I really like contemplating the parables in the Bible. This parable is found is Luke chapter16, verse 1 thru 13. I have examined this parable from many other views. It seems everyone has the impression, because we are told what the manager did, that his master also knew. If you think this way the parable makes no sense at all.
In this world if one embezzles property or money from someone else, he or she will be angry, to say the least, and they will see that the dishonest person is thrown into jail: for as long as possible under the law. He certainly will not commend him. If you think the rich man commended the dishonest manager for stealing from him, ask yourself “would I commend someone for stealing from me?” Of course not! If you are an understanding Christian you might forgive, but never commend.
The key for understanding this parable is, the rich man didn’t know what the dishonest manager did and He never found out!
Think about it. The rich man trusted the manager until someone accused him of wasting the rich man’s possessions. The rich man was not watching over the manager and didn’t know how he was handling his possessions. That is why he called the manager in to give an accounting. The rich man knew little about dishonesty. If you don’t trust someone you can’t just accept their word. You have to do your own investigating and do it before they know you have lost confidence in them.
The manager was so inept that even he didn’t know what was owed to his master. He had to ask the debtors. I have to wonder if they didn’t already knock some of the debt off the top when they told the manager what was owed. The people of this world will seldom miss the opportunity to lower their debt if they realize no one knows what is really owed, and the dishonest manager didn’t know.
As I said, if you don’t trust someone to be honest you could not take his word that he is. After the rich man heard the accounting form the manager he would not have believed him, because he didn’t know how much was owed, he would have asked the debtors if the accounting was accurate. The debtors would have not only attested to the truth of the accounting, but would have lauded the talents and ability of the manager. After all they had just received a windfall and would like the manager to continue in his position, because if he was retained they might receive even more good fortune. Looking at it from another angle, they could not tell the rich man the truth, because they had become partners in the crime of embezzlement.
The master commended the dishonest manager because he didn’t know of the scheme and therefore the manager appeared honest and competent. The dishonest manager didn’t loose his position. The Bible doesn’t give the outcome of the accounting. It just says he was called in for an accounting. Why would a master dismiss someone when almost everyone praises him for his honesty and abilities? The Bible says the master commended the dishonest manager. Who would commend an employee and at the same time dismiss him? Notice that the dishonest manager was not commended for his dishonesty, but for acting shrewdly.
After I understood the parable I thought to myself, what did God mean. Why would God write a parable like this? What is He trying to teach us?
The answer, from my view, is found in the last part of verse 8 thru 13, and the key that led to this understanding is, God owns everything.
I am the dishonest manager and God is the master. God is a merciful God. He would like to forgive every one of all their debts and He has devised a plan where everyone, who will, can be forgiven. If someone in this world owes me a debt, do they really owe me? If God owns everything, then He owns what is in my possession. He is the true owner, not me. The debt is not owed to me, but to God: just as in the parable the debts were all owed to the master. God is not exactly like the rich man in the parable because God knows everything, and the rich man didn’t, but all parables come apart when carried past what they are intended to teach.
God uses wealth, money, and possessions to illustrate this parable, but debts can come in many forms and I don’t think God means that we should only forgive worldly wealth. Though He does include monetary debts (I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings).
If someone you trust steals money from you, haven’t they also stolen your trust? The truth, better said, is they only stole trust from you. The money really belonged to God. Only the trust was yours.
As a servant of God I do not have the authority to forgive all of an offense. When the realization that God owns everything becomes firmly imbedded in ones consciousness it will be clear that any offense is only really committed against God. Though I can and should forgive a debt in anyway it affects me, the debtor still owes God.
As I was reviewing this to post it I realized that the debtors were asked what they owed before any of their debts were forgiven. What do you owe? Did you give yourself life, a body, universe, mind, anything, or have you selfishly just used that which you were given?