Summary: The parables of Jesus are the “open secrets (mysteries) of the kingdom of heaven”. Parables are ‘spiritual’ truths — truths about spiritual things which cannot be seen with the eye of sight, only seen with the eye of faith
The Parable of the shrewd steward
Did Jesus commend a dishonest steward.
The parables of Jesus are the “open secrets (mysteries) of the kingdom of heaven”. Parables are ‘spiritual’ truths — truths about spiritual things which cannot be seen with the eye of sight, only seen with the eye of faith. Jesus said that he spoke in parables to make known what would otherwise be unknowable. And yet, hearing the truth of God requires more than functioning ears to understand the parables. It requires a work of God’s Holy Spirit. It requires nothing short of a work of grace in the human heart to understand the heavenly truths contained in them. And yet the hearer is responsible to respond to the messages of the parables. In contrast, the responsibility for unbelieving rests with the sinner and can never be blamed on some inherent obscurity in the message. The prophet Isaiah predicted how people would respond to the message of the gospel. People would not reject it because the message was too difficult to understand . They would reject it because it was only too clear. (Matthew 13:14–15 ; Isaiah 6:10).
In Luke 16, Jesus tells two parables—the unrighteous steward and that of the rich man and Lazarus—to show that God’s perspective on riches and our perspective are often opposed. If we want to be truly rich, we need God’s perspective on money.
Jesus tells the first parable to the disciples (16:1), but the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening in and scoffing at Him (16:14). So the ensuing instruction and the second parable are aimed primarily at the Pharisees. The entire chapter should make us all stop and think carefully about our attitude toward money. God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:9), especially with regard to money. Since we’re all prone to the world’s ways, we need to think carefully about what Jesus is saying so that we follow God’s way to true riches rather than the world’s way to deceptive wealth and ultimate, eternal poverty.
All of Jesus’ parables are challenging, but this is surely the most challenging. However, if we study it carefully, it will reward us with important spiritual insights.
Somebody defined money as, “an article which may be used as a universal passport to everywhere except heaven and as a universal provider of everything except happiness.” People think that if they just had more money, life would be better because then they could buy all the things they wanted and that would make them happy
A brief look into the chapters that precedes chapter 16 reminds us that in Luke’s gospel Jesus has had a great deal to say about material possessions. What Jesus says about possessions in chapter 16 is thus built upon the foundation laid in the previous chapters. We can, I believe, summarize Jesus’ teaching up to this point with the following principles:
(1) Jesus turned the way men should view money upside-down.
(2) True repentance and faith will dramatically change the way a follower of Christ thinks and acts with regard to material possessions—from getting it and keeping it (e.g. “bigger barns” - Luke 12:18), to giving it away.
(3) The reason for this radical change in one’s thinking about money is that the true disciple comes to realize that money cannot get him the things that are really important, only Christ can.
(4)Money and material things are temporal—they don’t last. The best that we can do with money is to use it now to produce those things which will last. By using money on earth as God instructs us we lay up lasting treasure in heaven.
With this backdrop, let us press on to the parable of the “unjust steward,” seeking to learn the lessons which God has for us in it.
The Parable of the Unjust Steward
1 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ 3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ 5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 “‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’ 7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ 8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.