Church of God, New World Ministries

The Unjust Steward

In Luke’s gospel we read of one of the most difficult parables that Jesus Christ taught. Here Christ is talking to his disciples: “And I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon (wealth) of unrighteousness; that, when you fail, may receive you into everlasting habitations” (Luke 16:9).

Kind of a strange thing to say, but what did Christ mean, did He expect his disciples to fall?

Are Christians to make friends with the world, just what did Christ mean? Didn’t John write: “Love not the world?”

To really understand the full meaning of this parable we need to understand the setting. Jesus Christ is talking in the presence of tax collectors and sinners, so let’s pick up the story.

“Then drew near unto him all the publicans (tax collectors) and sinners drew to Him to hear Him” (Luke 15:1).

Now in the background were these lying hypocritical Pharisees: “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured saying. This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them” (v. 2)

Now the rest of the chapter Christ explains to them that He was sent to call the lost, not the self-righteous to repentance.

Now we come to chapter 16 and Jesus Christ begins to speak to the disciples the parable of the Unjust Steward, it is also addressed to us, we are also Christ’s disciples.

“There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that his man was wasting his goods” (Luke 16:1).

Someone must have brought information to this rich man about what his steward was doing.

“So he called him and said to him, what is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, or you can no longer be steward” (v. 2).

This man had to deliver up whatever was entrusted to him that it could be given to another. Or he would lose his job, what was to become of him? He admits his misconduct, but only to himself: “What shall I do, seeing that my lord takes away the stewardship from me? I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg” (v. 3).

Pride was too much for him, he couldn’t bring himself to beg. What was this man to do to prevent him from starving?

“I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they many receive me into their own houses” (v. 4).

Now this man begins to think, using his clever mind to resolve his problem. Now he knows what to do, using his worldly wisdom, and he continues to deal deceitfully with the rich man’s estates.

“And calling to him each one of the debtors of his lord, he said to the first, how much owest thou my lord? And he said, ‘hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, take thy papers, and sit down and write quickly fifty” (v. 5).

In his thinking he knew that he could defraud his lord and that it would not be discovered. At the stroke of a pen half of his debt was paid. The steward became his friend!

“Then he said to another, and how much do you owe? So he said a hundred measures of wheat, and he said to him take your bill and write eighty” (v. 7).

Now this man thought himself to be rather wise, he now had friends upon whom he could rely when he lost his job. They couldn’t turn him down because they were accomplices in this act. They rewrote the legal papers.

The steward then presented himself to the rich man and showed him the altered accounts.

This rich man knew very well that he could not trust this man. But when he looked over the accounts he found nothing for which he could accuse him.

“And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely (or shrewdly) (v. 8).

Now the lord here is the rich man, the lord or master of the steward. He finally had to commend the double-dealing steward for his wisdom, cleverness, shrewdness, prudence, on how he dealt with his problem.

He didn’t commend him for wasting his estate, that’s why he was released from his office. This man used his head by buying friends, he had worldly wisdom.

Now notice the rest of verse 8: “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”

Now remember that Jesus Christ is addressing this parable to His disciples. Christ was giving them advice. Christ said that the sons of this world, the unconverted, people who have their hearts and minds set upon the things of this life, they are wiser by nature than the converted, “the sons of light.”

Paul puts it this way: “For look at your calling, brethren, that not many wise men after the flesh (not many who have natural inherited wisdom) are chosen, but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he put to shame the wise” (I Cor. 1:26-27).

There is a natural wisdom that many of the unconverted have. But God does not choose many of them. Not many in God’s Church today, are wise by nature (that is “after the flesh”). “The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God” (I Cor. 3:19).

Very few worldly wise are being called. Why, because they are too proud to surrender to God. And again, this is not the time that God is trying to save the world. God is calling only a few, especially those who are not very shrewd, who sometimes lack foresight.

So, if we lack spiritual foresight or wisdom, all we need to do is ask God for it. “But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5-6).

In I Cor.2:6 Paul asks God for wisdom: “We speak wisdom, yet a wisdom not of this age, but we speak God’s wisdom, which none of the rulers of this age have known.”

