The unjust steward (Luke 16:1-13) what does this parable teach us?!
by Daniel Yahav
In our world today, we hear too often about unrighteous acts of people who use their position, money and power in the wrong way. As such behavior is becoming more and more common, we need to remind ourselves, what is the standard required of us as children of God, the sons of light. In this parable, there are a few difficult statements, which, if misunderstood, may lead to incorrect interpretation and thus to erroneous conclusions, which contradict the fundamental truth of God's Word. Every interpretation and conclusion must be examined in the light of the whole truth of the Word of God. The Word of God has been given to us by the Holy Spirit, and it will never contradict itself (2 Timothy 3:16). The question is: was the unjust steward acting righteously or unrighteously? What is the parable actually teaching us?!
Jesus gave us the parable of the unjust steward, in order to teach us the lessons with which he himself concludes the story: "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon".
The parable tells of a certain master, who has heard about the dishonesty of his steward, and he is asking him to give an account for his actions. Jesus calls him the "unjust steward" - which gives us a clue that this was not a good act of kindness or righteousness, but rather an act of injustice and cheating on the part of the steward. When the unjust steward realizes that soon he will lose his job and his livelihood, he continues to act fraudulently, trying to buy himself "friends" who will accept him into their homes after he is fired. He tries to secure his future by inviting his master's debtors to forge their accounts. This he does "quickly" - as the Bible indicates - because the deeds of darkness are always done in secret, in haste, and under the fear of discovery. The unjust steward reduces their debt to his master, and by so doing, he is stealing his master's money and betraying the trust given to him. The following verse, in which the Lord commends the unjust steward, may create some confusion, if not understood in its context. What exactly did the Lord praise? Indeed, the answer is found in the verse itself: "And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had acted shrewdly: for the children of this world are in their generation more shrewd than the children of light". The Lord commended the unjust steward for his shrewdness only, and not for his evil deed, i.e. stealing from his master. He also goes on to explain that the children of this world are more shrewd than the children of light. Indeed, the people of the world are controlled by their master, the ruler of the air, the devil himself (Eph. 2:2). The devil is a liar (John 8:44) and the people of the world are used to lying and speaking what suits them and promotes their interests; while the children of the light are learning to speak the truth, regardless of personal interests. This creates a situation where the people of the world are becoming experts in deception, in order to make a profit for themselves; whereas the children of God seek to grow in integrity in order to be found blameless and innocent before God. I have experienced this reality in my own life. In this statement, Jesus also conveys a warning to us, and we would do well to take heed, and be aware of that dynamic. We too must try to grow in wisdom and shrewdness, not in order to use it negatively, but in order to be wise and careful. This is the same context in which Jesus says that he sends us like sheep among wolves... (Matthew10:16).
From here Jesus continues in the next verse and says: "And I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations". What did he mean? Following the same line of thought, where the unjust steward tried to guarantee himself a place of residence by cheating, using stolen money, Jesus points our attention to the eternal dwellings, which are much more important. Jesus did not specify whether he meant the good dwellings or the bad dwellings. His point was to draw the attention of his listeners to the fact that there are eternal dwellings where people will spend their eternity (Daniel 12:2)
Many people are seeking to gain "good dwellings" in this world, even at the price of cheating and deception, but do not think at all about the more distant future, the place where they will spend eternity. Jesus says here to his audience, among whom were also Pharisees - who were known as lovers of money (verse 14) - in a tone of somewhat sarcasm: "continue to buy 'lovers' for yourselves, through injustice and fraud, but you should know that one day you will stand before the judgment, and these evil deeds will determine your eternal dwelling place. You will spend eternity together with all those 'lovers' who agreed to cooperate, cheat, lie and forge documents, and thus became partners in the deceitful acts of the unjust steward. " The unjust steward did not help the poor and did not give from his own money. He was "generous" at somebody else's expense, at the expense of his master, from whom he stole. Such money, obtained by malpractice and fraud, could never serve God, and so it was in no way an act of kindness or charity, but in fact an act of theft and profiteering.
To remove any doubt, Jesus goes on to interpret the parable for us, saying:
1) "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much" - We need to be tested and found faithful first of all in the small things, even in the most simple everyday tasks, at home, at school, at university in the workplace, etc, so that God could entrust to us a more important and significant service. This is true in any area of our life. Whoever is faithful in the small and simple tasks will receive promotion and greater responsibility in every area he is involved in, and ultimately, from God himself.
2) "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" - We are required to be faithful when it comes to money and to act with integrity, loyalty and without deceit, so that God can entrust to us the real things, the things that are of high and eternal value, the spiritual service.
3) "And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?" - We need to be loyal and act responsibly and honestly with the things that belong to others - for example, their time, property and resources- and not steal, as did the unjust steward when he embezzled his master's wealth. Let us not have the attitude: "This is not mine, I don't care..." - I was very careful in my life to save every penny of the employer who employed me. Once one of the suppliers of the company where I worked, asked whether the plant belonged to my father? He asked this because he sent us thousands of parts, some of which were damaged. Since the factory where I worked was very much in need of these parts, I sat for hours and checked every part, one by one, and sent back to him all the defects. I did this without the owner asking me to do so. He was not used to seeing such conduct and thought that the factory belonged to my father. But I did it out of responsibility and unto God. A few years later, the Holy Spirit spoke to me very clearly and called me to be a pastor. If we are faithful with what belongs to others, God can give us what he has prepared for us. We must not steal, spoil or waste what belongs to others, thinking "since it's not mine, it doesn't affect me, why should I bother to make an effort..." or think: "they have a lot, they won't notice if some is missing..." That of course includes loyalty in the use of time as well.
4) "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" - Ultimately, the main question is what is really important to us? Whom do we serve, and for what are we prepared to go the extra mile? Love of mammon comes from the pursuit of property and "good dwellings" in this world, and for this cause people are willing to lie, cheat, steals and act unfairly, without considering where it leads them. But the one, who serves God, understands that there is something much more important and valuable, the "eternal dwellings", for which we should strive. And it is impossible to serve both: God and mammon. Sooner or later we will be faced with decisions where we will have to choose between honesty and the possibility of "losing" money; or cheating - for example the Tax Authorities - in order to gain or "save" money, and this is just one example of many. The one who is wise, looking ahead into eternity, will choose to be found honest and faithful before God, and to reach the good eternal dwellings, in the kingdom of God, and not to serve the unrighteous mammon, which will lead us to "shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2) where all lovers of money who dealt unrighteously will receive each other, and dwell together .