The Unjust StewartVolume 3, Number 55
Created Date: March 14, 2012
Posted Date: March 14, 2012
“Believe” in Matthew, Mark & Luke - Part 22:
Part 1 of the Unjust Steward:
We've studied 20 of the 25 instances in Matthew, Mark and Luke where Jesus is recorded as having uttered the Greek word pisteuo; usually translated “believe”. Today this word brings us to Luke 16, a very unique chapter in the Bible. Unique for several reasons: the parable Jesus taught His Disciples in verses 1 - 13 appears to teach that the conduct of an unjust Stewart was praised by the owner; the story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus in verses 14 - 31 is the most detailed and vivid picture in the Bible of life after death; these two incidents are recorded only here in Luke, no where else in the Bible; and this is the only instance out of the 35 times the Greek “pisteuo” is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke (25 when uttered by Jesus) where it is translated with a word/s other than “believe”. Init is translated “commit to trust” in the King James and “trust” in both the NIV and NIrV versions.
: “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. (2) 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. (3) Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. (4) I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. (5) So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? (6) And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. (7) Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. (8) And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. (9) 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. (10) 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. (11) If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? (12) And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall 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 else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Luke 16:1 - 13.
A parable can be defined as a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson and Jesus told this parable, verses 1 - 8, to His disciples while Pharisees were listening. Therefore, this story sent two messages; one, to His disciples about their conduct in preparation for the Kingdom to come, verses 9 - 13, and two, it condemned the Pharisees for their conduct, verses 14 - 18. Today's study will deal with Jesus' lesson to His disciples in verses 9 - 13.
First, it should be noted that the unjust steward's actions were legal, even if it seems strange the lord commended him for what amounted misappropriation,a. The steward here refers to an agent or general manager given the authority to operate an owner's business. Even today it's not unusual for an owner to contract with a manager, giving him/her near total control over their operation. Such arrangements are usually governed by a contract binding the parties for a period of time or for as long as contractual terms are met. Example; the owner of a National Football League team contracts with a Head Coach (a steward or agent) giving him carte blanche to run the team. This arrangement turns out well if the Coach is savvy and wins games. However, the owner becomes unhappy if the team consistently looses and the only way the owner can get rid of the loosing coach is to pay off the rest of his contract. I've dealt with cases involving various types of business where owners gave managers a great deal of authority over operations only to have the managers help themselves to the profits in some way the owner did not foresee. However, since the owner actually gave the manager total authority in the business, his only recourse was to end the contract in order to get rid of the thief he hired.
In verse 8, after Jesus said “the lord (rich man) commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely;” He makes the observation “for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” First we must ask just who the rich man and the unjust steward represent in this parable. I submit that the rich man cannot represent God in heaven, nor does the unjust steward represent a disciple of Christ for if they did then this parable would be totally contrary to Jesus' other teachings about how His disciples should conduct themselves. So, they represent secular rich men and stewards, men of this world, not Disciples of Christ. The rich man in this parable recognized the wisdom or business acumen of the steward and probably would have done the same thing himself if he were in the steward's place. This is borne out in the last part of the verse: “for the children of this world are in their generation (put another way this refers to those who are living for the present things of this world) wiser than the children of light (men/women illuminated from above)”, Luke 16:8b. Jesus was teaching here that unbelievers are much more assiduous in their worldly dealings than Disciples of Christ, those enlightened by the Holy Spirit, are in their dealings concerning heavenly things.
Jesus' lesson to His disciples (believing Jews being prepared for God's Heavenly Kingdom on earth) is found in verse 9: “And I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness.” Mammon here is money or possessions and reference to it as the mammon of unrighteousness names it as the object of unrighteousness. Money itself is not evil in and of itself, it is the love of money or possessions that is root of all evil,. So when the disciples are exhorted to make themselves “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness” they are being told to do good things with their money. The passage goes on to read: “that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” . They were being instructed to become friendly with earthly money or goods, or, put in other words, they were told to use their wealth in preparation for God's everlasting Kingdom.
The big problem many people have with this and other similar passages is failures to recognize that Jesus' teachings during His earthly ministry were directed to Israel to prepare them for His earthly Kingdom. Israel was promised this Kingdom back in the Old Testament (See Faith Studies Vol 3, No 26, 27 & 34 for the promises God gave Israel, which are yet unfulfilled). During His earthly ministry Jesus consistently demonstrated and taught His disciples to depend on God and nothing else for all their needs. He taught about the deceitfulness of riches, ; ; . When the rich ruler came to Him claiming he had kept the Commandments of the Law and asked what he had to do have eternal life Jesus told him he lacked only one thing; he had to sell all his possessions, distribute his riches to the poor and follow Jesus and in doing so he would have treasure in heaven, & . The man left this encounter dejected because he possessed great wealth, & . Jesus recognized his sadness and announced that those who have riches on this earth cannot enter into the Kingdom as it will be easier for a Camel to go through he eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, ; .
These words of Jesus were not allegorical. They were literal, and this is plainly demonstrated when Israel was actually offered the Kingdom during the period of time recorded in the first part of Acts. After His death, burial and resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ showed Himself to His Apostles for 40 days and taught them about things pertaining to the Kingdom of God,. When asked if He was going to restore the Kingdom to Israel at that time, , He answered that only God knew when that would happen but that they were to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the Kingdom message, . He then ascended into Heaven, . In the second chapter of Acts we find that devout Jews from all over the known world had come to celebrate Pentecost and were filled with the Holy Spirit, allowing them to understand each other in their own language. A crowd gathered and Peter preached Jesus Christ as their Messiah and told them this was the fulfillment of what the prophet Joel had spoken, .
The point to be made here is the conduct of those true believing Jews (Disciples of Christ) in Jerusalem, i.e., what they did to prepare for the Kingdom of God on earth. They were baptized and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which enabled them to fulfill the requirements Jesus had laid down to qualify to enter the Kingdom. They all, regardless of how rich or poor they were, sold everything they had and gave all the proceeds to a common treasury from which everyone in the group lived on,. As Jesus had taught, they had a choice to either serve God or Mammon, the things of this world, and they chose to serve God, . (Space for this study has run out so this will be continued.)