"There was a rich man whose manager was accused ..." (Luke 16:1-12)

"There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 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.' 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 — I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.' So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 'Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.' 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.' 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. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with 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? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?" (Luke 16:1-12)

Why was the manager fired?

Jesus uses this parable to clarify multiple lessons regarding this world. Was he suggesting that the manager was fired because he didn't act shrewdly? That one should raise the rent unfairly, increase interest rates arbitrarily or otherwise act shrewdly in business?

Someone who thinks this is completely missing the lessons of Jesus' parable.

Jesus points out first that the manager is being fired because he was not taking care of his boss' wealth. He was "wasting his possessions." This means that the manager was not being a good caretaker. The phrase, "wasting his possessions" means that the manager didn't care about the possessions of his boss. He wasn't focused upon doing a good job for his boss.

It also means that he wasn't acting with integrity, because the position of manager was to be a good caretaker for the assets of his boss.

What did the manager do?

Once he realizes that he may lose his job he suddenly springs into action and begins to take advantage of his position. He allows those who owe his boss to discount their debts. If they owed 900 gallons of oil, now they owed 450. He discounted the debts of those who owed his boss.

Was this the right thing to do? No. The manager had no right to do this. He was discounting their debts in order to gain influence among his boss' debtors. This is a form of bribery: In exchange for reducing their debts, he gained a positive relationship with them.

The curious thing is the master apparently praised him for doing this. Why?

The boss didn't realize the manager was reducing the debts of those who owed him money. He just saw the manager working collections and praised him. The manager was being dishonest, that is clear.

The bottom line is that he was not acting on the benefit of his boss. Either before or after the threat of being fired.

What does the parable mean?

Jesus clearly describes the meaning of his parable:
"So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?"
This illustrates that the manager was not trustworthy. Even when he was under threat of being fired, he still acted in a manner that was dishonest.

The reason why the boss commended the manager was because he didn't realize that the manager was giving his money away in the form of relieving some of the debts of the boss' debtors.

Jesus is using business to underscore being trustworthy with whatever position a person is given in life. If a person is being paid to do a certain type of job - and accepts the responsibility for that job - then doing that job as promised is being trustworthy.

You see, the physical world is sort of like a rehearsal or exercise: The human form of life provides a platform for learning about integrity.

Do we have integrity?

This is the question the physical world constantly poses to us. We are constantly being presented with problems that test our integrity. This is not only the nature of Jesus' parable. It is the nature of our lives here in this world.

For example, we are constantly being presented with situations that present multiple choices to us. Sometimes the choice is clear - one choice represents acting with integrity while another choice represents the opposite. We can also see this in the lives of politicians and other public figures who get caught up in controversial situations.

Often, those who act with integrity end up being on the short end of things. Sometimes those who are honest and forthright get passed over while those who cheat get ahead.

But this is typically temporary. Typically the truth will catch up with everyone. Sooner or later the truth will come out and those who acted without integrity will be revealed and will have to pay the consequences.

As such, Jesus is teaching is that it is better to act with integrity than to get ahead.

What about friends?

What does Jesus mean by "make friends for yourselves"? Jesus is speaking of us sharing what we have with others. Being kind and generous with our brothers and sisters under God is to carry out our spiritual nature - to love and be compassionate.

This point is made by Jesus above as he states:
"For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light."

What are 'the people'?

The phrases, "people of this world" and "people of the light" are not well translated here - and are thus misleading. These phrases, in fact, have been variously translated among the different Biblical translations. Many use the phrases "sons of the world" and "sons of the light."

Both "sons" or "people" are translated from the Greek word, υἱός (huios). Yes, this word can mean "sons" when the context is the physical family - father and son. But according to the lexicon, the word can also mean, "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower."

Within the context of Jesus' statement here, he is not speaking merely of "people." Nor is he speaking of "sons." Rather, he is speaking of followers - those who are subjects, or servants of what is being followed.

Thus we find that translating υἱός (huios) to "people" or "sons" here are both misleading. What Jesus is speaking of is those who are servants or a followers of something else.

In the context of the world - he is speaking of those who are "servants of the world" or a "followers of the world." This means he is speaking of someone who is focused upon materialism. Their entire life revolves around their money, their material possessions, their reputation, their physical family and so on. In this state, one essentially becomes a servant of materialism - working hard to get stuff and keep stuff.

On the other hand, one who is a "servant of the light" or a "follower of the light" in Jesus' context means someone whose focus is upon spiritual matters - specifically doing the will of the Supreme Being. This means wanting to please God instead of just wanting to please oneself.

