Luke 16:1-15: The Cunning Estate Manager

Too well can money morph into a seductive false god, perched upon your slanted shoulders, confiding in your ear. “Listen to me. Only I’m able to ease your strife. Let me be your best friend, spouse, playmate, your dream, muse, and love. Yes, I’ll teach you the things of life and living. In return, I only ask you to hold this relationship in the richest reverence. Oh, we’ll share everything, and you’ll summon me each day until life’s end.”

Today, Jesus tells the story of someone with much access to wealth, a man of matter and means. Regardless of what unfolded before him, he believed his monies and business dealings ensured his security. These became to him an annuity, quieting his concerns.

Yet, he doctored the books, beguiling his employer, embellishing the accounts with unreconciled figures. Inside his internal deliberations, he rationalized everything in his mind. Overworked and underpaid, he’ll pay him back. Doesn’t he need the gold more than his prosperous master? Unlike wages by the hour or a salary, he pilfers an excessive profit by taking a percentage of what he sells, stealing by overcharging on his apportioned quota.

Well, you can’t trust false gods—and money is the worst, deceiving and misleading, answering only to itself. Your prosperity doesn’t love you, forgetting more than the absent-minded remember. Your opulence can fade and disappear before you falter in your steps.

Do you perceive the fire of unknown days, their glower and glow? We fathom not what the morrow holds nor where our feet shall tread. Consider what happens in today’s parable. Undeniable rumors circulate over a property manager wasting his employer’s wealth, keeping his coin against him. Oh, manager of the well-monied man, why are you squandering the possessions of your master?

The wealthy landowner wants an accounting since his share of earnings dwindled. Now, the manager receives hard news. “Scurry off, you dusty scrag of bones!” Whatever fate this steward feared, from forces greater than himself, happens. Too soon, his accessible treasure disowns him, a mere whisper in a forgotten yesterday.

“What shall I do? My master fired me. Am I not too old to chop wood or heave heavy stones atop a hill? Poor man, I am too weak to dig and proud to beg. What can I do?” So sad, he’s jobless with no future income but the shadow of a shekel.

Here’s the key. The manager lost his position, but no one else realizes this yet. A flitting window of opportunity slivers opens before him. After killing his prospects for a forthcoming paycheck, he now grasps he can flourish from his boss’s reputation for being generous. Mere moments before, he trusted in his master’s money. At last, he trusts in his generosity.

Earlier, he defrauded his boss by scheming and tacking on illicit percentages. Today, he focuses on the times ahead. Once word spreads of him losing his job for embezzling, he’s done. Will anyone hire him? No longer lingering over days gone by, he dares to gaze forward. Oh, this person is savvy. With the wreckage of his livelihood scattered around him, he’s a dead man walking. So, he sides with the actual prospect of what may be.

He meets with the clients, one after another, slicing his commission to zero, reducing what each customer must pay. Don’t miss what he does, telling these customers to annotate these changes in their handwriting. Next, this nimble steward returns the amended paperwork to the master.

Once the accounting ledgers are ready for scrutiny, this estate owner will discover several facts. First, the sum his patrons owe him is less. Second, they endorsed and certified these rewritten terms since their signatures are on the revised contracts. Oh, and this—his former manager reduced his commissions to nothing.

Now, the records are correct, and this manager can show he stopped cheating by eliminating his scandalous overcharges. How? By slashing his expected fraction of pay. The customers celebrate, welcoming the delightful surprise of an unanticipated discount! Those purchasers of olive oil and grain marvel at the landholder’s largess.

Yet, the boss still wins since his estate manager recovers his losses by purging his ill-gotten embezzlements. Aren’t the buyers jubilant, only paying a proportion of the expected costs? How can the master not receive the once-pilfering manager back, who is now a hero to his customers? Yes, “make friends for yourselves with unrighteous mammon.” A swing, a hit, and a home run—he is crafty!

