Understanding the Parable of the Unjust Steward

So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. – Luke 16:8

The parable of the unjust stewart has often made me scratch my head. Why did Jesus tell this parable? And why did Jesus use this unjust steward as an example for us to follow?

If you remember the story, Jesus told a parable about a master (a businessman) who had a certain man as the steward of his business. This steward was in charge of all the master’s accounts. He was able to use the master’s money to buy what was needed, and made official, binding decisions regarding his master’s debtors. He held the authority to do this freely, without consulting his master; this would free up his lord to do what he wished.

A job with such freedom would be highly sought by many, and the master would expect the highest standard of honesty and faithfulness from such a person. But this steward had neither of these qualities.

It was one day reported to the master that his steward was wasting his goods. He was confronted, and fired.

Being fired from such a high and public position guaranteed this man slim future employment options. So he schemed up a sly way to secure his future: he quickly met with his masters debtors (who had not yet known that he had been fired) and re-wrote their debts for a much lesser amount. He reasoned that these would be kind to him afterwards. He planned to use that favor to live house to house with his masters debtors for the rest of his days.

It was a sly plan, and his old boss commended him for it.

Wait. What?

And then Jesus said this:

For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. – Luke 16:8

This is a strange story. What could this dishonest thief of a steward teach us? And why in the world would his master commend him??

Now it shouldn’t need to be stated that neither Jesus, nor the master of this story, were approving of the dishonesty of the steward. It wasn’t the dishonesty that was commended, but the shrewdness of the steward that was commended.

From a worldly perspective, this steward had done very well for himself, considering his circumstances. He had secured for himself a nice future, and used someone else’s money to do it. He had done it in such a way as to keep him safe from the law. He went quite quickly from the possibility of being a beggar or ditch digger to not having to work another day of his life. And if this life is all that there is, he couldn’t have possibly done better for himself.

Now Jesus was telling this parable from a worldly point of view. Of course, we know and believe that there is more to life than the 70 or 80 years we might live out. And even if we do really well for ourselves for that time, it would not be wise or shrewd to live in such a way that would secure for us an eternal place in hell.

But what Jesus was saying is that the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation. In other words, the sons of this world (worldly people who do not consider or believe in an afterlife) live in a wiser manner regarding their time on this earth (which they believe is all there is) than the sons of light do in regards to eternity. Worldly people plan for their future (retirement), yet many Christians fail to plan for their future (heaven).

And then Jesus gives this advice:

And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon (money), that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. – Luke 16:9

What is Jesus saying here? He is saying that we should be just like the unjust steward. We ought to take our Master’s money and use it to secure ourselves a rich future in heaven!

Just like the steward in the story, we also are stewards of a great Master. His name is Jesus. Everything we have is His. All of the money in our accounts, all of the property we have acquired. None of it is our own. All originally comes from Him, and any that we earn only comes because of the abilities that He has given.

Yet here is the amazing thing. Our Master says to us: “take My money, and go use it to make a rich future for yourself!” Praise God!

What is He saying? Use the resources He has given you to bring the people of this world into His kingdom, that when you die, you will enter into the richness of eternal glory. For tell me, what will be richer than hearing these words in heaven from those that you led there: “because of you, I am here.”

Yet few Christians think about these things.

To many Christians, heaven is an after-thought. The realities of their eternal destination dwells in a dim corner of a mind that is filled with worldly matters. Many Christians put in way more time planning for their earthly retirement than they do for their heavenly future. What? Planning and saving your whole life just to enjoy a few years of being old and weak, yet failing to plan for when you will once again be young and vibrant and strong?

Do you remember what God said to the man who laid up money for himself on earth, and failed to be rich towards God?

Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided? – Luke 12:20

Do you believe in heaven, but only live for now? You are a fool. Do you plan for retirement, but not for eternity? You are a fool.

I believe we ought to plan for the golden years of our lives, but we ought to be much more diligent in planning for our life to come.

God requires us to be faithful as stewards. We are to use the resources God has provided to build His kingdom, to reach and save them that are lost. Those who do this are them to whom will be committed the ‘true riches.’

If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? – Luke 16:11-12

So how do we be faithful as stewards? We must use our talents, resources, and time to participate in the building of God’s kingdom: the preaching of the gospel, the edifying and building up God’s people, the ministry to the poor, etc.

And the amazing thing about it all is that God will reward us. He will reward us for taking what is His and using it. We will store up a rich future for ourselves. There is nothing else that would be more wise or more shrewd for us to do.


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