The Unjust Steward

Luke 16:1-13 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2  And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3  Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4  I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5  So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6  And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7  Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8  And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9  And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 10  He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11  If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12  And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? 13  No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

 

The purpose of this parable is to teach us how to use that which does not belong to us - for our advantage - and not “go to jail” for it.

 

I.       The setting of the parable.

A.    Christ has just finished the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Elder and Younger Brother (the Prodigal Son).

1.      The parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son was spoken to the Pharisees and Publicans because they murmured at Christ for receiving sinners and eating with them.

2.      The parable of the Unjust Steward was spoken only to the disciples - see verse 1.

a.      According to verse 14, the Pharisees also heard this parable, but derided him.

b.      The word “derided” means they openly sneered at Christ, making fun of him.

c.      It is very clear they didn’t understand the meaning of the parable.

B.   The lessons of the parables in chapter 15 is concerning joy at the finding of that which was astray.

1.   Verse 7 gives the purpose of the illustration of the lost sheep - joy.

2.   Verse 10 gives the purpose of the illustration of the lost coin - joy.

3.      Verse 25-32 gives the purpose of the illustration of the prodigal son - joy.

C.    The lesson of the parable of the Unjust Steward takes this principle one step farther, the use of earthly resources to receive heavenly benefits.

 

II.    The parable and its interpretation.

A.    Verse 1-8 is the parable.

1.      Verse 1 and 2.

a.      It is not uncommon for a rich man to have many stewards, who would take care of various parts of his wealth.

b.      When someone told him that the steward had wasted his goods, the master fulfilled his obligation of checking his own financial affairs.

1.      “Wasting” is different from stealing.

2.      The unjust steward simply didn’t take care of, or use to best advantage, his master’s goods (property, or possession).

c.      The steward wasn’t accused of embezzlement, or crooked business deals, or of being dishonest.

d.      He was accused of not making the best use of his masters property.

2.   Verse 3 & 4.

a.   The steward knew he was guilty and didn’t try to hide the facts.

b.      He wanted to find a way to have a living after he is expelled from his masters house, rather than finding another job as steward.

c.      He seems more interested in keeping his position rather than doing a good job for his master.

d.      He wants to make his masters debtors, debtors to him, so they will receive him into their houses.

3.      Verse 5-7.

a.      While he still has the power of the stewardship, he allows his masters debtors to drastically decrease their bills.

b.      He is using his masters money for his own benefit, assuring him a place after he is dismissed from his present stewardship.

4.      Verse 8.

a.      It must be noted that the word “lord” does not refer to Jesus, but to the master, the rich man.

b.      For further comments on this verse, see section III.

B.   Verse 9-13 - For the interpretation of this parable see the last section. (IV.)

 

III.  A major difficulty of interpreting the parable accounted for.

A.    The steward (the administrator of a household or estate), had been mismanaging his master’s affairs, thus losses were higher than necessary and profits were lower than necessary.

1.      When the master called him “on the carpet” to check the books and see whether he had been cheating him, the unjust steward knew he would be caught and would not be welcomed at another stewardship job.

2.      He contrived the scheme shown in the scripture to assure himself a place after he was dismissed from his present position.

3.      This was a crafty scheme, and resulted in him being called “the unjust steward”, verse 8.

4.      It must be remembered that the unjust steward wasn’t commended because he had done dishonestly, but wisely.

a.      To behave honestly is to be behave above reproach, or in a Godly manner.

b.      To behave wisely is to act prudently, or thoughtfully.

c.   The point to remember is that the unjust steward was wrong in wasting his masters goods, and in lowering the debtors bills, but it provided a place for him to go after he was dismissed from his present position.

B.   It wasn’t Christ who commended the unjust steward.

1.      The context of the scripture shows plainly that it was the master that commended the actions of the unjust steward.

2.      Verse 9 says, “And I say unto you…”  This is the comments of Christ, who did not approve of the dishonesty, or the “wisdom” of the unjust steward.

