Roughly speaking, there are three groups of people in every society – the rich, the poor, and the middle class. When society is changing, the rich don’t want to change, the poor are incapable of change. Therefore the middle class are those who are feeling changes and effecting changes.
Back to our story of the shrewd manager. The three classes are all represented – we have the rich master, the poor debtors who owe the master significant amount of produce, and the shrewd manager in the middle. Now the manager in the middle faces change in his career, what are his options?
He can look up. He can beg his master not to fire him. Or he can go work for another master. He can also take his money and stash it somewhere safe and live on its dividend. These are all things that “regular” middle class do. They invest in upward mobility (e.g. a good college degree), or they invest in a basket of nested eggs.
The shrewd manager acted differently. He knew it was useless to plead his case in front of his master. And he know that the option for his future is limited. (v.3) So he made the best investment – invest by looking DOWN the social ladder. Using his master’s resources, he built relationships with people below him socially.
This strategy worked for the shrewd manager, it works today too. In our corporate world, you can try to please your boss all you want. The moment you become unprofitable, you will be unceremoniously ejected from the organization. Many who climbed up the social ladder realize that the world of the upperclass knows only profit.
Not so down the other side of the social ladder. People in need know how to be thankful. If you help those in need, they will return the favor when the time comes.
Jesus’ commentary on the shrewd manager was very straightforward – so straightforward that it borders being unbelievable. “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” People before money. It is very simple – but those who love money, like the Pharisees, will sneer at this simple principle.
God’s investment plan is simple: Invest in friendship by helping those in need.