Ingenuity: The Shrewd Manager, The Subtle Behaviors of a Disciple Part 3
The Subtle Behaviors of a Disciple Part 3
Ingenuity: The Shrewd Employee
Many years ago when I first read Jesus parable of the Shrewd Employee I was rather confused about what was being taught. At first read, it seems that Jesus is commending the embezzlement of an employer. But, dishonesty, defrauding people, buying favor, and stealing is totally out of character with the lifestyle a disciple is called to live. It took me a while to figure it out. There are actually four legitimate lessons we can pull out of this parable. Today we are going to focus on our need to be ingenious and outwit the enemy.
Ingenious means to be clever, original and inventive. You can also add resourceful and insightful to the definition. Ingenuity helps you get one up, to stay ahead of the game, to plan contingencies based on probability.
Outwit means to be smarter, faster, sharper, more clever than an opponent.
The Bible reveals the enemy as the Devil, The World, and The Flesh. We can translate that revelation into spiritual enemies, cultural enemies and our own behaviors and thoughts that are contrary to the moral law of God.
In this parable the manager’s ingenuity is commended, not his actions. Here’s a quick take away, to be a victor you’re going to have to be smart.
Luke 16:1-9 (NIV)
1 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.'
3 "The manager said to himself, '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-- 4 I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.'
5 "So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'
6 "'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied.
"The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.'
7 "Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?'
"'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied.
"He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.'
8 "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. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Let’s skip a lot of explanation and read a paraphrase of verses 8 & 9 from The Message Bible. The writer, Eugene Peterson, does a lot of interpreting for us and it helps point us to the proper understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ story
Luke 16:1-9 (MSG)
"Now here's a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you'll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior."
The dishonest manager is commended for being shrewd. This embezzler having been caught demonstrated sound judgment in how best to deal with the situation. In this case, the crook figured out how he could best come out on top of a bad situation. How best to take advantage of the circumstances.
Here’s what we need to walk away with from this parable. The subtle behavior of a disciple is ingenuity. In every adversity, this world throws at you, be clever, figure out how you can make the most of the circumstances. Think ahead, plan. Figure out how to look out for yourself so that you can fulfill the calling and ministry God has given you. God gave you a brain, God has made the wisdom of those more experienced available to you, God will guide you in your choices and decisions. Don’t be naïve. This teaching is not only about being astute about you’re the material world and your physical needs; there is also a spiritual dimension to this that is often overlooked. It is into this spiritual dimension we will look.
When you first acknowledged that you needed a savior, that you need more than what you had, and came to firmly believe that the savior you needed and wanted is Jesus, you committed yourself to be His disciple, to learn how to live your life to the full, your prayer asking God to accept your faith was answered and the scripture reveals that you were born again. What so often is not told to you about being born again is that you were born into a world at war. You were transformed from thrall of the enemy to combatant in a spiritual war.
Revelation 12:1-5, 7-8, 17
The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule the nations with an iron scepter...And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven...Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
The woman is the spiritual community that gestated your faith. The son is Jesus. The dragon is Satan. Satan could not defeat the king of kings, the resurrection is proof of his defeat. So this fallen angel now makes war against the rest of her offspring, which means you since having entrusted your life to Christ.
Being a disciple, “living for Christ means accepting that we are at war with a fierce enemy.” (John Eldredge) You will need ingenuity to outwit the enemy.
For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.
Jesus tells us we are to “outwit the enemy before we are outwitted.” (Dan Sangren) As a Disciple you will need to be ingenious to outwit the enemy, to utilize every advantage possible, or the very culture in which you have been called to bring life to will destroy you. (Dan Sangren) This is a powerful warning. Be shrewd. Like the crooked accountant be clever, alert, perceptive, observant, far-seeing and far-sighted, plan ahead, make the most of the opportunities available to you; not only for your financial future but more importantly your spiritual well-being.