This pensive master chuckles and discerns sounds of distant celebration honoring the most excellent and noble landowner in memory. Be gone winter frost, behold the sun. Dance for a fortnight to enjoy the bounty of the field. Doesn’t each purchaser believe the steward gave them this discounted masterwork because his master authorized him to do so? So, this landowner stands tall, renowned for his generosity because he is.

Well played. Though others praise managers for their management, this master commends him for his craftiness. Why? He changed direction, the idea behind “repentance.” In a long-overdue course correction, the swindler turns away from his old habits, which led to his downfall. Free now to risk everything for coming times, emboldened he runs. Only the future matters when your past profits fade before you.

After the deceitful manager recognizes he’s dead to his job, he can aspire toward what comes next. Only when the thieving manager is a walking corpse does he embody the Christian life. The book of Romans enlightens us: the baptized die with Jesus in His sin-slaying death (Romans 6:3).

In your baptism, you died to sinfulness and became the changed manager who understands he is dead. The Spirit drowns your sins to death in such holy waters, turning you toward future days. At once, eternity busts open for you! Such an unexpected paradox: to forego your life to find it.

Baptized into Christ’s death, you live for the life awaiting you, for you’re not of this world (John 15:19). Your Lord bequeaths life where death once reigned, and in His grace, you flourish. You prosper under God the Father, in His Son, no longer bound to lifeless corruption. Now you turn into the wheeling and dealing manager.

In both Gospel freedom and faith, barter and bargain using the resources you manage. Make the best transactions, doing what’s right, repenting in shrewdness as unseen before. Become friends with unrighteous money, worldly wealth. Deceased to iniquity and evil, you’re unburdened to spend creation’s riches for what is eternal.

Don’t waste what God supplies. Squander not the Master’s gifts building an empire here. Drowned in the purifying waters, invest in the life to come, where an abiding home awaits you. Indeed, as Christ teaches, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” and the rest will line up based on His divine realities (Matthew 6:33).

Whatever you may own is a gift from God, a trust given to you by the Giver Himself. Manage what He lends you since Jesus sanctioned you to handle the Owner’s wealth into eternal ages. Use what you oversee in faith, for how can you fail when you’re already dead? Like the reformed con man of a manager, bet on what lies ahead.

To surrender in defeat is to misspend your life as the underhanded manager once did. For when he considered himself alive, he controlled possession and fortune for this life, not the reality to come. Don’t live in the obsolete mindset of somebody with everything to lose. Flourish as a dead man—with the future to gain!

Can someone follow two different masters? Either you will detest one and love the other, or dedicate yourself to one while despising the other. So, if you make an idol of your assets, you’ll soon hate God. Remember, you cannot serve God and mammon.

Yet, as the unethical bookkeeper once did, the temptation comes to misappropriate capital under your control. Don’t you now understand? Didn’t you die to your sin through the washing and the Word? The funds aren’t yours, but only on loan for a short stretch. So, set your money on eternity as though you’re long gone to this fallen world! Never forget, you are the servant, not the owner.

Refuse to let your riches rule your life. Don’t lose your soul in the past, but live for the perfect creation to come! Learn from our Lord and stock up for never-ending glory. On the Last Day, when God closes the files and parcels out the property, He is reserving an eternal dwelling for you. A permanent home belongs to you because your Savior paid for your mortgage when He perished to give you His life.

Yes, what an outrageous Owner! Your heavenly Father is benevolent, sending His Son to cancel your debts by His death and resurrection, given to you by the Spirit’s working. In a few moments, Jesus will nourish you in this same intimacy with His risen body and blood. By His sacred, wonderworking Word, He encourages and teaches you how to live in and share His Love.

Forget not the enduring fortunes, which moths and vermin can’t destroy, or thieves pluck up and steal (Matthew 6:20). These are heaven’s riches—including Christ Himself! Beyond every measure, He will protect and shelter them for you as He continues to gift and grace them. Yes, only God is the rich and lavish Owner who forgives your eternal debt.

Dear saints, Jesus redeemed, restored, and released you to thrive in everlasting freedom. So, live with everything God gives you, spending for eternity, here and now. Amen.


  1. thomas arvid roel says

    unique and wow! thank you for this perspective!!