With these Scriptures, the parable of the unjust steward should become plainer.

Now Jesus Christ has already explained that not all are called, and that those who are called usually have less wisdom than the unconverted.

Now notice Jesus’ comment in Luke 16:9 “And I say unto you (he is talking to you and me today, we are His disciples) make for yourselves friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness.”

In other words, we ought to use spiritual wisdom as the steward used natural wisdom: we need to be: “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).

What did Jesus Christ mean by “mammon of unrighteousness”? Mammon signifies riches, in this case, mammon of unrighteousness signifies riches of money which is so often gained by unrighteousness, money which becomes a power for evil in the hands of evil men.

Jesus’ admonition, then, is that we make friends out of, by means of, money which the unconverted covet.

The King James translation that we make “friends of mammon” is not a correct translation. We are not to make friends of those who are carnal and unconverted. We are to disfellowship from those who do evil.

“Whoso therefore intends to be friends of the world makes himself God’s enemy” (James 4:4).

We are to use the money which we could so easily covet; we are to use it to create friends. How can we do that?

“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also. No one can serve two lords; Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:19-24).

This is the answer. We are to put our money to use. We should give our treasure toward the Kingdom of God “seek ye first the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).

In order that others might be converted, it is those who are converted who are our friends. Abraham was a converted man, and he is called a “friend of God” (James 2:23).

Those who are converted by our prayers, tithes and offerings become our true friends for all eternity, if they remain faithful. This is a wise thing to do. The steward made carnal friends, we make spiritual friends.

Now back to Luke 16:9 “Make for yourselves friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when ye should die, they may receive you into eternal tabernacles.”

As we have said, the common rendering of the King James Version is not correct. Christ did not say “They (the disciples) should fail.” Christ is speaking of death and then of the resurrection.

When money has lost its value, when we no longer have any use for it in this life, when this civilization is crashing down, then “a man shall be more precious than gold” (Isa. 13:12).

Money, mammon of unrighteousness, will finally fail at the return of Jesus Christ; it will cease to be of any value. But in this life, we are to put it to use for the Kingdom of God.

This world covets money, and we need to pay the world money to use its facilities, in order to preach the gospel as a witness against them.

Jesus said this practice of giving our treasure for the Kingdom of God is a wise act. It is the only sound way to deal with money. The wise of this world gather money in their human craft, their cleverness, and wisdom. But they don’t have the wisdom to know what life is all about.

They are cut off from the wisdom of God. They are not putting their treasure to a good purpose, in fact, they are wasting it.

We in God’s Church are to be wise, like the steward, to put our money to use so that it will yield eternal dividends, eternal friendships.

In the resurrection, when money will no longer be of value to us, those whom we have helped to bring into the Kingdom of God will receive us into their abodes or tabernacles.

Many who have been converted by means of the tithes and offerings which you send in to this work, many whom you have never seen, will greet you with joy and thanksgiving when they see you in the Kingdom of God.

Each of us will then be dwelling in our tabernacles (abodes or office rooms) as we minister to and govern this world.

In order that none of us would misunderstand this parable, Christ concluded: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.

“Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust in the true riches” (Luke 16:10-11).

Jesus tells us to be wise in spiritual ways as the steward was wise in carnal ways. But we are not to be unrighteous, like the steward.

If we have not been faithful in handling the material blessings of this life, if we have wasted them, then God will not commit to us the eternal treasures which He has promised.

If we have not been faithful with another’s in this life, if we have not dealt justly and fairly with others, then Jesus said: “Who will give to you that which is your own”?

Notice that in this verse, Christ is pointing out that we are to become heirs of God. We are to inherit what belongs to the Father and the Son. We will share it with them and with the millions of others, who will have been born into the Kingdom of God.

This parable explains so much about the purpose being worked out on earth. We are to use wisdom in handling our finances in order that we might further the work of converting people to God. We can’t serve God by setting our affection on material things.

We can serve Him only by letting Him show us how we ought to direct our material possessions. Let’s become just and wise stewards.

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