September 30, 2007: Can We Learn Honesty From The Dishonest?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, it is so easy for us to live “other worldly” and refuse to get involved in the business of this world. With our minds on heaven, we often ignore the here and now. But in so doing, we can become lazy managers of the blessings You give us. So, today teach us anew to be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” Teach us to employ our God-given earthly wisdom, while tempering it with love and compassion. And in so doing, Your kingdom may grow and flourish all the more! Amen


TEXT: Luke 16: 1-13

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Hopefully, you’re mother taught you that: honesty is the best policy. I know mine did. And it’s true, isn’t it? Honesty means a clean conscience. It means you’ll sleep better at night. It means you’ll avoid a whole lot of pain, too, both with others and with God.

The lesson before us is a difficult one to understand at first glance. Many a Christian has struggled grasping the truth that Christ lays out in it. Read superficially, questions like: “How could Christ commend someone for their dishonesty?” come to mind. But, if you delve a bit deeper, the honesty of our Savior’s word is refreshing and motivational. It is designed to shake us out of our “other worldliness” and busy ourselves in earthly service to His heavenly kingdom. With that in mind I lay before you this question:



This lesson is a parable, an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus tells this parable to His disciples a few weeks before His passion, or at the end of His ministry. His purpose is to get them to come to grips with their past. Many of them had amassed much wealth (Like Matthew the tax collector) by means of dishonest gain. Now they were saved, redeemed children of light. Now they not only felt guilty about their sorted pasts, but had also renounced any connection to them. Now they were “other worldly.” Now they were focused on heaven and the spiritual realm—much like most of you. But, Christ knew that they still lived in the here and now and that earthly laziness was a great temptation. He wanted them to be more like Abraham of old and employ their earthly wisdom for use in building up His visible church, without getting infatuated by their own business acumen. So, He tells them this parable.


It seems that a very wealthy man had a business manager who was corrupt and dishonest. He had been stealing, skimming off the top to line his own pockets. The rich man found out about it and calls on the manager to fess up and open the books for further examination. The business manager is smart and cunning. He knows he’s caught. “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.”

And so, still armed with his power of attorney, this man acts. He calls various creditors in and marks down their bills. Now this is dishonest, but it will help insure favorable treatment after he’s lost his job, won’t it? Now, these creditors owe him directly for his apparent favor.

“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Note well that the rich man does not commend dishonesty per se. No, instead he commends and admires wise, shrewd business sense. And Christ adds the truth that non-believers are often more adept at earthly business practices than the children of light because we’re “other-worldly” and they are not. And then Jesus goes on to chide the disciples to be shrewdly honest in using their earthly possessions (much like Abraham of old) to further God’s work of saving souls, in order that those same souls will welcome them when heaven is finally attained. In other words, Jesus died for our sins and has saved our souls, but He needs us to use and apply those blessings to others with every means at our disposal.


This is a powerful parable against complacent, lazy Christians! And to further drive home His point, Jesus adds: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with very much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? (Think salvation and heaven.) And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” Yes, God gives huge blessings to those people that don’t misuse or abuse smaller blessings. Using earthly wealth wisely to honor its Giver, God, shows that we won’t look His gift horse of eternal life in the mouth and yawn!

Finally, Christ adds a word of warning to keep things in perspective. “No servant (us) can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”—And note that Money is capitalized because here it denotes a false god.

Yes, money is a great motivator in life. In fact, it’s the second greatest motivator of all, isn’t it? But, we dare not let it crowd out God’s love for us or our love for Him. So, Can We Learn Honesty From the Dishonest? Yes! Take from them their shrewdness, couple it with Christian honesty and compassion, and God really will bless your life! Amen