Unjust Steward

 

Luke 16:1-16
Now Jesus was saying to the disciples, “A rich man had a manager who was accused of wasting his assets. So he called for him and asked him, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Give me a report about your management, because you can’t be my manager any longer.’ “Then the manager said to himself, ‘What should I do?

My master is taking my position away from me. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that people will welcome me into their homes when I’m dismissed from my job.’ “So he called for each of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ The man replied, ‘A hundred jars of olive oil.’

The manager told him, ‘Get your bill. Sit down quickly and write “fifty.”‘ Then he asked another debtor, ‘How much do you owe?’ The man replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’

The manager told him, ‘Get your bill and write “eighty.”‘ The master praised the dishonest manager for being so clever.

For worldly people are more clever than enlightened people in dealing with their own generation.

“I’m telling you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous riches, so that when they’re gone you’ll be welcomed into eternal homes.

Whoever is faithful with very little is also faithful with a lot, and whoever is dishonest with very little is also dishonest with a lot. So if you have not been faithful with unrighteous riches, who will trust you with true wealth?

And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to foreigners, who will give you what is your own? “No servant can serve two masters. For either he will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches!”

Now the Pharisees, who love money, had been listening to all this and began to ridicule Jesus. So he said to them, “You try to justify yourselves in front of people, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly valued by people is detestable to God. “The law and the Prophets were prophesying until the time of John. Since then, the good news about the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is trying to enter it by force.

