Did you know friends can get you into Heaven? Good friends bring eternal rewards. If you have been blessed with a few really good ones, you’re blessed indeed. From childhood I’ve valued my friendships and they have appreciated and now they are my richest treasures.
If we are shrewd in life, we know the friends we make upon Earth will be the friends who will greet us in Heaven.
In the parable of “The Shrewd Manager” (Luke 16:1-15), Christ stresses use money to make friends, meet the needs of believers and to spread the gospel. We can then be sure our actions have eternal consequences. When friends become life long buddies, their friendship brings life-long rewards.
Jesus says in Luke 16:9, “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourself so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” While it is true every believer will be welcomed into Heaven, not all will have many friends there to greet them.
The parable takes us into the world of finance and responsibility. The master hired the crooked steward to manage his property. He is the employee of an absentee landlord and is given control over his master’s business and assets. His responsibility is to use his master’s money to advance his master’s
interest and business, not his own.
But the temptation he succumbs to is to divert his master’s funds for his own pleasure and betray his master’s trust and further, he fails to keep record of his business transactions. Caught violating his master’s trust, he is told he’s going to be fired. Unlike today’s workplace, he’s not told to immediately leave, so he uses the time to strike bargains with his master’s debtors. For this, Jesus commends him “because he had acted shrewdly,” Note: Jesus does not say he’s pleased with this steward’s actions but he is impressed by his shrewdness.
Note the key word is “shrewd.” It means “to act with foresight.” In the early days, the word meant “wicked” but today it denotes “wily and astute.” A shrewd person acts decisively with foresight, positioning himself or herself for the future. The steward recognizes his crisis and seizes the opportunity, with his eye on his future. What we see demonstrated in his action is a quality Christ wants His disciples to have: shrewdness.
Further, Christ says, “People of the world are more shrewd than the people of the light.” Unbelievers outpace the disciples in their foresight, ingenuity and risk-taking.
Jesus stresses two main requirements in discipleship. First, those given trust must prove themselves faithful. Second, whoever can be trusted with little can also be trusted with much and, conversely, those who are dishonest with little also will be dishonest with much. Our character determines whether we act honestly or dishonestly.
Christ makes three key points in this parable. First, shrewdness with money can achieve friendship and eternal goals. Second, stewardship of money has eternal consequences. Third, shrewd disciples recognize that good stewardship of money prevents bondage to money.
The story is told of a man shipwrecked on a lonely, unknown island. To his surprise, he found he wasn’t alone; a large tribe of people shared his island. To his pleasure, he discovered they treated him like a king. In fact, they placed him on a throne and catered to his every desire. Delighted, but perplexed, he asked himself, “Why such royal treatment?”
As his ability to communicate increased, he discovered the tribal custom was to choose a king for a year. Then, when his term was finished, he would be transported to a particular island and abandoned. Delight was now replaced by distress.
Then he thought of a shrewd plan. Over the next months, he sent members of the tribe to clear and till the other island. He had them build a beautiful house, furnish it and plant crops. He sent some chosen friends to live there and wait for him. Then, when his time of exile came, he was put in the place that was carefully prepared and full of friends delighted to receive him.
Christ’s disciples know we are not headed to a desert island but to a home not built by human hands — our Father’s Kingdom — and that the preparation we make here on earth follows us there. The most important of that preparation, says Jesus, is the making of good friends, for they can be our ticket in.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Miami. To reach him, call 305-759-0373 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Stock Photo