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The Unjust Steward

A very interesting question received this week -

Can you explain the parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16? Why is he considered wise to tell the two people not to pay all they owed the steward's boss? And what does it mean that the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of the light - aren't the children of the light Christians? Why would anyone want to make friends with the wealth of the unrighteousness, "that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations?"


Let's have a close look at the parable (New International Version)-

"Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer." (Luke 16:1-2)

The manager had made a number of bad deals on behalf of his master. Goods had been sold, but payment was so far overdue that the accounts were about to be written off as a complete loss - "wasting his possessions."

"The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg - I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses." (Luke 16:3-4)

The manager wasn't just incompetent - he was also crooked. So he hatched a scheme -

"So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. "The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.' Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?' 'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied. "He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.' (Luke 16:5-7)

The manager committed fraud by altering the accounts, to do 2 things: (1) to at least recover some money by requiring a much lower payment, (2) "buying" the friendship of those who owed the money, so that he would be able to use them later on.

"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:8-9)

Now a very curious response by the master - he commended the dishonest manager for "cooking the books" and receiving only part of what was owed. Any honest investor would be outraged at such activity - but then the master wasn't honest either. It is very difficult to believe that he would have had such a response if he didn't have something to hide. It's important to note that it was the master, not Jesus Christ, who commended the manager's dishonest behavior. The Lord said to use worldly wealth to spread The Gospel - "to gain friends for yourselves" - so that later you will all "be welcomed into eternal dwellings."

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Luke 16:10-13)

Now the point of the parable (those people didn't really exist). The "children of this world" (i.e. carnal-minded, yet-to-be converted people) are in their generation "wiser" (the original Greek word could more accurately be translated as "worldly" or "predatory") than the "children of the light" (i.e. Christians). While Christians recognize the necessity to work to make a living, they do not put the pursuit of money ahead of their obedience to God (Commandments One To Four) and their respect and honesty for other people (Commandments Six to Ten). Using a couple of old sayings, good Christians do not believe in "anything for a buck" because they know that "you can't take it with you."

Honesty and obedience to God in this life are necessary to be worthy of the true riches and glorious powers that we will be given in the next. See The Greatest Secret

Fact Finder: Did Jesus Christ tell Christians to store up "treasure in heaven" (i.e. righteous behavior that will be rewarded with glorious eternal life) rather than worldly wealth that is only valuable during a brief human lifetime?
Matthew 19:21-29

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