Insider Information from Jesus

Usually when one speaks of “insider information” you are talking about investments. There are laws against using information that is not available to the general public to either purchase or sell your stocks in a company to make a profit or avoid a loss.

In the strange parable of the Dishonest Manager (Luke 16:1-13), Jesus gives some good advice on investing from a true insider, and it is not illegal. The parable is strange, and it confuses people about what it is teaching. The context of this parable is that Jesus is teaching his disciples in the presence of the Pharisees (Jesus’ most fierce rivals). He has already done one thing of which they disapprove. He is hanging out with the rabble of society (tax collectors for the Romans and “sinners”) In response to their disapproval, Jesus tells three stories: the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Coin, and the well-known Parable of the Prodigal Son. Now Jesus is going to pick on the Pharisees other glaring defect–their love of money.

The story is about a manager who is going to get fired. To cushion his fall, he seeks to make friends with his boss’ debtors by fudging the books in their favor. It is strictly illegal, and Jesus’ is by no means approving of fraud; but the boss in the story is impressed by the shrewdness of the manager.

Some people want to make the boss in the story a metaphor for God. It is not. Is the story about mercy or forgiveness? For a change, no. The story is about Jesus’ encouragement of his disciples being shrewd with their money. How? He wants them to invest in people. He wants people to hear the Gospel, repent, believe God’s promise of forgiveness and eternal life, and inherit eternal life. How is this shrewd? You no doubt have heard the cliche, “You can’t take it with you.” It is almost true. All the wealth you accumulate in this world stays in this world, and you must leave. But if you have eternal life through Jesus and you use worldly assets (money, time, talent, etc.) to be a part of helping others have eternal life, then those people do follow you past the veil of death.

Jesus puts it this way,

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)

People are a worthy addition to what God gives us in eternal life. They are a reward. Jesus says more:

11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, 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?

Luke 16:11-12 (ESV)

God considers many things that we have in this world to be ultimately his. We are just stewards and we will be evaluated on our stewardship on Judgment Day. Good stewardship can’t save us or add to what Jesus did for us, but it can be a source of something more. What are “true riches” in this sentence? Is it eternal relationship (i.e. people), is it honor, is it something else that we can’t imagine?

People who are saved by God’s grace in the first place need to be careful about feeling entitled. Good stewardship is just our job. But Jesus’ words bear consideration. Perhaps the best investment is the truly long-term investment.

Author: tdwenig

Tom is the Senior Pastor of the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Evansville, IN. He has served his congregation since 2000. He has a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO

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