Possible Points of Jesus
  1. THE PARABLE ITSELF
    1. A WASTEFUL STEWARD – Lk 16:1-2
      1. A rich man hears that his steward was wasting his goods
      2. The steward is told to give an account of his stewardship and then be relieved
    2. A SHREWD STEWARD – Lk 16:3-8a
      1. The steward reasons within himself concerning his dilemma:
        1. “What can I do?”
        2. “I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg”
      2. He determines to so act as to ensure that others will receive him into their homes
        1. He calls for his master’s debtors
        2. He has them change their bills to reflect smaller debts
          1. This cheats his master even more
          2. But ingratiates him to his master’s debtors by lowering their debts
        3. It may be the steward simply removed what interest had incurred with the debts
          1. Though usury was forbidden by the Law (Ex 22:25; Deut 23:19), this prohibition was often circumvented
          2. It was common at that time for a rich man to have his steward do it, and then deny knowledge of it if came to light (i.e., “plausible deniability”)
          3. If it was only interest being removed, what the steward did not only pleased the debtors, but the master couldn’t publicly object
            — cf. The Parables Of Jesus, Simon Kistemaker, p. 228-229
      3. The unjust steward is commended by his master for his shrewdness
        1. Not that the master approved of the action per se
        2. But he could not deny that the steward was shrewd enough to know how to use what he had to his best advantage
  2. THE PARABLE APPLIED
    1. JESUS’ COMMENT CONCERNING SHREWDNESS – Lk 16:8b
      1. “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”
      2. The word “shrewd” means…
        1. Characterized by keen awareness, sharp intelligence, and often a sense of the practical
        2. Disposed to artful and cunning practices; tricky
          — The first definition reveals that being shrewd does not always mean evil
      3. Jesus’ observation is that:
        1. People of the world are generally very resourceful with things of this world
        2. Such is not always the case with the people of God
    2. JESUS’ APPLICATION OF THE PARABLE – Lk 16:9
      1. This verse is difficult, but let’s begin with explanations for some of the terms:
        1. “unrighteous mammon”
          1. The word “mammon” is the Aramaic word for “riches”
          2. It may be called “unrighteous” because it is often used for evil purposes, or because it is uncertain, undependable – cf. 1Ti 6:17
        2. “when you (it) fails”
          1. When your riches fail
          2. Or when you fail due to lack of riches
        3. “they may receive you”
          1. “they” refer to the “friends” made through the use of mammon
          2. Some interpret this to refer to God and Jesus, others think those you have helped
        4. “into everlasting habitations” – i.e., heaven itself
          1. Either that God and Jesus will receive you into heaven
          2. Or those souls you may have helped will welcome you into heaven
      2. With these definitions in mind, here are two explanations worthy of note:
        1. “The only friends who can receive us into heaven are the Father and the Son. These are, then, the friends we must secure. During life our means must be so used as to please God and to lay up eternal treasure. If we use it as a trust of the Lord we will secure such a friend. Instead of hoarding we must make heavenly friends.” (B. W. Johnson)
        2. “Worldly possession are the Christian’s stewardship. If he has been wasting them in self-indulgence, he must take warning from the parable and so employ them in deeds of usefulness and mercy that, when the stewardship is taken from him, he may have obtained for himself a refuge for the future. But how can those whom the Christian had befriended receive him into heaven? The key to the difficulty is found at Mt 25:35-40 where our Lord altogether identifies himself with his poor and unfortunate disciples, and returns on their behalf a heavenly recompense for any kindness which has been shown them on the earth. Only in this secondary and subordinate sense can those whom the Christian has benefited receive him into heaven. Nor does the passage teach that there is any MERIT in almsgiving, since the thing given is already the property of another (Lk 16:12). Almsgiving is only a phase of the fidelity required of a steward, and the reward of a steward is not of merit but of grace. See Lk 17:7-10; Mt 25:21.” (J. W. McGarvey)
      3. The main point of the parable, in either case, is make proper use of material riches…
        1. Use them with a view to eternity!
        2. Be aware of the danger of riches!
      4. This is made clearer as we go on to consider…
    3. JESUS’ ADMONITION TO FAITHFULNESS – Lk 16:10-12
      1. He starts by stating two maxims – cf. Lk 16:10
        1. “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much”
        2. “He who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much”
      2. He then applies it to the matter of “mammon” – Lk 16:11
        1. If we haven’t been faithful in our handling of “mammon” (material riches)…
        2. How can we expect to be entrusted with “true riches” (spiritual riches)?
          — Remember the parable of “The Talents”? – cf. Mt 25:14-30
      3. He then reminds us that what riches we have are not our own – Lk 16:12
        1. If we aren’t faithful with that which belongs to another…
        2. Then who will give us what is ours?
          — At the present we are simply stewards; nothing we have is really ours, but God’s!
    4. JESUS’ WARNING CONCERNING TWO MASTERS – Lk 16:13
      1. Perhaps another reason why Jesus refers to material riches as “unrighteous” mammon is because it tends to draw people away from God!
      2. While mammon desires to be our master, so does God
      3. Since we cannot serve two masters, we can’t serve both God and mammon
        — This may imply we must control mammon (and not vice versa) through proper use
  3. THE PHARISEES’ DERISION AND JESUS’ RESPONSE
    1. THE PHARISEES DERIDE JESUS – Lk 16:14
      1. The reason is because they were lovers of money
      2. We should therefore expect all lovers of money to react in a similar way to what Jesus is teaching in this passage
      3. Indeed, even some worldly Christians don’t take Jesus seriously when it comes to material riches
    2. JESUS RESPONDS – Lk 16:15
      1. They seek to justify themselves before men, but God knew their heart
        1. They may have taken issue with Jesus, professing theological grounds
        2. But the real reason: they were lovers of money!
      2. God and man do not always see things alike
        1. There are things that man esteems highly (like money)
        2. But such things may be an abomination to God (e.g., money when improperly used)
  4. CONCLUSION
    1. The parable of “The Unjust Steward” is designed to stimulate our thinking about the proper use of material riches…
      1. What is praised is not the dishonesty of the steward, but his shrewdness
      2. Especially in his use of money to ingratiate himself to future benefactors
    2. Jesus teaches us to be shrewd in our use of material riches…
      1. Use them with a view to eternity, demonstrating that you can be faithful with true riches, and with what will one day be truly your own!
      2. By using mammon properly, it becomes our servant rather than our master
    3. In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul had similar things to say about material riches…
      1. There is a dangerous side to material riches – 1Ti 6:9-10
      2. But when properly used, they can help store up for ourselves a good foundation for the time to come, and lay hold on eternal life! – 1Ti 6:17-19
        — Not that riches can earn or merit salvation, but improper use can certainly keep us from it! (cf. 1Ti 6:9-10)

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