The Unrighteous Steward

“Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. “And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. ‘I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’ “And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ “And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ “Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He *said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? “And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:1-15)

In Luke Chapter 15 we saw how Jesus responded with three Parables showing the Father’s love for the lost. These Parables answer the charge that Jesus welcomed the sinners and even ate with them. Now in Luke Chapter 16 we find that Jesus has turned to His disciples and tells them the “Parable of the Unrighteous Steward.” He then follows with the application of the Parable. The Parable itself is difficult to understand at first glimpse. Some may see the Parable and Jesus as commending the Unrighteous Steward for his dishonesty. The main point of the Parable is clear when it is considered carefully.

The Parable is of a rich man who hears that his steward is being wasteful with the goods that he has been placed in charge of. The rich man goes to his steward and tells him that he must give an accounting of his stewardship. (Luke 16:1-2)

The steward is now in a dilemma and wonders what he can do. How will he justify what he has done to his master’s goods? The steward knows that he is unable to work as a laborer and he is too proud to beg. The steward comes up with a plan to ensure that his master’s debtors will receive him into their homes. He calls upon each of them and tells then to reflect on what they owe his master to be smaller than the actual debt. Where the steward had been wasteful with his master’s good before, now he has cheated him even more by lowering the debts that is owed to him.

It may be that the steward had removed the interest that was due to his master from his debtors. By the Law of Moses usury was forbidden amongst the Jews. “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.” (Exodus 22:25) It was not uncommon for a rich man to allow his steward to do this although if it came to light he would deny it. If this was what the steward had done, then his master could only be pleased as he could not publicly object. (Luke 16-4-8)

The master was impressed with the shrewdness of the steward. Not that the master approved of what he did but that the steward was shrewd enough to use what he had to his best advantage.

The purpose of the Parable is not to commend the steward for his dishonesty towards his master but for his shrewdness. The steward took what he had and used it towards his future. Jesus replied that “he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” The word shrewd means. Marked by clever discerning awareness and hardheaded acumen shrewd common sense. The steward had acted with cleverness in making provision for his future beyond his employment with his master. The response of Jesus was that that people of this world are generally resourceful with the things of this world.

Let us look at a few terms used in this Parable. The word mammon means riches. The riches may be called unrighteous because they are used for evil purposes. Or they may be called unrighteous because riches of the world are uncertain and undependable. “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17)

When are riches fail us or we fail do to the lack of riches we will see that our dependence upon the riches of this world are fleeting and cannot be a place to rest our faith. The word “they” refers to the friends we have made through the use of our riches. Some commentators see our fiends as God and Jesus. The everlasting habitations is Heaven itself. It could mean that either God or Jesus will welcome you into heaven or the souls that you may have helped and they will welcome you into heaven.

With these thoughts in mind the only friends that can welcome you into heaven are the Father and the Son. They are the friends that we must secure while in this world. The mammon that we have in this world must be used in such a way that it is pleasing to God. In this way we lay our eternal treasure. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” (Mathew 6:20)

All that we have either great or small comes to us from God, as all of creation comes from Him. Man is the steward of God’s creation and must be used in a way that has eternal value. The Christian must use what God has given in a way that is useful to the Kingdom that we are a part of. One day the stewardship of this world will be taken away from us and our stewardship must be used in order to provide a refuge for us in heaven. Our greatest riches come from our heart and is given to our neighbors. “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

We often think in terms of reward. Our reward is not always in treasure but in the great gift of God’s grace. “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)

The main point of this Parable is the use of our material riches. We must be aware of the dangers of using God’s blessings for evil purposes. We must use the material riches that we have with the view of eternity ahead of us. We must use them in a way that is a good investment in the future home we hope to have. Jesus makes this point clear in this Parable.

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” If we are faithful in a little then we have shown that we will be faithful with more. If we are unjust in what God has given us, then we would be unjust if we were given more.

Jesus makes that point clear in the next verse. “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” If we have not been faithful with what we have been entrusted with, then we should not expect to receive the “spiritual riches?

“And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” If we have not been faithful with what belongs to God, they why would God give us things of our own?

Jesus then issues this statement. “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” The mammon that we have been entrusted with in this world tend to draw us away from God. We can if not careful become worshiping slaves to the mammon that we have received. Mammon can become our master which is God’s position as He is our Master. The Christian cannot serve both, we belong to God, bought and paid for by His blood. If we serve our mammon, then we have disgraced our God and Master.

The Pharisees loved their money. We can expect all lovers of money to react in the same way as the Pharisees. Some Christians in the Church are in ways like the Pharisees. They seek to justify themselves before men knowing that God judges their heart. Mammon is worthless beyond this world yet men will love their money and forsake the Kingdom to come.

There is a very dangerous side to mammon and that which we have been given in this world. Mammon has no value in the world to come but its use here can secure the real treasure which we will receive when we arrive in the Kingdom of God. “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, April 19, 2017

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