Jesus on Management
By Michael Mooney
More is More
In Mathew 25:14-29, and Luke 16:1-2, Jesus tells two different parables that both have the same meaning. In Matthew 25 He speaks of an investor who diversified his wealth among several account managers. In the end the investor audited his venture and found capital gains with all of his brokers but one. His response was that of any sensible businessman, he plowed back into the profitable account managers and fired (literally) the unprofitable one. Jesus ended the story with this financial principal:
“For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will abound. But from him who has not, even that which he has shall be taken away from him” (Mat 25:29, MKJV).
Little is a Lot
In Luke 16 Jesus tells of a man who managed an investment for a wealthy tycoon. After a while of carless management of resources, the owner called into account his property. Before the official audit the incompetent manager made arrangements with those who owed the owner money permitting them to pay off their debts at substantially reduced amounts. While still disappointed, this impressed the owner who congratulated the manager for his craftiness. Jesus ended this story with this financial principal:
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with a lot. Whoever is dishonest with very little is dishonest with a lot” (Luk 16:10 GW).
The story from Luke 16 ends with a perspective of good management. Those who are honest can be trusted with more responsibility, and the dishonest will lose in areas of trust, positions, and opportunities. The story in Matthew 25 finalizes this rationale with a spiritual law; more comes to those who have, and those who do not will eventually lose that which they have.
There are a few observations to make here. In both stories the object is that of managers who did not properly care for the investments that were entrusted to their care. The manger in Matthew was fearful and lazy. The manager in Luke was wasteful and implied as dishonest. Jesus demonstrates that that the fearful manager was too afraid to invest. As should be expected, “there is no wealth without risk” (old saying). The investor was rightfully unhappy, for he could have invested that money elsewhere and made a profit, but instead the original investment decreased in value with inflation. Contrastingly, the squandering manager was not afraid to use his shareholder’s recourses, but instead wasted them. In spite of the possible profits that he could have generated, they were needlessly wasted by a lack of concern for entrusted resources.
Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that a Biblical perspective of management is good stewardship. This is seemingly defined in terms of a balanced utilization of resources. There should be no fear that prohibits their use, but they also should not be carelessly wasted. Managers who are hired to manage investments are expected to frugally assume a level of risk with the intentions of a profitable return. Risk is necessary to the growth of wealth, but so also is the proper allocation of resources. Therefore, managers who do not profitably handle their resources will not remain in their positions.
“Therefore, if you can’t be trusted with wealth that is often used dishonestly, who will trust you with wealth that is real? If you can’t be trusted with someone else’s wealth, who will give you your own?” (Luk 16:11-12 GW).
Believers should not overlook the small tests of their abilities to maintain quality control and proper levels of risk. Such tests of value come at times when carelessness or fear could result in missing opportunities to be profitable (physically and spiritually). We should not assume that these “small moments” are somehow insignificant. Such could be the deciding factor of whether or not we will ever be entrusted with greater opportunities.
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