterize the children of God.
In God we trust and not mammon, but wealth to some degree is necessary for worldly needs, and more is desirable for the benefit of others as we are able. Befriending others is an incentive for them to consider the the goodness of God displayed in his people. All benefits are designed to cause all recipients to to turn to him as Supplier and Saviour. “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4). Our wealth in talents and assets is to be used for winsome wooing of strangers to God into the circle of his fellowship.
Mission requires means. All things are God’s. The people of God do what is possible to win hearts and lives for him. In worldly concerns, Jesus says, eternity is to be in view - the great and final result of the accounting for our record on earth. If we are expended in attracting and connecting people to God the undeserved reward is rejoicing in heaven - mutual gladness between those who have been won for God and those who were instrumental in winning them.
But more importantly there will be the rapturous welcome from God as his servants enter his dwelling. They who share the gospel treasures will receive abundance in dividends from the honest and just Bank of Heaven. The praise and desert is not ours but God’s who invested his bounteous grace in us - paupers whom he exalted to stewards of his riches in human rescue and salvation.
The crooked manager sought to secure a warm and generous acceptance in earthly houses. We as industrious agents of the grace of God will receive an enormously rapturous welcome into his great house in heaven.
Our riches are given to be spent in beneficial ways. These riches will soon be gone when earth’s long history is concluded. But their use will result in eternal welfare for others to whom we have related in genuine compassion and honesty. Our calling is to make friends of God and that puts a certain slant on the nature and conduct of evangelism that deserves consideration (relational, respectful, and receptive of individual concerns and [mis]conceptions).