Summary: Some thoughts on a challenging text.
THE UNJUST STEWARD
For centuries interpreters have been more than a little puzzled, perplexed and disturbed by the parable of the unjust steward, at the beginning of Luke 16. The Emperor Julian, otherwise known as Julian the Apostate, even tried to use this parable to show that Christianity and its founder was inferior to other religions! Commentators don't necessarily throw much light upon this parable, but we must try.
Luke 16:1. The audience consists of the disciples, and some Pharisees. The rich man in this parable, the Master, may represent God. God has entrusted man with resources, but now accuses man of wasting those resources. God had entrusted Israel with the Word of God, and a mission to the world, but they had squandered their privileges - the Pharisees, for example, justified themselves before men, but God saw their hearts otherwise (Luke 16:15).
Luke 16:2. Man/Israel/the Church/the Christian is called to account before God. What have we done with the resources, physical and spiritual, which He has entrusted to us?
Luke 16:3. Pride!
Luke 16:4. Man seeks by his devices to lay up some security for the future. Sinful man, when found out, seeks to lay up treasures in heaven, but does not know how to go about it.
Luke 16:5-7. Perhaps the debtors trusted enough to believe that this generosity was direct from the master - they might have been evicted if they were found party to a fraud.
Luke 16:8. The unjust steward is not commended for his fraud, but for his thinking on his feet. He trusts that the master is good for the difference, and takes a gamble. Christian man recognises the goodness of his Master, and knows that, whilst his efforts are puny and will always fall short of the mark, his generous beneficiary will make up the shortfall Himself.
Luke 16:9. The device "they may receive you" is a literal translation from the Greek, but consistently bears the meaning in Luke of "you may be received."
# Whilst Christians are in this world, the world's resources are at our disposal to use for God's glory. As we use what we have for the advancement of His kingdom on earth, we are unconsciously laying up the true riches in heaven!