The Dishonest Steward

The parts of the gospels I have always enjoyed more are those that get me thinking. Well, this one should be my favourite. I have tried looking at this several ways and I have had much trouble trying to make sense of any of it. Is it a model of how to butter people up with forgiveness, or cheating when needed to look as if your work tallies or is honest, or does the master praise the steward because everyone loves him for allowing his steward to cut their debt? Why then, would the steward do it to be welcomed into his master's debtors houses?

Here's the scripture;

-- Click To Expand/Collapse Bible Verses -- Luke ch16:v1-15
Luk 16:1 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.
Luk 16:2 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.
Luk 16:3 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.
Luk 16:4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
Luk 16:5 So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
Luk 16:6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
Luk 16:7 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.
Luk 16:8 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.
Luk 16:9 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.
Luk 16:10 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.
Luk 16:11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
Luk 16:12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?
Luk 16:13 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.
Luk 16:14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
Luk 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (KJV)

My first impression was that the steward, because he had been accused of "wasting" or squandering his master's goods, had been caught with his fingers in the cookie jar. However, instead of re-stocking the storehouse in his master's house to avoid prison, By cutting the debt of his masters debtors, he accomplishes just the opposite.

It is possible he had been somewhat dishonest, but once the accusation was made, honest or not his master had already fired him. Since he was fired for something (guilty or no) he cut the debt because the accusation once made allowed him afterwards to squander the goods with a measure of impunity. - Then he could do a few favours and be none the worst off himself - by cutting the debt he found a way in to another's employment.

Why then would his master commend him? The tally of goods both in and out of the storehouse was lower than it should be. However, as the manager of his master's financial affairs he was able to cut the debt. - This was not a crime in the usual sense because he had the authority to do so.

Since the stewards authority was as his masters own, the master would have been the one commended for the generosity shown his debtors. When it finally became time for the steward to leave, Did his lord gave him a good reference because he had made a good name for his lord? Is his good name which is more valuable than the wastage?

In real life monetary terms the commendation makes absolutely no sense. The steward should have been jailed for this behaviour. The analogy to God's will, that we forgive others their "debts" as we are forgiven is the meaning of this passage. However the monetary side makes no sense in this case because serving God is not to be confused with how one serves money, or an employer's financial expectations.

And surprisingly, I have had to again rewrite this page for previously thinking that the "forgiveness of debt" is equated to the forgiveness of sins, but after rereading the book of Philemon I needed to correct this study, for it is one on the exact same subject. The true "debt" is of one of inaction in the gospel rather than of sin. As apostles work for the Lord they do the work of all disciples in their place. All disciples owe them a debt, and this lack of apostolic mission on the part of a disciple is a "debt" to the apostle that does that ministry! The "unrighteous mammon" is the leverage which the apostle has over the disciple to repay that "debt" with favour, even if the apostle had never been funded beforehand by the disciple.

Jesus was derided for this parable by the Pharisees because the parable made no financial sense. To them it was nonsense (v14). Sound financial sense that would make the story as bunk, is in God's view opposed to any understanding of the will of God.

Verse 9 presents the interpretation that we should make ourselves friends of apostles if we are disciples and of disciples if we are apostles. When men fail as apostles (not making good fellowships, broken, penniless) there are disciples already established that owe a debt for the work they do for their credit in the kingdom, and when any fail in mission as disciples, there are the apostles that are already at work when they may not be so. The apostle is spoken well of by disciples and readily accepted widely as an apostle beyond reproach (ample payment, besides any credit of mammon), whereas the disciples are accepted by apostles and therefore shown good to all in the kingdom. (They have everlasting habitations, each accepted to God in terms of their good charity.)

Verse 10 references the apostle, not the disciple, for having the least inactivity (not as of an apostle) in the gospel makes a person faithful in much to the Lord, but he that will not lift a finger to help is not in good favour before the Lord. So, good advice is to make brethren of many disciples and to be active if one is an apostle, for if one does not lift a finger then one is not found a servant.

Verse 11 states that (for disciples) being faithful in the unrighteousness, or inactivity - supporting the work of an apostle is a mandatory requirement: for if there is no support then there is no disciple! (The Lord would not commend such a one in anything, attributing no good work at all.) Such a disciple would never grow into an apostle either! (Verse 12) If he would not support an apostle, though there be much mammon of unrighteousness, such a one is unjust. Such a one will not be given anything in the kingdom (the reward of an apostle, or converts or good works).

Verse 13, then, draws the line between one that serves mammon, and not the Lord - one that will not support ministry or accept an apostle as doing work that they should be doing for God, from those only interested in holding onto what mammon they have (which is simply money, found without purpose to God.)

Loving God, one would hate to be found a disciple not holding any debt to an apostle, and loving mammon, would hate to support anyone. These are mutually exclusive, cf. verse 13.

The pharisees, being covetous and puffed up with their status, held that mammon should not to be given to others that do not outwardly appear righteous, and also concerning the righteousness truly of Christ - they derided Christ for this, rejecting Him as that Christ, not because they totally misunderstood. (verse 14) but because they demanded that a righteous man have both riches and success for status, found in respecting persons etc. These things, belonging in the empty middle of a disjunction are unworkable (abomination) before God: as the mammon of unrighteousness declares it so! They are mutually exclusive with regards to Christ: and found as such before the ordering of Christ's elected missionaries. Those that would state that God will financially reward the missionaries without the need for disciples to fund them, stating that the rich and apparently righteous, as after the outward manner only, are successes for God and not the poor who are justified by their faith before mammon, and who are truly precious to God. (verse 15). In truth an apostle well spoken of needs money when down on his luck and a failure, which to the Pharisees was a nonsense.

So, as to the unjust steward, fired for dishonesty, otherwise having nothing (as an apostle having fished, receiving no men and pointlessly so) By forgiving the debts of his masters debtors, (As those owing the Lord much and more besides) That cancellation of inactivity for support when it is needed is a form of spiritual banking that Christ states is not only (and actually) crafty: yet also totally justifiable, for the men of this world recognise their own guilt too easily, and if they have been repentant, it pays everyone to be found a profitable servant!

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