Summary: The parable of the dishonest manager in Luke 16:1-13 teaches us about the proper attitude toward possessions.
For the past few weeks we have been studying chapter 15 in The Gospel of Luke. Today we begin studying chapter 16. Luke turned his attention from God’s joy over finding lost sinners to another issue of Christian discipleship: possessions. Luke began chapter 16 with the parable of the dishonest manager and the resulting implications about handling possessions generously, faithfully, and for the glory of God.
Let’s read the parable of the dishonest manager in Luke 16:1-13:
1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management 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 when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 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.’ 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 manager 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 wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, 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? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:1-13)
Commentator Philip Ryken tells the story about basketball star Latrell Sprewell whose view of money was massively flawed. One season Sprewell demanded a bigger contract from the Minnesota Timberwolves. He told the media that he was disgusted with his one-year, $14.6 million contract. When a reporter asked why he didn’t try to help his team win a NBA championship first and then worry about getting a better contract, Sprewell said, “Why would I want to help them win a title? They’re not doing anything for me. I’m at risk. I have a lot of risk here. I got my family to feed.”
Sprewell makes $40,000 per day, which is more than many people make per year! An improper focus on money causes people to get really skewed about the things that are really important – especially of eternal importance.
So, how are Christians to think about money and possessions? That is the very practical matter that Jesus dealt with at the start of Luke 16. Jesus wants his disciples to use possessions generously, faithfully, and for the glory of God.
The parable of the dishonest manager in Luke 16:1-13 teaches us about the proper attitude toward possessions.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Interpretation of the Parable (16:1-8)
2. The Implications of the Parable (16:9-13)
I. The Interpretation of the Parable (16:1-8)
First, let’s look at the interpretation of the parable.
Commentator Darrell L. Bock is just one of many commentators who notes, “The parable of the ‘unjust steward’ is one of the most difficult of Jesus’ parables to understand.” At a first reading it seems that Jesus is endorsing financial mismanagement. But, clearly that cannot be correct. Jesus would never endorse sinful behavior. So, let’s examine the parable carefully.
A. The Setting (16:1)
First, notice the setting of the parable.
In Luke 15 Jesus addressed the parable in that chapter to the Pharisees and the scribes (15:2-3). Now, in Luke 16 Jesus told another parable, even though he did not use the term “parable,” and he also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions” (16:1).
The parable begins with two main characters: a rich man who was very wealthy, as can be seen from the enormous amounts owed to him (16:6-7), and his manager, who was responsible for managing the rich man’s estate.