Bible Question:

I would like to have a better explanation of the parable of the unjust steward mentioned in Luke 16.

Bible Answer:

Luke 16:1-13 is about a rich man’s dishonest steward or manager. Verse one reveals that someone told the rich man that his manager was being dishonest with his financial affairs.

Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.” Luke 16:1 (NASB)

Consequently, the rich man asked the manager if the report was true. While we are not told in the passage that the manager admitted that he was dishonest, it is apparent by what he did next that he admitted his wrong to the rich man.

What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. “I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.” Luke 16:3-4 (NASB)

All that the dishonest manager cared about was himself. His dishonesty was the result of his selfishness and the solution to his problem is influenced by his self-centeredness. Unfortunately, there are many like him today in our world. Their solution to their problem is only a continuation of their self-interest.

His solution was clever. The manager summons those who have obligations to his master and makes an attractive deal with each one. He reduces the debt with each one and declares each obligation satisfied. What is stunning is that the rich man praises his dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly. However, the master did not understand the full motivation of the manager.

Then Jesus surprises us when He says that the “sons of light,” that is, Christians are not as shrewd as the “sons of this age” – the “sons of darkness.”

And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. Luke 16.8 (NASB)

Then Jesus tells us to attempt to make friends with money, just as the dishonest manager did. But be aware that most likely the attempt will fail. But the real goal is that they may find Jesus and enter heaven.

And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. Luke 16.9 (NASB)

Jesus’ point is that we must be willing to use even our money to win the “sons of this age.” Those “sons of the light” who will do this, Jesus calls “faithful.”

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Luke 16.10 (NASB)

Those who are unwilling are called “unrighteous.”


Jesus concludes the parable in verses 10-13 by reminding us that faithfulness in little things indicates whether one can be trusted to be faithful in greater things. If someone is unfaithful in giving some of his or her money to God, then he or she cannot be trusted to be faithful in dealing with God’s money in the church or elsewhere. If one is unwilling to use his or her money to reach the “sons of this age,” then he or she will not want to use the gifts that are given to God in a church or ministry setting. They will want to horde the money in a bank account rather than trusting God. Ultimately, it reflects on the individual’s heart. Do you horde the money that God has given to you? Do you use it to win others to Jesus? If you are a leader in a church, are you preoccupied with how much money the church does not have? Trust God to supply the church’s needs. If God does not provide then maybe He is telling the church to close its doors. God always funds those ministries He wants. What you do with your money reveals your heart. Jesus summarizes the parable with these words,

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Luke 16.13 (NASB)


Suggested Links:

Tithing or Giving?
Searching for God