Thus we can more appropriately translate the above statement by Jesus to something like:
"For the followers [or servants] of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the followers [or servants] of the light."
We can see in this statement that while Jesus has just used a parable to underscore the lesson of being trustworthy in this world, he also illustrates that shrewdness is not how those in the spiritual realm treat each other.

Can trustworthiness and honesty be learned?

This relates to the point made above about learning lessons of trustworthiness and honesty. Should one become trustworthy and honest in this world with whatever opportunities are given, that trustworthiness and honesty in effect prepares us for the pure trustworthiness and honesty within the culture of the spiritual realm.

This point is highlighted by the phrase above, "true riches." What are the "true riches" that Jesus is speaking of?

The term, "true riches" is being translated from the Greek word, ἀληθινός (alēthinos). This word in fact, brings forth an even greater meaning than "true riches" indicates. In fact, the word doesn't even relate to "riches" at all. Here is its meaning according to Strong's lexicon:

"That which has not only the name and resemblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name, in every respect corresponding to the idea signified by the name, real, true genuine - opposite to what is fictitious, counterfeit, imaginary, simulated or pretended"

Jesus is not speaking specifically of "riches" here at all. There is no indication that this word relates specifically to money or wealth. Rather, the word indicates a larger lesson: That the spiritual realm maintains our real nature - our genuine nature - and the genuine or real or true nature of existence.

This indicates that the physical world is not the genuine or true nature of existence. The physical world in fact is merely a perverted reflection of the spiritual realm.

We might compare this to a movie. Let's say that a person goes to a movie theater and pays $10 for a movie ticket and sits down in the dark theater and watches the movie. Is the movie reality?

No. It is an illusion of reality. The movie is a reproduction - a film - that has been made of actors who are pretending to be certain characters in the movie. Meanwhile the movie is filmed on a set that is a facade of a real place. The buildings and scenes are green screen backdrops or facades of real places. In other words, the movie is staged: It is not reality. It maintains an illusion of reality.

Furthermore, the movie is on film and it is showing up on a flat screen in the front of the theater. With the combination of music and great film scenes, the moviegoer is being tricked into thinking that the movie is real - and the characters and the events are to some degree real. Thus the moviegoer is pulled into the movie and begins to relate with the "reality" of the movie - by crying when things get sad and laughing when things get funny.

Meanwhile, the "real" world is outside the theater, and even within the theater. This is why theater rooms are darkened. So people will change their focus from the people and life all around them to becoming focused upon the illusion of reality within the movie.

This is what is taking place here in this physical world. We are not these physical bodies. They are machines that we temporarily occupy. These machines, along with the world around us are made of moving atoms and molecules: These atoms and molecules - and this physical body - is not who we are in reality. They bring us the illusion of identity and reality. Each of us has a real identity and existence separate from this body and this physical world.

We can easily see this physical world is not real in the sense that it is not permanent - when see things changing, degrading and decomposing. A baby body grows into a teenager body and then to an adult, then an old body and then dies and decomposes. Which of these bodies are we? The baby body? The teenager body? The old guy body? How about the decomposed body?

We see bodies dying and decomposing all around us. Where does the life and personality animating each body go after that body dies? Where do we go?

The person - the real person - is not visible with the senses of the physical body because the real person - each of us - is made of another substance and comes from another realm. This is the spiritual realm - the genuine, permanent realm. It is reality - while this physical world is a temporary illusion of reality.

Does reality exist?

These bodies do exist. But they are not permanent. They are temporary shapes made of molecules. The visual forms of our bodies are produced by the reflection of light upon those molecules. Our eyes don't actually see the molecules that make up our bodies: Our eyes only 'see' the lights and colors that reflects off of those molecules.

So we can better compare our physical world and our personal situation to acting in a play. We have put on some temporary costumes (these physical bodies) and we are assuming temporary identities for the duration of the play. Once the physical body dies, the play is over and we move on. Where do we go?

Well, it depends upon how we play it out here: Should we focus our lives upon real existence within the spiritual realm - by focusing ourselves upon our eternal relationship with the Supreme Being - then we can return home after this physical body dies. Otherwise - should we focus upon materialism and our self-interests - we are destined to continue our existence in hell within whatever species that reflects our current consciousness and the consequences of our prior actions.

So how do we become prepared to return to our genuine home in the spiritual realm? The process given by Jesus and all the prophets is clear: Glorifying the Supreme Being. Incanting, singing and praising God's Holy Names. And praying and making offerings to God. This process is the undercurrent throughout the scriptures.

By glorifying the Supreme Being we are reaching out to Him. We gradually become conscious of Him and His beautiful nature and personality. Gradually, He opens Himself up to us - revealing the reality of our true, genuine existence as His loving servant. This gradually brings us to the stage that Jesus and the prophets instructed:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)