THE PARABLES OF JESUS

The Dishonest Steward

Scripture: Luke 16:1-12

1 He also said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 And he called him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.' 3 And the steward said to himself, `What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.' 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, `How much do you owe my master?' 6 He said, `A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, `Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' 7 Then he said to another, `And how much do you owe?' He said, `A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, `Take your bill, and write eighty.' 8 The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations. 10 "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?

Meditation: Do you make good use of your money and possessions? Jesus seemed to praise a steward (a manager entrusted with his master's goods) who misused his employer's money. What did the steward do that made Jesus praise him? The steward was responsible for managing his wealthy landowner's property.  He very likely overcharged his master's tenants for their use of the land and kept more than his fair share of the commission. When the landowner discovers the steward's dishonest practice he immediately removes him from his job, leaving him penniless and ashamed to beg or do manual work.  Before news of his dismissal becomes public knowledge, the shrewd steward strikes a deal with his master's debtors. In discounting their debts he probably was giving up his generous commission.  Such a deal won him great favor with the debtors.  Since he acted as the landowner's chief financial officer, such a deal made his master look very generous and forgiving towards those who owned him money. Surely everyone would praise such a generous landowner as the town hero!  Since the master could not undo the steward's cancellation of the debts without losing face and making his debtors resent him, he praises the steward for outwitting him as a generous and merciful landowner.

Jesus obviously thought that the example of a very clever steward would be a perfect illustration for a spiritual lesson about the kingdom of God!  What's the point of Jesus's parable?  The dishonest steward is commended not for mishandling his master's wealth, but for his shrewd provision in averting personal disaster and in securing his future livelihood. The original meaning of "shrewdness" is "foresight".  A shrewd person grasps a critical situation with resolution, foresight, and the determination to avoid serious loss or disaster.  Jesus is concerned here with something more critical than a financial crisis.  His concern is that we avert spiritual crisis and personal disaster through the exercise of faith and foresight.  If Christians would only expend as much foresight and energy to spiritual matters which have eternal consequences as much as they do to earthly matters which have temporal consequences, then they would be truly better off, both in this life and in the age to come.

Ambrose, a 4th century bishop said: The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever. True wealth consists not in what we keep but in what we give away. Possessions are a great responsibility. The Lord expects us to use them honestly and responsibly and to put them at his service and the service of others. We are God's servants and all that we have belongs to him. He expects us to make a good return on what he gives us. God loves generosity and he gives liberally to those who share his gifts with others. The Pharisees, however, had no room for God or others in their hearts. The gospel says they were lovers of money (Luke 16:14). Love of money and wealth crowd out love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus makes clear that our hearts must either be possessed by God's love or our hearts will be possessed by the love of something else. What does your heart most treasure?

"Lord, all that I have is a gift from you.  May I love you freely and generously with all that I possess.  Help me to be a wise and faithful steward of my resources, including the use of my time, money, and possessions."


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