ILLUSTRATION OF THE UNRIGHTEOUS STEWARD
“MAKE FRIENDS” BY MEANS OF YOUR RICHES
The illustration of the lost son, which Jesus just related, should have impressed on listening tax collectors, scribes, and Pharisees that God is willing to forgive repentant sinners. (Luke 15:1-7, 11) Now Jesus addresses his disciples. He uses another illustration, this time about a rich man who learns that his house manager, or steward, has not acted properly.
Jesus relates that the steward has been accused of mishandling his master’s goods. So the master says that the steward will be dismissed. “What am I to do,” the steward wonders, “seeing that my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.” To deal with what lies ahead, he concludes: “I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from the stewardship, people will welcome me into their homes.” He immediately calls those who are in debt, asking them: “How much do you owe my master?”
The first one answers: “A hundred measures of olive oil.” That is some 580 gallons (2,200 L) of oil. The debtor might have had an extensive olive grove or been a merchant who sold oil. The steward tells him: “Take back your written agreement and sit down and quickly write 50 [290 gallons (1,100 L)].”
The steward asks another one: “Now you, how much do you owe?” The reply is: “A hundred large measures of wheat.” That is some 20,000 dry quarts (625 bushels, 22,000 L). The steward tells this debtor: “Take back your written agreement and write 80.” He thus reduces the debt by 20 percent.
The steward is still in charge of his master’s financial affairs, so in a sense he does have jurisdiction over reducing what others owe the master. By reducing the amounts owed, the steward is making friends of those who may do him favors after he loses his job.
At some point the master learns what has happened. Though what was done means a loss to him, he is impressed with the steward and commends him because “though unrighteous,” he “acted with practical wisdom.” Jesus adds: “The sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are.”
Jesus is not condoning the steward’s methods, nor is he encouraging crafty business dealings. What, then, is his point? He urges the disciples: “Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous riches, so that when such fail, they may receive you into the everlasting dwelling places.” (Luke 16:9) Yes, there is a lesson here about being farsighted and using practical wisdom. God’s servants, “the sons of the light,” need to use their material assets in a wise way, with the everlasting future in mind.
Only Jehovah God and his Son can receive someone into the heavenly Kingdom or the Paradise on earth under that Kingdom. We should diligently cultivate friendship with them by using what material riches we have in supporting Kingdom interests. Our everlasting future will thus be assured when gold, silver, and other material riches fail or perish.
Jesus also says that those who are faithful in caring for and using whatever riches or material things they have will be faithful in caring for matters of greater importance. “Therefore,” Jesus points out, “if you have not proved yourselves faithful in connection with the unrighteous riches, who will entrust you with what is true [such as Kingdom interests]?”
Jesus is showing his disciples that much will be asked of them if they are to be received “into the everlasting dwelling places.” One cannot be a true servant of God and at the same time be a slave to unrighteous, material riches. Jesus concludes: “No servant can be a slave to two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves to God and to Riches.”