The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Jesus says "make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth". Really?

The Sunday sermon was on “The Parable of the Dishonest Manager” which contains the famous observation “You cannot serve God and wealth (Greek: mammon)”. On the face of it, Jesus seems to instruct us to “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth”. An unusual explanation considers that the steward was slandered and made friends with his employer by publicly doing the act for which he was falsely accused. For more on this see:

What did your Pastor preach about?

I gather that this is supposed to be a humorously rhetorical question: “Now, am I saying this to you: make friends for yourselves by security of injustice, so that when you fail then they will be accepting you into the tabernacle of God’s own?!” No, of course that isn’t His point, as He goes on to explain. It’s a somewhat typical rabbinic how-much-moreso comparison: even this ridiculous and/or evil situation demonstrates admirable cleverness (I don’t think the accountant has been slandered, by the way), so how much moreso should good people be good about better things.

In this case the moral is, “If you cannot be trusted even in regard to unjust security, who will entrust the good things to you?” That doesn’t mean you’re supposed to go out and deal in the security of injustice – thus the wry rhetorical question introducing discussion of the parable.

It would be like saying even the Mafia treasures friendship and loyalty, so how much more should good people be loyal and friendly. Now, am I saying you should go out and join a mafia gang? Of course not.

Jesus makes such comparisons with some frequency in the Synoptic reports; for example, if you only do good things for those who love you, what more have you done than other people? Even pagans and traitors do that!

I suspect Jesus might also have intended a comparison and contrast between this embezzler and His other parable about an embezzler caught by his master: this one, even in his wickedness, at least wants to be merciful on other people. He has a twisted and self-serving understanding of mercy, but he does have one! – so shouldn’t the children of light be even better at mercy than this unjust man? Whereas the other embezzler, once shown mercy and all his debt had been forgiven, only saw an opportunity to further profit by going out and using the supposed excuse of his debt to squeeze people who owed him, sending them into the punishment he had already escaped when they couldn’t pay up. Therefore, in just the same way, your Father in the heavens will be doing to each one of you (talking to the apostles, up to and including Simon Peter), if you are not forgiving your brother from your heart.

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Thanks! I especially like your observation about the link between the parables.

I think Luke 16:9—

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, they may receive you into the ETERNAL dwellings

[that is to say, those friends will be thankfully waiting for you in heaven after they die, because the testimony of your open-handed generosity helped win them to Christ]

—is also related to 2 Cor. 9:11—

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

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Jesus actually said, “I tell you, Make for yourselves friends with the money of the unrighteous.”
He wasn’t talking at all about “dishonest wealth” but “the money of unrighteous people.”

Here is the Greek sentence and a literal translation:

‘εγω ’υμιν-- λεγω ’εαυτοις--------- ποιησετε φιλους ‘εκ---- του μαμων της-- ‘αδικιας
I------to you say—for yourselves make------friends out of the money of the unrighteous

Note: I have inserted dashes only to make the English words line up with the Greek.

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The unusual explanation I quoted in the article says says the author said it is something like “Mr Moneybags” and is meant to be about the employer.