There are about 40 parables that our Lord gave, and nobody else in the New Testament gave any parables, so all the parables were given by our Lord. As we know, they were designed to hide the truth from unbelievers, but to reveal it to believers, those who have ears to hear. Parables were, in a sense, a judgment, a confirmation of rejection. At the same time, they were light to those who had the ears to hear. We find that this particular parable is designed to help believers, as they all are. At the end of the day, they are only going to help believers because only believers really understand them.
But Luke 16, in particular, is designed to speak to the sons of light. That would be all of those who are part of the kingdom of God. It is a parable that has to do with money, and that’s not odd because about one out of three parables will have something to do with money. ~ John MacArthur
On Rip’s birthday yesterday, I shared on my other site a verse of Scripture that has his name written out beside it in my Bible. It’s Proverbs 22:1 which says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” Likewise, why does Ecclesiastes 7:1 similarly suggest that “a good name is better than fine perfume”? But what does this all mean?
The word name in both verses means “reputation,” “standing,” or “the general estimation and recognition of a person.” In ancient Israel, a person’s name was intricately linked with his reputation and standing in the community. The term translated “to be chosen” in the original language carries the idea of going after what is more desirable, preferable, or worth much more. Favor is actually “good favor” in the original Hebrew and corresponds with name in the first line of the verse. In this framework, favor means “acceptance, respect, or esteem from other people.” Thus, Proverbs 22:1 emphasizes the superior value of maintaining a good, respectable reputation.
Like wisdom, an honorable standing or “a good name” is more valuable than money, riches, and expensive material things like silver, gold, and fine perfume. A good rephrasing of the proverb would be, “It is far better to have honor and esteem associated with one’s name than all the riches in the world,” or, as the New Living Translation renders Proverbs 22:1, “Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.” “A good reputation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold.”
Proverbs 22:1 is not suggesting that it is wrong to have a lot of money and possessions. Wealth is not the culprit, but how we obtain it matters. If we acquire riches at the expense of destroying our reputation, then we have paid too high a price. Riches are worthless if, in pursuing them, we ruin our character. “Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it,” says Proverbs 1:19 (see also Proverbs 10:2).
Having a good name or honorable reputation is the result of developing inner character and living uprightly. Proverbs 3:3–4 teaches, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Once again, a good name here means “a respectable reputation.” Love in the original language denotes “kindness,” as in how we treat others. And faithfulness refers to “steadfastness, and fidelity to one’s word.” When the Lord’s lovingkindness and faithfulness surround our hearts like a beautiful garland, we earn the favor of God and others. This favor provides us with a good name, securing our reputation. A good name such as this is more desirable than all the money in the world. *gotquestions.org edited
So, how do Rip and I view wealth? How do we manage and invest and use the Lord’s money that He places in our care? It is how Jesus Christ taught His followers in Luke 16. Dr. John MacArthur explains:
So let’s get the story in mind starting in verse 1 Luke 16.
“He was also saying to the disciples – .” Now I want you to know this is for us. This is for us as it was for His disciples. That is not to say that there weren’t others listening. Down in verse 14, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things,” and of course, they were scoffing at them. The word “scoffing” there, very strong word. In the middle of this word “scoffing” in the original Greek is the word for “nose”, the actual word for “nose.” It means to stick up your nose. Sneering is the way it’s translated in 23:35 and describes what they were doing when Jesus was hanging on the cross. So this is scorn. This is what we would expect from the people who didn’t understand this parable and who, in many ways, were defined by this parable because they were lovers of money.
So they’re in the crowd listening, but the direction of this parable, as always, is to hide the truth from them because of their resolute unbelief and to give the lesson to His disciple sand to us.
“There was a rich man who had a manager – ” steward “ – and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. And he called to him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to bed. I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first – ” This is a process that he goes through – “‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrews in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.”
That’s the story. A really strange thing in one sense to tell a story where everybody is sort of relatively corrupted, but that is exactly the point that our Lord is making. Jesus taught from sort of normal routine aspects of life. Once in a while He turned life upside down and said things that might have seemed strange. This is one of those. He also talked about an unjust judge as well as an unscrupulous steward. So there were times when He used evil people to make His point.
Keep in mind there’s nothing in this parable that’s secret or hidden or allegorical or mystical. It’s a simple story, but what bothers some people is Jesus commends the bad guy. Listen to His closing: “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly.” Then in verse 9 Jesus says, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness.” Wow! Do what he did? It is a problem for some people to have Jesus saying, “Follow the behavior of a wasteful, profligate, prodigal, deceitful, thieving, selfish, conniving, unprincipled person.”
By the way, this is placed here right after the story of the prodigal son because this is a prodigal manager. Prodigal means “wasteful.” The son wasted everything and didn’t provide for his future. Here is a man who wasted the assets that he had control of, but did provide for his future. Maybe that’s the link. The ending is a shock, a surprise ending. It becomes the point of the story. We’ll get to that in a minute, but let’s go back and kind of track a little bit with the story so you understand how they would have heard it when our Lord gave it.
Here’s John MacArthur teaching in 2015 on this story in Luke 16 “A Good Lesson from a Bad Example.” I have shared this message with literally hundreds of people simply because of how it mad such an impact on me and Rip. If you’re married, this would be an excellent way to invest 51 minutes of your marriage so that you both can walk in God’s wisdom when it comes to how you manage His money which He has providentially placed in your care. Here’s the message below…be blessed!