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More on That Puzzling Parable of the Unjust Steward


I would be a fool if I told you that now, after two hours’ study, I fully understand the Parable of the Unjust Steward in Luke 16. But maybe it would be fair to say I misunderstand it less than I did when I read it first thing this morning.

Pondering the meaning of Christ’s words is not just something to do on a Sunday. As Psalm 1:1 puts it, we are to “meditate day and night” on God’s word. And because it’s convenient to post it here, let me offer you some of Matthew Henry’s meditations on this parable, courtesy of the Bible Gateway:

Whatever we have, the property of it is God’s; we have only the use of it, according to the direction of our great Lord, and for his honour. This steward wasted his lord’s goods. And we are all liable to the same charge; we have not made due improvement of what God has trusted us with. The steward cannot deny it; he must make up his accounts, and be gone. This may teach us that death will come, and deprive us of the opportunities we now have. The steward will make friends of his. . .

I got off on the wrong foot with this parable, thinking Jesus was still talking to the Pharisees, to whom He told the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. I just kept reading, and missed the significance of the opening sentence of Luke 16: “And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward,” etc. Jesus has turned from the Pharisees to address His disciples. But the Pharisees were still there, as v. 14 tells us: “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.” The Pharisees heard the proverb, too, and laughed at it. They didn’t listen.

So the parable is spoken to those who are disposed to listen, and who will make an effort to understand it, as we ought to.

Can I tell you, yet, what the parable means? I must confess, not really. Not without more study, more meditation–and more discussion, too. But I think I can say that Our Lord is comparing the believers’ carelessness, when it comes to the “true riches” of the Kingdom, with the great and energetic care taken by worldly folk to pursue their worldly goals; and that “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” The crooked steward’s master commends the prudence and ingenuity of the steward, although it was used for a dishonest end; and we ought to take equal care in seeking the Kingdom of God.

And now I’ll read these posts to my wife and see if I’ve made any sense to her.

P.S.: I remember a news story from some years ago, about a convict who spent a long, long time carefully and ingeniously fashioning a rope–out of dental floss!– which he used to escape from prison (only to be caught again pretty soon). And I remember thinking at the time, “If this guy had ever devoted that much labor and persistence to some honest work, he would have accomplished much.” I think that story has some relevance to this parable.


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