How do we begin to approach Jesus's affirming words of the shrewd money manager in chapter 16? Use money to make friends? We do not hear too many sermons on that one.
Not until we dig into the last few verses of Jesus's explanation of the parable do we begin to understand his point. Worldly wealth (mammon) in itself is neither good nor evil. Our use of it, however, is what is good or evil. Jesus tells us to use this world's resources to accomplish truly eternal purposes.
And in the work among the Dong people, the love of money is one of the most difficult problems yet to overcome. So many still have a deep, and yet unnoticed, desire for earthly comforts. The instruction from this parable is a necessary facet in a complete theology of the use of worldly goods.
The only model most Dong people see is the use of money in the towns and cities, and that is a model of greed, dishonesty, and the pursuit of money by any means. They honestly do not know how to change their use of money from evil to a use which accomplishes eternal purposes.
As they begin to hear the words of Jesus, here and throughout the book of Luke, may they begin to understand that following Jesus includes every aspect of our lives, including worldly goods. Proper use of money includes not only giving money to those in need, but also using it for eternal purposes in every transaction.
Let us pray that these words of Jesus would sink into the hearts of the Dong people. Though they are difficult to understand and even more difficult to practice, may the Dong people's use of money itself shine out a witness for Christ.