Immoral, Illegal or Legally Shrewd?
When you read the parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16, you have to ask yourself: Why would the Lord compliment someone that was unjust? Luke 16:1-8 says,
“There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ Then the steward…called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”
So I’ll ask again, why did Jesus describe this dishonest COO’s actions as shrewd? Let’s first look into the life of the steward. It’s clear that during his tenure, he hadn’t done a good job overseeing the company’s accounts receivables. The accounting had gotten so out of hand that the board of directors brought it to the CEO’s attention that their COO had been ‘wasting’ the company’s money. At which time the CEO informed the COO that an internal audit was underway and there was a probability that he would be demoted. After the meeting, the reality of the situation hit. Knowing how the investigation would turn out, the COO concocted a plan that would quite possibly salvage his reputation and ensure a future position at one of their client’s firms.
An Unjust or Shrewd Plan? The plan was to implement a new repayment policy. You see, up until this point, their company had no in-house collections department or repayment programs in place. Their clients were extended a line of credit which allowed them to pay at their discretion. Because the company stocks were doing so well, they didn’t know the state of their account receivables. Therefore, this internal audit forced the COO to find out why their clients hadn’t been paying. Turns out, the clients couldn’t afford to pay their entire bill. So instead of sending partial payments, they opted to send nothing at all. When this was brought to the COO’s attention, he personally contacts each of the firms biggest clients and offers them a debt settlement agreement.
Then the steward…called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’
A debt settlement agreement, as defined by Wikipedia, is, “…a…debt reduction in which the debtor and creditor agree on a reduced balance that will be regarded as payment in full.’ When the CEO saw that they weren’t writing off as much and that there was an increase in revenue, he, ‘…commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly.’
A Shrewd Performance Report When you look at the unjust steward’s actions, you would assume that he’d acted unjustly. Yet both the CEO and Jesus commended him, but why? The CEO commended him because he increased the company’s revenue and took care of the problem. He not only secured his position, but he also saved the company from the scrutiny of its shareholders. The Lord commended him because he could have quietly resigned and accepted an offer at one of their client’s firms which would have left those client’s in debt to his former employer. Yet, he took the initiative to create a program that solved both his, and their problem. By entering into a debt settlement agreement and writing off a large portion of their debt, he helped those businesses get out of debt.
‘For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.’
Immoral, Illegal or Legally Shrewd As a Christian, or son of light, we think this practice is illegal, but not to Jesus. In fact, these verses should help us better understand why the rich get richer. It’s because there are legal tax codes, allowances, and loopholes that in theory, seem immoral and illegal. When we hear about big corporations being able to write off, merge, and monopolize, we become outraged. What we fail to realize is that they are operating shrewdly. They’ve created a system of commerce that to us seems immoral, so we shy away from it. In fact, we go so far as to demonize it. The sons of this world solve problems while we, as the sons of light, tend to only pray about them. Child of God, maybe its our time to get off our knees and into the game. Not saying that we have to act dishonestly but maybe it’s time for us to shed some of our Lord's light on global, financial, and/or corporate stages.
Pray this with me: Heavenly Father, I ask You for ideas, insights, and concepts into how to use the light You’ve given me on a corporate and/or global stage. Lord, You’ve given me light about my personal life, now I’m asking for light into how I can use the light You’ve given me to solve global problems. Help me to do it in such a way that the sons of this world take notice. In Jesus’ name.
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1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_settlement