"THE PARABLES OF JESUS"
The Unjust Steward (Lk 16:1-16)INTRODUCTION
1. In Luke 15, Jesus responded to the murmuring of the Pharisees and
scribes by telling three parables...
a. "The Lost Sheep" - Lk 15:1-7
b. "The Lost Coin" - Lk 15:8-10
c. "The Prodigal Son" - Lk 15:11-32
-- These parables answered the charge that Jesus received sinners
and ate with them, beautifully illustrating "The Father's Yearning
Love For The Lost" (Hendriksen)
2. At the beginning of Luke 16, we find that Jesus now turns to his
a. He tells the parable of "The Unjust Steward" - Lk 16:1-8a
b. He makes the application of the parable - Lk 16:8b-13
c. And responds to the derision of the Pharisees who heard Him - Lk
3. The parable of "The Unjust Steward" is considered by many to be
a. It has caused much perplexity
b. It has made some wonder if Jesus was commending the unjust
steward for dishonesty
...but the main point of the parable should be clear enough when we
consider it carefully
[And that is exactly what I hope to do as we begin noticing first...]
I. THE PARABLE ITSELFA. 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
B. A SHREWD STEWARD - Lk 16:3-8a
1. The steward reasons within himself concerning his dilemma:
a. "What can I do?"
b. "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
a. He calls for his master's debtors
b. 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
c. 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; Deu
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
a. Not that the master approved of the action per se
b. But he could not deny that the steward was shrewd enough to
know how to use what he had to his best advantage
[The purpose of the parable is not to commend the steward for his
"dishonesty" (note: he is called the "unjust" steward, though that
appellation might refer to his conduct prior to being found out for his
wastefulness), but for his "shrewdness". He used what was at his
disposal to plan for the future! That is the point Jesus is making, as
we go on to see...]
II. THE PARABLE APPLIEDA. 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...
a. Characterized by keen awareness, sharp intelligence, and
often a sense of the practical
b. Disposed to artful and cunning practices; tricky
-- The first definition reveals that being shrewd does not
always mean evil
3. Jesus' observation is that:
a. People of the world are generally very resourceful with
things of this world
b. Such is not always the case with the people of God
B. JESUS' APPLICATION OF THE PARABLE - Lk 16:9
1. This verse is difficult, but let's begin with explanations for
some of the terms:
a. "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. 1 Ti 6:17
b. "when you (it) fails"
1) When your riches fail
2) Or when you fail due to lack of riches
c. "they may receive you"
1) "they" refer to the "friends" made through the use of
2) Some interpret this to refer to God and Jesus, others
think those you have helped
d. "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
2. With these definitions in mind, here are two explanations
worthy of note:
a. "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)
b. "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...
a. Use them with a view to eternity!
b. Be aware of the danger of riches!
4. This is made clearer as we go on to consider...
C. JESUS' ADMONITION TO FAITHFULNESS - Lk 16:10-12
1. He starts by stating two maxims - cf. Lk 16:10
a. "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in
b. "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
a. If we haven't been faithful in our handling of "mammon"
b. How can we expect to be entrusted with "true 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
a. If we aren't faithful with that which belongs to another...
b. Then who will give us what is ours?
-- At the present we are simply stewards; nothing we have is
really ours, but God's!
D. 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
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
-- This may imply we must control mammon (and not vice versa)
through proper use
[In warning about the danger of mammon and the need to use it properly,
a reaction comes not from the disciples, but the Pharisees who were
III. THE PHARISEES' DERISION AND JESUS' RESPONSEA. 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
B. JESUS RESPONDS - Lk 16:15
1. They seek to justify themselves before men, but God knew their
a. They may have taken issue with Jesus, professing
b. But the real reason: they were lovers of money!
2. God and man do not always see things alike
a. There are things that man esteems highly (like money)
b. But such things may be an abomination to God (e.g., money
when improperly used)
1. The parable of "The Unjust Steward" is designed to stimulate our
thinking about the proper use of material riches...
a. What is praised is not the dishonesty of the steward, but his
b. Especially in his use of money to ingratiate himself to future
2. Jesus teaches us to be shrewd in our use of material riches...
a. Use them with a view to eternity, demonstrating that you can be
faithful with true riches, and with what will one day be truly
b. By using mammon properly, it becomes our servant rather than our
3. In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul had similar things to say
about material riches...
a. There is a dangerous side to material riches - 1 Ti 6:9-10
b. 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! - 1 Ti 6:17-19
-- Not that riches can earn or merit salvation, but improper use can
certainly keep us from it! (cf. 1 Ti 6:9-10)
Are you shrewd with the use of the riches presently entrusted to your
stewardship? Are you using them to make friends (e.g., pleasing God)
who can receive you into everlasting habitations when your material
riches are no more? Remember the words of Jesus:
"Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous
mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?"
-- Lk 16:11