(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [Zondervan])
6. The Parable Of The Unjust Steward (Manager)
This parable of the unjust manager is one that is difficult to interpret because of the statement “The master commended the dishonest manager…”. Is “The master” a reference to our Lord Jesus, or is it a reference to the “rich man” ? It is certain that our Lord Jesus is not commending dishonesty!
The dishonesty of the manager is that he wasted his employer’s commodities, and, when discovered by his employer, was called upon to “Give an account”of his management and then be terminated from his employment. The manager, thinking that he would not be able to survive after his dismissal, called in his master’s debtors, discounted their debts, and told them to adjust the balances. Here it can be assumed that the amount deducted was not actually a part of the debt owed but perhaps the interest added on by the manager; although contrary to Jewish Law such was often rationalized by hiding the interest in the total . By Law the master could not be held responsible for such illegal acts of his employee.
The commendation of the master was therefore not for the illegal actions of the manager but for his shrewdness in securing for his future after his dismissal; since what he did for his master’s debtors would be remembered by them in the years to come, and they in turn would care for the well being of the manager . This action of the manager is compared to the “people of this world” who “deal with their own kind” by using their worldly wealth (money) to gain friends. Our Lord then adds that His disciples should follow this example by using their worldly wealth to help the less fortunate ones and thereby “will be welcomed into eternal dwellings”.
We, as “the people of the light”, must understand that by giving up some of our “worldly wealth” will be able to win “friends” for eternity ; Christians do not belong to this evil age, but they can nevertheless make responsible use of “worldly wealth”; in consideration that one day it will be “gone”.
The theme of stewardship is now discussed in terms of trustworthiness as against dishonesty . As people of the light we must make the best use of our money so that we may be the better for it in the world to come . Those who trust in worldly wealth for satisfaction and happiness will certainly be deceived; thus we must use our worldly wealth in ways that will make God and Christ our friends. It is therefore good reason that we should use what God has given us in this world for His honour and the good of our brethren , and since, when death comes to us and we have no further use of our earthly wealth, we will inherit an everlasting habitation in heaven and the less fortunate saints that are gone before to glory will receive those that in this world distributed to their necessities.
The riches of this world are the less; grace and glory are the greater. Now if we are unfaithful in the less, it may justly be feared that we should be unfaithful in the gifts of God’s grace, receiving them also in vain, and therefore they will be denied us; “whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” He that serves God and does good with his money, will serve God and do good with the more noble and valuable talents of wisdom, grace, and spiritual gifts. God withholds his grace from covetous worldly people more than we are aware of. The riches of this world are deceitful and uncertain; they are the unrighteous mammon, so let us be convinced of this, that those who are truly rich, and very rich, are rich in faith, and rich towards God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. We have no other way to prove ourselves as servants of God than by giving ourselves so entirely to his service as to make all our worldly gain useful to us in his service . No servant can serve two masters, if a man will love the world, and hold to that, it will be that he will hate God and despise Him. If a man will love God, and adhere to Him, he will comparatively hate the world (whenever God and the world come in competition) despising the things of the world, thereby helping him to serve God. The matter is here laid plainly before us: “You cannot serve both God and Money.” So divided are their interests that their services can never be combined.
This parable teaches that we are only stewards (managers) of God’s grace, and have been unfaithful in many instances forfeiting His favour, and we should therefore seek wisdom how we can use what He has given us to His eternal glory, since our stewardship will end one day in our death, and all our worldly riches will pass to someone else.