The enemy certainly is being ingenious in its war against Christianity. The enemy has used the court system to legalize child sacrifice at the altar of convenience. The enemy has twisted the constitution to mean you have the right to freedom “from” religion not “for” religion, seeking to remove any Christian symbolism from the public arena. The rights of the individual are more important than the welfare of the community. Tolerance is now the cover word for a multitude of sins. People worship at the shrines of pornography, alcohol, while religious hucksters and frauds bilk gullible Christians into financing their lavish lifestyles. The price tags have been switched, virtue, honor, integrity, honesty, are worthless when it comes to making a buck, securing a financial future, building an empire. How many worship at the altar of power, of fame, of wealth?
It seems we are losing this war as disciples because you and I are not ingenious in methods of shining the light, preaching the gospel, living their lives to the full, standing for truth and justice. More and more Americans want nothing to do with what we call the Church, with its hidden corruption, legalism, and compromise; more interested in becoming a corporate success than the body of Christ.
Christians are mocked, ridiculed and for the most part, silenced. Media coverage and entertainment tend to scorn Christianity in any form. Chick-fil-A is a Christian owned fast food restaurant chain; when it opened a store in New York City there was a cry to boycott because of its evil values. Why? There is a war being waged against the followers of Christ. Jesus tells us from this parable that when such things happen it is because the soldiers of the enemy are more ingenious than the followers of Christ.
Has the enemy outmaneuvered you making your witness for Christ silent or worse ineffective? Has the enemy coaxed you into a defection? The enemy certainly has turned more than a few followers of Christ to the other side through temptation leading into persistent disobedience. Are you being outsmarted by the use of your time? Do you know more about the life of your favorite celebrity than you do about Jesus? Here’s a tough question I had to ask myself, how much of my money goes to helping others compared to how much I spend on luxuries? The bank statement tells the truth. Has the enemy coerced me into being a disciple of the culture instead of Christ? Has the enemy compromised you? Diluted your passion, water downed your desire for holiness? Is there any significant difference in the way I live my life and the way someone who does not yet know Christ lives their life?
In Jesus parable, the crooked accountant saw what was coming. Because of his thievery, he was going to get fired. He was well aware of the situation he was in. So he looked ahead. He made a plan. The crook is commended not because he cheated his employer but rather because he used his head making the most out of a bad situation. You need to figure out how best to live your life to the full and make disciples. “Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16 (NIV). Today the subtle behavior of a disciple is to use every ounce of ingenuity in living and presenting the good news to the culture.
In living the good news in this culture, the ingenuity you need as a disciple is how to thrive spiritually in a culture in which you are now the minority. Jesus gave us this story because “He knew we would be snubbed, mocked, censored, intimidated, falsely accused, outwitted, and even martyred. He knew we would be lambs in a forest of wolves.” (Dan Seagren) Jesus said, “ I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16 (NIV). You must figure out how to live a devout and holy life.
1 Peter 2:15(NLT)
“..it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people…”
The cultural trend right now is away from Christianity, and if not Christ himself, certainly the thing called the Church. By attending you are doing something questionable if not reprehensible by our antagonists. You get labeled as hypocritical, exclusive, intolerant and judgmental simply by identifying with a Church. You are a potential threat to society because you are ignorant, uneducated and basically a simpleton that seeks to force your morality down the throats of everyone else. You must figure out a way to effectively present the gospel.
Colossians 4:5-6 (MSG)
Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.
Don’t allow the devil, the culture, the flesh, lull you into some sort of complacent Christianity full of compromise. Outwit the enemy, figure out how to grow deep, grow up and grow fruit in an environment that wants you dead. Figure out how to live your life to the full in a culture that pressures you just to go with the flow. Figure out how to tell others that life to the full is only found in and through Jesus. Remember your mandate as a disciple of Jesus
Proverbs 24:11 (NIV)
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
It is the ingenious disciple who will be the victor, the overcomer, the well rewarded. You’ll need situational awareness, you’ll need to think outside the box, you’ll need to be inventive, creative, clever. When it’s all said and done I want you to be standing in the winner’s circle, blessed with the accolade, “Well done good and faithful servant.