I have been talking to a friend and we are trying to

understand luke 16:9. My friend sees this as something

negative “…buying your friends” because of the previous

context, but I see it as something positive. Can you help me understand
this verse?


This is a good question. There are a couple of points to be made.
The main point of Jesus here is that his followers should be wise in the
way they use their money. We need to take advantage of the wealth we are
given by God in order to help spread our influence for Jesus in others’
lives. Jesus seems to be saying, “Even ungodly people understand that our
money can be used to influence people in a particular direction. You need
to do the same thing. Use your money in ways which help people in their
time of need so that when they have spiritual needs they will come to you
for help and maybe come to me.”

A harder question to answer, even though it is not the key question,
is whether Jesus is praising the worldly person he is using in his
example. Shrewdness (Luke 16:8) is neither good nor evil. It is a tool
which can be used for God’s or for Satan’s purposes. Almost any talent can
be used for good or evil. The main point is not whether it was an ethical
thing the person did when he cancelled the debts of his customers. I would
argue that we cannot be absolutely sure if these actions were ethical or
not. Would the master have approved of this or not? I tend to think not,
but I cannot prove it. I believe this person is being underhanded and is
taking advantage of his position to dishonestly gain an advantage.
However, I cannot prove that his master would reject this plan. Since I
cannot know, I can only assume that it is not germane to the point Jesus
is making.

So, let us get back to the point. Jesus is not praising the ethics
of the shrewd manager. He is pointing out that there is nothing spiritual
about not being shrewd. He is telling his disciples that we need to be
generous with our money. We need to spread our wealth around in ways which
increase the likelihood that those we are around will become followers of
Jesus. Spend your money putting on nice dinners at your house so that you
can have influence in your neighborhood. If you are a snow boarder, bring
along a friend you are trying to influence, even if it costs you more
money than going alone. If you are making a purchase, consider how the
thing you are buying may be used to make friends and to share what you
have with those you are trying to influence. If you are buying a car,
consider getting a pickup truck so that you can help your neighbors. The
list can continue, but I am sure you get the idea.

The answer to your question is that using your money in a way which
helps you to influence others to come to Jesus is a good thing. Jesus is
not authorizing us to pay people to study the Bible. He is not proposing
that we hand out cash to church visitors, but he is telling us to be
shrewd in how we spend our money–to have a kingdom attitude.

John Oakes, PhD

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