A Parable of the Shrewd Manager

Over the summer, Matt released a book called The First Time We Saw Him, where he imagined what Jesus’ parables would sound like if Jesus had come today, rather than to first century Palestine. One of my personal favorite is the Parable of the Shrewd Manager from Luke 16:1-9, and Matt didn’t include it. So I took my inspiration from the book and imagined my own version of “The Shrewd Manager”. Enjoy!

Gary read the email again for the hundredth time: Mr. Fox, My office. First thing tomorrow morning. It was signed Francis Copperman, Senior Broker — Stratton Oakmont. Gary’s eyes flitted across the dozens of cramped cubicles on the 50th-floor toward the double-glass doors that marked the threshold to Mr. Copperman’s palatial office suite. Nobody saw Mr. Copperman.

Unless today was his last day at work. That’s all this email could mean. Tomorrow, Mr. Copperman was going to fire him, first thing in the morning. As his panic began to subside, Gary started thinking. He’d know this day was coming – he wasn’t exactly the hardest worker on the floor. In fact, to be honest, he did quite a bit less than the minimum required to stay employed. Doing the minimum or less had been Gary’s MO his whole life – he relied on his charm to get by, and for a while, it had seemed that charm was good enough here at Stratton Oakmont, too.

But if there’s one thing Mr. Copperman liked more than charm, it was money, and Gary hadn’t been bringing in nearly enough. He had to think fast – the floor closes in two hours, and after that, he’s effectively toast.

Gary picked up his phone and put his charm to work. After about an hour of calling in favors, he turned to buying and selling stocks, making not-strictly-legal trades for his wealthiest clients. When the floor closed, Gary went home.

The next morning, in his best suit, he waited in Mr. Copperman’s outer office while the assistant expertly ignored his existence. At some undiscernible signal, she announced, without looking up, that Mr. Copperman would see him now, and buzzed him in.

Mr. Copperman was lounging – that’s really the only word Gary could think of to describe his demeanor – in an enormous leather throne behind his equally enormous oak desk. To Gary’s surprise, he was grinning – not the treatment Stratton Oakmont employees received when they were fired. Every employee had heard Mr. Copperman’s shouts and swears when someone was “invited to pursue other avenues of employment”, as the management disingenuously put it.

Without getting up – and without offering Gary a seat, Francis Copperman smirked, “Congratulations, kid. I’m impressed.”

Gary was thoroughly confused. He knew full well what he had done. So why was Mr. Copperman… happy? Impressed? Gary decided feigning ignorance was his best bet. He stammered, “Um… what do you mean, Mr. Copperman?”

“Don’t play dumb, kid. You’re lazy. You’re a cheat. But you’re not dumb. I sent you the termination email yesterday, and this morning I have your seven top clients gushing over all the money you made them, and a little confused where it all came from. Since not one of them authorized any transactions.”

“Um…,” still confused, Gary decided to keep up the innocence routine. “Happy clients are good, right, sir?”

“Cut the crap, kid. Rich clients are good. Dumb clients are good. Rich, dumb clients are even better. But you know what kind of clients are best, don’t you: Grateful clients.

“So yesterday, you get the “you’re canned” email. And you don’t freak out. You don’t cry. You don’t beg. My guess is you called in some of your favors. Got some insider information. And put it to work for your clients. What they don’t know won’t hurt them, am I right? All they know is, they wake up several million dollars richer, and who do they have to thank? You, the laziest broker I’ve ever seen.

And of course you know I won’t raise a stink about a little insider trading from one worthless broker, because I don’t want the feds poking around here too closely.

“Real smart, kid. A work ethic like that, it’ll take you far in this town.”

More confused than ever, Gary asked, “So I’m not fired?”

Copperman laughed, “Don’t kid yourself. You’re done here at Stratton Oakmont.  But you’ll land on your feet. Once word gets out you left here, you’ll have job offers lined up down the block – several from those clients you just made even richer.”

Copperman stood up and extended his hand, “Nicely done, kid. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you. Now get out.”

Jesus let his followers take the story in. He said, “The people like Gary in this world use everything at their disposal to get what they want. Frankly, they’re much better at getting what they want than God’s people are. So here’s the takeaway: Use the resources you have in this world – all of them – to work for justice and help other people flourish. Then, when you’ve used up everything you have, you’ll find them welcoming you into an eternal home.”

Author: JR. Forasteros

JR. lives in Dallas, TX with his wife Amanda. In addition to exploring the wonders that are the Lone Star state, JR. is the teaching pastor at Catalyst Community Church, a writer and blogger. His book, Empathy for the Devil, is available from InterVarsity Press. He's haunted by the Batman, who is in turn haunted by the myth of redemptive violence.

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