3.      It is common for business people to make the sort of statement we find in verse 8, especially when another business person has “worked” a business deal to their own advantage.

4.      This is exactly what the unjust steward has done.

5.      A strict moralists or a deeply religious person would gladly suffer for their mismanaging, believing the result of their mismanaging should fall on themselves.

6.      A person looking at a given situation from a strictly business angle, would do something to take care of himself, taking no thought that he had hurt others, or would hurt others.

C.   Christ isn’t telling us to do wickedness that good may come.

1.      He is telling us to make wise use of earthly resources to gain heavenly rewards.

2.      Christ doesn’t want His disciples to imitate the wickedness of sinners, but to understand, like they understand, that earthly resources are useful in obtaining rewards.

3.      An “earthly” person would use earthly resources to gain power, position, and prestige on this earth.

4.      An “heavenly” person would use earthly resources to gain power, position, and prestige on the new earth - or heaven.

 

IV. The interpretation of the parable.  How can we gain heavenly friends with the mammon of unrighteousness?

A.    What is the mammon of unrighteousness?

1.      Mammon is earthly riches, or wealth.

2.      Matt. 6:24 - No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

3.      Matt. 13:22 - In the parable of the Sower, He…that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

B.    We should exercise a intelligent forethought with reference to our soul’s future welfare and happiness

C.    We can, as this steward, use the possessions our Lord has given in our charge to fulfill our responsibility of carrying the gospel message to the ends of the world.

1.      Everything we have belongs to the Lord.

2.      He only lets us use His possessions while we live on His earth.

3.      We will take nothing of this earth to heaven with us.

4.      Only those things we have sent ahead will meet us there.

5.      “You do not recognize me, but I know you.  Years ago I was a godless boy in this city.  No one took any particular interest in me, or looked after my religious training.  I was an habitual Sabbath-breaker, and seldom heard a sermon.  You sought my acquaintance, invited me to attend your Sabbath-school, and interested me in it, and then to attend church.  Moral principles and religious truths were in this way implanted, which, in after years, God blessed to my salvation.  I feel, Brother G., that I owe all I am, under God, to you, as my Sunday-school superintendent, and to my teacher in your school.”[1]

6.      Give examples of “Grandpa” Chapman, who told man how to be saved.

7.      Gene Ferguson, who lived in Willow Hill, Illinois did the same thing, easily speaking of the riches of God’s grace to all, and in all times.

D.    Verse 10-13.

1.      These verses are a series of steps involving Christian growth in the areas of taking responsibility and assuming authority.

2.      Verse 10 - Every employer knows that if a person isn’t responsible in the little things of their job, they will not be responsible in the big things of their job.  Every person must start at the “bottom” and work up in their job, accepting more and more authority as they learn to accept more and more responsibility in each task they undertake.  God will not give us more authority in our spiritual jobs, if we don’t take the authority in the little things He gives us to do.  All of us have a desire to do “big things” for God, but we will be unable to do any “big things” for God unless we first do the “little things” He wants us to do.  When I was just learning to drive, I drove my dad’s ½ ton pickup truck very fast the ¼ mile to the chicken house and back..  When my friend Cecil Harrell explained to me that the reason Dad wouldn’t let me get on the highway was because I drove so recklessly on the dirt road to the chicken house, I slowed down and drove like I should.  Then he let me drive the pickup to town.

3.      Verse 11 - If we are not faithful in little things, like giving tithes and offerings to God, how can we expect Him to give us spiritual understanding of doctrinal matters?  We can never learn the deep aspects of faithful living when we refuse to commit our daily “worries” to God.

4.   Verse 12 - If we refuse to admit that all of our possessions really belong to God and He can do with them exactly as He desires, God will never give us those possessions that He will allow to be ours.

5.   Verse 13 - Each one of us will do one of two things in our lives: we will serve God, or we will serve the world, and its riches.



[1]The Parables and Prophecies of Christ Explained, J. R. Graves.  Baptist Sunday School Committee, P. O. Box 1828 Texarkana, Ark.-Tex.  Page 165-196