Jesus made a troubling comment when he was teaching his disciples: “The children of this world are more prudent … than are the children of the light” (Lk 16:8b). This is sad but true. It is human nature. Jesus was deeply disappointed, and in this case not so much with “the prudent,” a veiled reference to people who connive to make more money and get their way, but with those who claim to be righteous, decent, religious people.
The dishonest steward was a child of this world. He was preoccupied with himself and his commission, or put in modern terms, he was self-centered, greedy, and on an all-out quest for the almighty dollar.
This world is obsessed with money, and tremendous amounts of time and energy go into making it. Young people go to good schools and try to get good grades so they can get into good colleges so they can get a good job so they can make more money.
The children of this world are enterprising. Whether they are starting their own business or working for someone else, those who excel in business are enthusiastic and energetic, creative and imaginative, shrewd and resourceful. They are experts at analysis and evaluation, skilled at developing an ingenious business plan, and eager to modify, improve, and update it. They are dedicated to the task and willing to work long and hard, even if it means coming in early, staying late, or traveling. They are not afraid of change and able to act quickly and decisively. Their objective is a quality product or service, but it is also profit, and as much as possible.
Meanwhile, there are “children of the light.” This probably refers to Jesus’ new followers, his children, with him as their light. It also may have referred to good and faithful Jews in general or to the Essenes, a group of Jews, some who lived in the desert, who separated themselves from world and its evil ways to embrace an ascetic lifestyle in which they dedicated themselves totally to God. Children of the light are those who love, follow, and obey God.
Jesus was upset. His observation was that business people put more time and energy into making money than supposedly religious people put into their spiritual lives.
It would be a grand and glorious day when the primary objective of a school is to form disciples in God’s ways. Jesus is longing for followers who are enthusiastic and energetic about him and his gospel, and creative and imaginative in the application of his gospel values to their daily lives. Jesus wants disciples who can size up the situation and develop an ingenious plan to root out evil and replace it with great good, both in their individual lives and their organizations, and to do so decisively and without delay. He also wants believers who are willing to put in their time when it comes to prayer and service. Jesus wants to surround himself with people who want to get ahead, not with money and possessions, but in holiness and God’s grace.