Friday, July 25, 2014

The Unjust Steward

Luke 16:1-9 ESVUK: "He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings."

This has always puzzled me, but at last I think I have the key to it. The important part in understanding this is in grasping what is not written--what the context of the parable is. In Luke 15:2 the Pharisees were grumbling about the tax collectors and sinners being dirty losers; in response Jesus gives three parables about searching and seeking that which is lost, the third of which is the most powerful. In that one the older brother (representing the Pharisee who was lost while nearest to God) looked down upon his brother for being poor, foolish, and generally unworthy. This parable follows on the heels of it. It's short too.

"What is this I hear about you?" says the owner, who heard that the chief steward was being unfaithful. (Notice he had no idea of the corruption of the manager, he's just thinking the guy is sloppy or lazy, not evil.) The man then pulls a fast one on his master, who was so stunned that all he could do is marvel, and commend him for his shrewdness.

This is simple advice. The Pharisees are like the dishonest man, corrupted, since money corrupts, and people who have it are rotten, and more importantly they are actually cheating God out of what is due Him. What's Jesus message? Start using your money better. Stop looking down on the poor. Look guys, you don't even have to stop being evil, just start doing better. You look down on those sinners because they are poor and destitute, but you yourselves are worse off because you're using the money you have badly. It's better to be those people who have nothing than to be you who have something are are blowing it. Be like the unjust Steward and make the most of your time and treasure.
"If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?"

Of course we know how that went.

"The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him."

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