The first 13 verses of this chapter will be the topic of my preaching this Sunday. At first blush this has got to be the most difficult of the parables that Jesus shares in the gospels.
There's a master. He has a chief of staff who has been wasting the master's goods. It's not quite on the level of a Bernie Madoff because there is no indication that he's wasting his master's investments on himself (stealing and laundering the goods), but the results are equally bad.
The master wants an accounting, but instead of going into the records to prove his innocence and diligence, he pulls aside some of the masters larger debtors and cuts their debt by around 500 dinari each. That's a huge adjustment, that will indebt each of the men to this conniving servant once he's kicked out of the master's house.
Then Jesus seems to commend the guy. What???? He says that he acted "wisely." But he still called him a "dishonest manager" in v. 8 too. Well, actually, the master commended the servant he's about to fire, saying that his situational wisdom toward his peers exceeds that of the "sons of light" toward their peers.
Jesus wants his disciples to emulate this kind of wisdom (not unrighteousness). He wants them to make friends for themselves (v. 9). How? Use the worldly wealth at your disposal--that which is fading away or may get in the way of your dependence on God alone--to make friends. Why? So that at the time when their possessions fail to effect any welfare (even on the day of their death) they might be welcomed into heaven.
One of my dear friends, Bill Connors, asks a question of the text at this point. Why? Why will they be welcomed into God's presence? The answer: Using all that is at our disposal for the benefit of others is an act of faithfulness to our master, the Lord Jesus.
We are confronted with the reality that our faithfulness to the master is seen in how we related to our material goods. I'll leave you to ponder that one for a while.