Parable of the Shrewd Steward explained

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  1. Thalmoses

    Thalmoses Founder Administrator

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    In answer to A difficult parable | https://aeolipera.wordpress.com/2018/10/16/a-difficult-parable/

    There is nothing wrong with the OP's way of writing about the Bible. One needn't be right if one isn't certain.

    #+BEGIN_QUOTE
    The Parable of the Shrewd Manager

    16 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
    #+END_QUOTE

    No mention is made of the steward's guilt. The fact that he is shrewd, yet has not considered the possibility of being fired for abusing his position, suggests that he is innocent of the charges. The rich man assumes his guilt and passes sentence prior to the investigation, yet leaves the steward still in his position, to any outside observer. Thus the steward is incentivized to do only one thing - use the position to his advantage, while he still has access to the books.

    Next, observe how the steward performs his strategy. He does not simply falsify the bills. He does not touch the bills at all. Instead, he has each creditor change his own bill, sharing culpability, binding in a conspiracy. As steward, he has authority to discount debts. Doing so is a common business practice.

    It will be cheaper for the creditor to welcome the steward into his house than to risk the steward divulging the change in the bill.

    “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly."

    Presumably the promised investigation has been conducted, showing the steward innocent until his master unjustly turned against him, and then showing his self-serving measures thereafter. The employer is a rich man, and appreciates the sharpness of his subordinate, because that is a strength of mind he would rather have serving him than a competitor.

    "For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light."

    We calculate fiat profit to the cent but handwave heavenly treasure.

    "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."

    This is the obvious primary meaning of the parable.

    10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? 13 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

    I don't see anything confusing about this. You can only optimize your life to maximize one variable. If you optimize it to maximize $EARTHLY_WEALTH, then you are not optimizing it to maximize $HEAVENLY_WEALTH. Often the two variables conflict.

    > I heard one pastor explain that the master was expecting to make more money than before, based on the goodwill his manager had purchased from his customers.

    Certainly throwing away that very expensive investment in personal relationships by firing the steward would be stupid.

    > But that explanation ignores the reported motive of the manager

    Yes, the employer should ignore the motive of the manager, because the manager was honest before and presumably will continue being honest unless he is betrayed again.

    > and produces a subversive moral: “commit accounting fraud against your employer to satisfy your own selfish needs and it’ll work out for him anyway, because you gotta spend money to make money”.

    No. If the manager had committed fraud without just cause and genuine need, he would've been jailed rather than forgiven and commended.

    > And just afterward, Jesus appears to criticize the shrewdness which the master had highly valued:

    14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

    Jesus is not criticizing the Pharisees for business shrewdness, but for their fake status pyramid of sanctimony. Even in the unlikely case that Jesus is strictly referring to their love of money, greed isn't shrewdness. One is a motive, the other is an aptitude.
     

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