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Parable of the Unjust Steward

Luke 16:1-15



Ever made the “march in” at your work?  You know, where you get up your nerve and march in and quit?  What a feeling when you first walk out—“I’m free!”  No longer the slave of that man or this place.  And then what is the feeling which grabs your heart immediately after that feeling?  That’s right…what am I going to do now?!  Did I think this through?  What’s the plan now?


This man is a poor steward, not doing a good job, and is called on the carpet for it.  He was looking out for himself, not his boss.  But this incident gets his attention, and motivates him to work better like his boss wants him to.  He is reminded that he doesn't answer to the others who are important in his life...ultimately he answers to his master.  He had his own agenda, but came around to the fact that he can best serve others in his life by serving his master well.


At the beginning of Luke 16, we find that Jesus now turns to his disciples...


The parable of "The Unjust Steward" is difficult...

   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.


   A. 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 or 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 both takes away from his master but gives him more than nothing

            2) It ingratiates him to his master's debtors by lowering their debts

         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; 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

         a. Not that the master approved of the action per se [and not that Jesus did…notice the small lowercase ‘l’ in lord

         b. But he could not deny that the steward was shrewd enough to know how to use what he had to his best advantage


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...





      1. "this generation … wiser than the children of light."

      2. 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



      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 it fails"

            1) When your riches fail

            2) Or when you fail due to lack of riches

         c. "they may receive you"


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)


Worldly possessions 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.


      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!



      1. He starts by stating two maxims - cf. Lk 16:10

         a. "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much"

         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"  (material riches)...

         b. 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

         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!



      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


[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 listening in...]





      1. The reason is because they were lovers of money

      2. 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 heart

         a. They may have taken issue with Jesus, professing theological grounds

         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)


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 your own!

   b. 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...

   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 Tim 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?

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