THE UNJUST STEWARD
Luke 16:1-2 And He said also unto His disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. (Also Read Verses 3-13).
As this chapter of Luke begins, Jesus continues His teaching against Jewish religious leaders, primarily the leaders of the sect of the Pharisees. In chapter 15, the three parables given exposed their self-righteousness, namely the parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal (Lost) Son. Chapter 16 records two parables, The Unjust Steward, and The Rich Man and Lazarus, both of which address another sin of the Pharisees - that of covetousness. In the days of our Lord, it was common for rich families to have stewards administering their commercial or entrepreneurial affairs. Stewards generally arose from the ranks of slavery by demonstrating their strong work ethic, trustworthiness, and loyalty to their master. Being entrusted, by their masters with wealth and having the freedom to make financial decisions regarding its use, probably led some stewards to abuse and misuse their position by converting their master's wealth to their personal use or advantage. Such was the case of this steward.
Verse one, of the lesson text, indicates that someone brought the steward's dishonesty to the master's attention. The steward was then called in by his master, confronted with this allegation, asked to explain his actions, and warned that, if true, he would be relieved of his duties. Realizing his guilt, and the fact that he would lose his position, he immediately began a plan to "make friends with others" to whom he could go after his master took his stewardship from him. To accomplish this, he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him (Vs. 5), and reduced the amount owed. Two examples are given. One debtor owed one hundred measures of oil. The steward reduced it to fifty. Another owed one hundred measures of wheat, and he reduced it to eighty. By relieving a portion of their debt, those that owed his master became friends of the steward, and, in a sense, became obligated to extend future favors to him.
After learning of this action, the text says that the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely (Vs. 8a). A couple things should be noted here. First, it was the lord, the householder, master, or owner that commended the steward, and not the Lord, Jesus Christ that was relating this parable. Second, neither the lord, nor the Lord, approved of the actions of the steward; both considered his deeds to be sinful and unjust. However, the steward was commended for his wisdom, even though it was worldly wisdom. As He relates this parable, the next statement Jesus makes is the key to understanding its meaning - for the children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light (Vs. 8b).
Although the wisdom of the steward was certainly worldly in this shrewd and cunningly devised plan, it did assure him that, through his newly found friends, his temporal needs would be provided for the remainder of his life on earth. Devising such a plan and putting it into effect demonstrated wisdom exceeding that of God's children that are followers of His Son, Jesus Christ, noted here as children of light. God's children need to possess and express this same determined application of wisdom in seeking eternal life - life beyond here on earth. To whatever degree worldly wisdom is used to provide for life here and now, it should be exceeded by the application of godly wisdom used to provide for life hereafter.
All children born into this world are stewards of their Father in heaven. Each has been entrusted with unique talents, abilities, and physical blessings, things they, themselves, do not own, but have been "loaned" to them by their Master - their Heavenly Father. Have we wasted or misapplied our God-given blessings? Have we "stolen" them from our Master, as did the unjust steward, and used them for personal or worldly gain? Or have we sought godly wisdom that we might use His blessings to assure salvation in heaven. This we know, that, as the unjust steward had to give an accounting to his lord on earth, we must also give an accounting of our stewardship to our Lord in heaven. We can use worldly wisdom to fill worldly desires, or godly wisdom to serve spiritual needs. Wherein does your allegiance lie? No servant can serve two masters...Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Be wise - serve God.