Someone who thinks this is completely missing the lessons of Jesus' parable:
The manager was acting in self-interest.
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" according to this translation. This means he wasn't focused upon doing a good job.
Once he realizes that he may lose his job he suddenly springs into action and begins to take charge of his boss' wealth and raises the payback amounts of those who owed his boss money. In other words, it was only when he was in trouble that he started acting in good faith.
In this context, acting in good faith meant that he was doing his job - albeit zealously. The reality is that he was not acting on the benefit of his boss until his job was threatened. Then he started working to benefit his boss.
This is the meaning of Jesus' commentary on the parable:
"So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?"While some might think that hiking up the debts of the bosses' clients was not trustworthy, in the eyes of the boss, it was. The manager was finally doing what was trustworthy in the eyes of his boss. It's just that he did not act in a trustworthy way before his job was threatened.
Jesus is not discussing the scruples of business per se.
He 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 is a stepping stone from the physical realm to the spiritual realm. This is why we have been given the intellect and the ability to recognize and appreciate the Supreme Being - because this is our chance to return to our home in the spiritual realm - the kingdom of God.
Most of the rest of the living beings within the physical world are not ready to return to the spiritual realm. They are locked up within the bodies of the millions of species of life - the animals, fish, insects, plants, bacteria and so forth - that surround us. These living beings do not have the opportunity to return to the spiritual realm because they are currently living out their wishes to escape the Supreme Being. They are ignorant of the existence of God because in the past this is what they wished.
But because the evolutionary process allows for so many lessons, a living being will transmigrate from species to species until they have become advanced enough in consciousness to take on a human physical body. At this point, they - each of us - have the opportunity to leave behind this hellish physical realm and return to God and our home in the spiritual realm - the kingdom of God.
Purifying our consciousness
But in order to complete this step, our consciousness must become purified. For this reason, we are given so many tests and lessons during our lifetime. These are intended to teach us lessons of honesty, trust, love and compassion. Should our consciousness become purified and we have become prepared to return to the spiritual realm, once this physical body dies we will return to our loving relationship with the Supreme Being within the spiritual realm.
So 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.
Trustworthiness and honesty
This of course 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"
So we are 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.
Yes, the physical world does exist.
And 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)